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Fundraising Benefit Concert

EventBenefit Show
Planning Time8 Weeks
Group Size40-200+
Staff Size3 or 4
Event TimeCan be done every Semester

Activity Overview:
This is first and foremost a fundraiser for your group. If done well, it can bring in several thousand dollars, and can be done every semester. (The first group to put these on, the SSA at UNLV, raised $1,300 and $2,300 in their first two shows.) But it’s also a great social event for your group, and will build cohesion within your group and attract new membership.

The essential concept is that you book some bands to play, charge admission at the door, and put on a show. In addition to live music, you can raffle off items, have trivia challenges, run a date auction, and other activities that raise money or are fun. There are a few ideas outlined in this packet, but feel free to add your own ideas. It’s your party.

The ideal location is close to your campus, open to those under 21, sells food and alcohol, regularly hosts bands/ events, will let you keep all of the door money, and will offer your group food and drink specials. It won’t always be possible to get all these things, but keep in mind that your group will be bringing dozens or perhaps hundreds of patrons to a business – don’t be afraid to expect and ask for a lot.

Planning Timeline:
The earlier the better with this event, but if you get started anytime less than six weeks before the event, you will certainly feel the pinch, and we recommend you start the process 8 weeks before the date of your benefit show.

The first element that needs to be secured is the venue. It’s worth taking time to find a place that meets as many as possible of the criteria listed above, so don’t be afraid to ask a dozen or more businesses. If a business isn’t going to work out for hosting your benefit show, while you’re there, go ahead and ask them if they’ll donate anything for you to raffle or auction off at the event.

You will also want to start booking bands early. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to book bands that are locally popular, unknown, or include members of your group. But the key element to remember should be that you want to raise money for your group. There should be no shortage of local bands willing to play for free, so you should heavily base your decision on which bands are likely to bring the most fans to your show. This might be a group member who will be able to get 10 or 15 of their family members to come, or it may be a popular local band.

Another element to start planning early – and don’t overlook this – is to look for a local business to sponsor the event. Obviously the event can proceed without it, but restaurants, bars, clothing stores, and other businesses right next to campus will likely be willing to pay hundreds of dollars to sponsor the event. (The SSA at UNLV got $500 from a restaurant right next to campus for their latest event.) Offer to put “sponsored by _______” in the title of the event, mention their name several times during the show, and print whatever they’d like on the back of your promotional flyers. Even if businesses don’t sponsor the event, they may be willing to donate merchandise or gift cards for you to raffle or auction off.

A month or so before the event, you should be collecting items for auction/ raffle. Local artists, atheists, and businesses are great places to start. Ask prominent members in your group to prepare dates you can auction off.

A week before the event you should have every detail planned, including which bands will play at what time, what you’ll have planned between each set, whether you’re going to hold an auction, raffle, trivia challenge, etc.

Coordinating: You will need at least four people staffing this event. One person should be at the door collecting money and greeting people. (Even if the venue provides someone to do this, it’s a good idea to have one of your members greeting people, and perhaps selling raffle tickets or giving other information.) If you’re doing an auction or selling raffle tickets, you will want to have a table set up (either inside or just outside the door, depending on the venue), and will thus need someone to man the table. (You can also have information about your group on this table for non-members.)

Perhaps the most important staffer is the emcee. Someone to introduce the event and bands, make announcements, run the auction or trivia challenge, etc. And beyond these three, it’s a good idea to have a fourth person available to run errands or coordinate between these three.

Material Requirements: You will need a cash box, change, raffle tickets, a hand stamp, items to raffle and auction, and a small amount of tabling supplies. Beyond that, the bands and venue should have all the other equipment needed.

Suggested Walkthrough:

  1. Get to the venue an hour before you’ve scheduled your show. You’ll want to coordinate with the venue, get everything set up, and have the door manned before people start showing up. Have a small sign that says something like, “SSA Benefit Show, minimum donation $8.” Some people will happily pay more knowing that it’s going to a student group. You should also consider using the iPhone app Square, which will allow you to swipe credit cards on your phone. If you’ve collected items from local businesses that aren’t quite valuable enough to auction off, you should consider giving them away as door prizes. Give everyone a raffle ticket at the door, and tell them they have to go to your auction table inside to drop it in the box. This will make sure everyone visits the table to see what you’re auctioning off. (And you can even sell additional raffle tickets.)
  2. Four hours is about the ideal time for your show to last. Book three or four bands, and tell them exactly what time they’ll be going on. You usually want to have about 30 minutes between sets, and this gives you time to make announcements, auction off dates, run secular trivia challenges, etc. Try and space out your activities so that there’s never a long break in the action. You want people to stay as long as possible, since this supports the venue you’re at. Ideally, they will ask you to come back the next semester, and the more money they make, the better deal they’ll be willing to offer you.
  3. Optional Activities: Having as many of these as you can makes the event more fun for people, and gives you more opportunities to raise money.
    1. Date Auction: Have people prepare a date and pay for all expenses themselves, so that 100% of the proceeds go to your group. This can be dinner and a concert, lunch and a trip to a museum, or something that’s not even a date. Be creative. The SSA at UNLV’s faculty advisor offered a hike for two down to the Colorado River at the base of the Hoover Dam, with commentary along the way on the geological formations and history of the area, and it went for $325.
    2. Secular Art Auction: If your group has networked well with your community, you likely know one or two non-religious artists that may be willing to donate a piece for your auction. You may also have members in your group who are amateur artists, and you should ask them to do a piece with a secular or science theme. You will want to have these on display at your table, and a silent auction is probably the best approach for this.
    3. Raffle: The small merchandise and gift cards that were donated to you by the businesses you visited are typically best raffled off, since it’s a bit awkward to bid on a $50 gift card. It’s a great idea to give everyone one free raffle ticket, and then allow people to purchase more. You could also raffle away one of your group’s t-shirts or other SSA merchandise.
    4. Secular Trivia: We haven’t tried this yet, but there seem to be a number of ways to do this.
    5. Group Awards: If your group gives away awards to members, this is a good opportunity to do it.
  4. Closing Down: Make sure you’re not leaving your host business with a big mess. Do what you can to help clean up, and ask them for feedback. Did they do as well as they’d hoped? Do they have any suggestions for you for next time? Are they interested in hosting the event again next semester? Also, thank all the bands for playing. If they’re good, let them know you might be interested in having them play again. The amount of work it takes setting up the next benefit show can be greatly reduced if you set a few things in motion on this day.

For more in depth information on how to work with bands and how to find sponsors click here.

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