Webinar Recap: Nonprofit Event Planning with Julie Freed

We had another great turnout to our most recent webinar; Nonprofit Event Planning with Julie Freed! Julie Freed is an extremely succesful Event Producer who has worked on planning a number of nonprofit events. Check out her Boston-based business; Freed Events LLC

Watch the webinar below, or keep scrolling to browse through the recap! 


DipJar: Give us some background info on your work with nonprofit event planning. 

Julie: I've produced between 50 and 70 nonprofit events, and they've ranged from high-end galas to cultivation events where nonprofits are just getting the right group of people in the room to spread their message. 

DipJar: Would you say that arranging events for nonprofits is different from a for profit event, or do you follow the same blueprint? 

Julie: We follow the same blueprint for the planning process. I'd say what's different is that you really need a champion for the organization to be involved. That's because they can extend out to their network, and really help to lead and collaborate on board meetings and bring their network into the process. And by champion I mean a cochair, a lead committee member, an honoree; just someone who is very passionate about the organization. It helps to create a more collaborative experience. 

DipJar: Have you seen any really creative fundraising strategies that are a little more fun, and a little less intimidating? 

Julie: Well there's a few different buckets here; the first step is with tickets and sponsorship. So I would say before you even get to the event, when you're sending out invitations, you're looking at two different groups. Who are your individual ticket holders who are going to pay X number of dollars to enter the room? And who are your sponsors, both private and corporate, who are going to write a check to be involved at a greater level.? Then when you're in the room, it used to be that everyone would either do a live or silent auction. That's still relatively popular, but I know myself and my colleagues are always looking for ways to be new and innovative! I've seen text-to-give with screens so people can see the fundraising live and be motivated to give. There's different ways to do raffles, and you can really have some fun with that. (Check out this event Julie produced with the help of DipJar!)

DipJar: You mentioned the big text to give screen. That's something that we've been working on at DipJar with a product called DipCast. I think the basis of the idea is to make fundraising more involved. What are your thoughts on making fundraising more interactive?

Julie: I think what we're both talking about here is not only engaging the audience, but also motivating the audience. It's great if you can see a ticker where the dollars are creeping up. In conjunction with that, you can actually quantify what a certain dollar amount means to the organization. For example, at a school how many lunches does $500 cover? This helps to really move the guests by giving them a specific story that pulls at the heartstrings. 

DipJar: What factors help predict a fundraising goal at an event?

Julie: That can be a little tricky. One of the factors in location. Another could be history; what have you raised in the past? Another is competitor analysis; what are similar organization like yours doing? Finally, trying to identify the audience; how much are these people willing to give? 

DipJar: How strong should an ask be? I've seen events with no direct ask, and others where they stop everything and make a speech. What's your opinion? 

Julie: I would say in general, you don't get if you don't ask! It's more a matter of whether you should make a soft ask or a hard ask. An example of a soft ask would be DipJars by the registration tables the whole night, with an explanation when the guests walk in. I am a fan of a more direct ask, if you have the right person to deliver the message. It's definitely hard to ask for money, especially if the guests have already paid to attend. If you have someone that's motivated by the cause and can deliver the right message in the right way, then I'm a fan of that! 

Question From a Listener: Besides raffles and lockboxes, what are some other good ways to raise money in a short period of time? 

Julie: There are two ways to do this quickly and directly. One is the appeal, where you a have a great speaker who is appealing to the audience. The other is a match, which is taking the appeal to the next level by having someone who is willing to match the donations. This has traditionally been done with a paper and pen, but DipJar makes it 10 times easier!

DipJar: How do you determine the ticket price for an event?

Julie: Beyond what we previously discussed regarding audience, it really depends what your offering. Is it a cocktail reception? Is it a seated dinner? Is it a seated dinner and dance on a Saturday night? It depends what you're putting on. 

Question From a Listener: When choosing a venue do you aim to get the venue and food donated or does the nonprofit typically pay for this?

Julie: The nonprofit will pay, some vendors and hotels do offer a nonprofit rate. These venues are for profit businesses and still need to be making their money to cover what they're providing. 

Question From a Listener: We've had a succesful event for many years with the same ticket price, would you recommend raising the price each year or leaving it alone?

Julie: There's no real right way to do it. I'd say over time it's ok to increase the ticket price. If you feel confident that you can fill the room and that you're getting the right people in the room, it's time to up-level that. If there's a milestone year, like the 10th annual gala, that can be a good reason to raise the price. Another is if you're offering something more than you had in the past. You can always test this out by having a VIP reception with an additional price. 

DipJar: Do you think DipJar had an effect on your fundraiser with Dress for Success?

Julie: It absolutely made in-room fundraising easier. We keep talking about DipJar being simple and easy but that's the beauty of it! You don't have to fill out a card, write down your information, speak to multiple people and have follow up after the event, they're swiping their card and that's it! There's also privacy measures that the guests like and respect. It's great for Dress for Success because they have a store that they utilize their DipJars in after the event. You can stretch the value of these devices throughout the year. 

DipJar: That goes along with my next questions, does DipJar have a use outside of major events?

Julie: Absolutely! I like them when you have an event series, but likewise if you are hosting potential donors anywhere you should always have the DipJars out. And once they're educated about it, you don't have to keep brining it up; they'll know what to do. 

DipJar: How do you increase your outreach for an event?

Julie: I think it's about your network. I'm a big believer in having a cochair or committee for each event. This will change year after year and hopefully these are folks have a varied network and are bringing their contacts to the event each year.  

Question From a Listener: How would you determine what dollar amount to set your DipJars to? How many DipJars would you recommend for an audience of 100+?

Julie: The easiest thing to do is set the DipJars to different denominations, because then you're giving everyone the opportunity to give. For an event of 100+ people I think three DipJars would be a great number. This gives you the opportunity to go low, mid and high range on what you set your DipJar at.  


If you haven't seen it yet, check out this video about the Dress for Success event Julie Freed produced with the help of DipJar! 


If you have more questions about nonprofit strategy, you can always reach out to the DipJar fundraising experts for help. It's what we love to do!