Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fundraiser Recap

So, as you know, having been hit over the head repeatedly with many invitations for the past few weeks, the A.O. Movement Collective had their first houseparty/fundraiser last weekend, and the lovely residence of Julia PT.

I thought it would be helpful (for myself to recap, and for anyone else who's interested in the business details) to examine how it went in a fundraising light, outline a bit of our strategy, and project a little about what this means for our future.

The main goals of the party were as follows (from order of most to least important):

1.) Have a great and enjoyable party, so that guest leave feeling like "that was really fun, i want to come to the next event that the AOMC throws"
2.) Announce our arrival in NY (both at the party and via emails and invites to the party) so that our name starts to get out there. At the party, talk a little bit about the projects that we're working on and show some old work
3.) Raise money

To achieve these goals, we did focused on a few main aspects:
1.) "Party" - we wanted to make sure everyone had an amazing time, so we focused on food, drinks, and music. Master baker Larissa Sheldon brought a wealth of amazing treats, and the rest of the company was equally apt at creating a feast of finger food, cheese, and dips, each donating what they could. We spent about $60 on wine (mainly 2 buck chuck from Trader Joe's) and a few people brought beer. Once at the party, a run was made at some point to a liquor store for a bottle of vodka. A few people brought ipods and shared DJing duties through the night, providing what are commonly known as "phat beats".

2.) "AOMC News" - the party started officially at 8, with guest starting to trickle in around 8:30. At 10, Julia gave a welcome toast, letting people know about the dancefilms that we had streaming on two laptops, welcoming them to the party, and telling them to eat drink and be merry. Around midnight, I gave a more formal "speech", describing the work that we've been doing with our 100 hours of free studio time and asking for donations.

3.) "Fundraising" - aside from our plea for donations, we set up a few "stations" to encourage cash flow. The first was a small table as guests entered, which held donation forms for anyone who wanted to write a check, business cards, and a vase which we pre-set with some 1 and 5dollar bills. The second station, set up at the kitchen table, held a silent auction. We initially hadn't planned to do anything big, but a generous donation from a dancer's family specifically intended for the auction allowed us to make a bunch of different gift baskets (a "romance" basket with chocolate and champagne, a "pasta" basket with nice sauce and pastas, a "spa" basket with lots of body lotions and...stuff, a "wine and cheese party" with small cheeses, crackers, and a bottle of wine, and an "xmas" basket with cookie cutters, decorating things, sugar cookie mix, and the N'SYNC xmas album). We also had member donated items such as 4 hrs of admin work, pillates classes, a museum outing, and a kit hat and scarf set.


1.) All in all, i think the party was a success. I think everyone had a fun time, enjoyed the chance to pary together, liked the food and free alcohol, and met some new people. As an artist, I found it nice to get to meet other dancers (friends of a company member). I don't think anyone showed up who wasn't a friend of someone, but at the same time, there were at least ten people there who hadn't heard of the AOMC before or come to one of our events.

2.) I think the two speeches went well, although in the future i think it might be wise to do the second speech a little earlier, and separate from the reading out of the silent auction. I'm always very self-conscious and unsatisfied with the speeches i give (somewhere in my heart of hearts, i always desire a speech that would melt the heart of every man, woman, and child, emptying their pockets and inspiring a new i'm always a little disappointed when it's met with polite applause, even when it goes well) but i thought that it got the point across and was simple and short, which is always a victory for me.

3.) We didn't make any money off of the event, but we didn't loose a whole lot either, which considering that our main goal was just to throw a great party and not worry as much about the money, made sense. We were able to raise about $150 off of the auction and the donation vase combined, and then received one $50 check donation from someone who couldn't attend later that week. Definitely not bad for our first party, although a cloudy warning sign to take heed of for events to come.

Analysis + Next Step.

So. Why didn't the event make money?
First, as aforementioned, it wasn't the main goal. Would we have made money if it was the main goal? Debatable. For one thing, most of the guest in attendance did donate, either via the silent auction or the donation jar. However, most guests who bid on the silent auction did not also make a donation. Somewhat expected, although good to know when keeping in mind that our biggest net gain comes from the donations because there's zero spending on our part (or, a percentage of $60 when you consider the wine and food). It seemed that everyone was willing to donate about $5 for the drinks, but after that point, goods such as those offered in the auction were needed to increase spending. I guess the question that it comes down to for me is: did the auction actually help us at all? Not so much in terms of re-hashing this event, but for looking to the future, considering that we're planning to do this on a bi-monthly basis. Should we do it again? Every time? Just at the larger events? Money-wise, it didn't really make us any money, considering that the donation we got to make the baskets ($150) wasn't even met via their auction. However, it did encourage donations (one guest admitted that she hadn't meant to spend the +$50 that she spend bidding), and I like being able to "give back" something and have people feel like they're getting a great deal. Ideally, if people come to know these events as places to get a great deal, they would come already intending to spend money on bidding, and then hopefully bid more than they had originally intended in bidding wars, causing the overall donations to increase each event. However, most of the guests in attendance were under the "poor young artist" category, meaning that there probably a limit (one not to far above what we hit) of what people are willing to spend. Which brings me to the second point:

Who was there?
As i said, poor young artists. All friends of company members. Many still in college (as over half of the dancers are still full-time students). Most under 25. Transportation and distance seemed to be a big issue, as it was hard for us to lure people outside of Manhattan, although there was a large contingency from Manhattanville. Mostly female, almost all artists.

Concerns and Questions this raises for the future -

1.) How do we get more people to attend that we know and are already connected to the company, but that feel like they "don't have time" "are too far away" or are dubious about if it's worth spending one of their weekend nights at an art event? Is it worthwhile to be courting this crowd, or should we focus on gaining a new, closer audience?

2.) How do we get people to come that are new to the AOMC? Aside from friends of friends (which seemed to be a great way of getting new faces to come, in the future i think it would make sense to ask each dancer to concentrate on getting three new friends to come, or something along those lines) how do we attract a new audience?

3.) While the event was a great party, part of my eventual goal in having these events be bi-monthly would be to have them become networking and idea-exchanging events - still a fun party, but also a (i hesitate to say it but) semi-serious place for artistic dialogue. Is it possible to combine these things without it feeling too forced? Would they be better as separate events?

4.) In the future, we also hope to host these events as a platform for other companies to fundriase - for example, the AOMC would still host it, but maybe two other companies would also be bringing guests etc. and have the chance to get to talk about what they're doing. In a structure such as that, what are innovative ways to increase donation, so that guests feel motivated to donate to the AOMC and these other companies. Is it necessary for the AOMC to take some kind of cover charge or percentage? Or is there a way to all work together to create a frenzy of giving?

5.) Location. Julia's apartment was great for this type of event, but it would also eventually be great to have a location where we could show work. Where would be a good location to keep the casual party vibe, be able to show, and also be conducive to community building and fundraising?

6.) What did we miss out on? Are there things we should do next time to fundraise differently? Someone at this event mentioned a kissing booth, charging a cover charge, or selling merchandise. Anything else? What's most profitable?

7.) Does making this event a "house party" casual format discourage older and perhaps larger donors from attending? Does it discourage larger donations from those that do attend? Would making it more formal or in a different format lead to better fundraising? Is it necessary to separate our supporters into two groups (young artist partyiers and older formal donors) or is there a format that would allow everyone to mingle and have a great time together?

So that's the long short-story of it. Of course I have more questions and more vacillating on decisions to come such as the silent auctions and attendees, but these seemed like the main points. Would love to hear any feedback or ideas, as always. And, if you missed this one, hope to see you at the next one!

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