Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fundraising House Parties: Why won’t anyone host one?

Does your nonprofit want to have house parties, but can’t find anyone to host? Maybe you should take a look at how you are structuring them – if a structure even exists. Many nonprofits include house parties in their goals for the year, but fail to find individuals to host. Is it because no one wants to open their home? I don’t think so.

I think much of it has to deal with how to you sell someone on it. While there will always be people that won’t want a bunch of people in their home, there are a lot of people that wouldn’t mind if it was simple and easy. Unfortunately, many nonprofits don’t make it an easy decision for prospective hosts.

The two biggest barriers to getting people to host a house party are the guest list and the refreshments.

Guest List
Is the house party just for the host's friends or is it a comprehensive targeted event? This is a key distinction. While most hosts won't mind sending out some invitations to their neighbors, friends, or family, it shouldn't be expected that they are the only guests (unless that is what the host wants). Hosts will be stressed by the idea that they are solely responsible for getting people there, plus your nonprofit will be missing out. This is the time to take a look at who lives nearby (say a 20 mile radius) and invite them too - especially those that get your newsletter but maybe don't donate, or those who donated 5 years ago but haven't donated since.

This is a tough one. Some believe that hosts should pay for everything as part of their "gift" of having the event. I don't agree. I think hosts can be asked to help in a variety of ways, from making cookies to asking the local restaurant for donated food, but I don't think a requirement for them hosting a house party should be that they are required to provide food and drinks. The nonprofit should be prepared to handle this. There are many ways to keep this low budget, for example, have it be a mid-afternoon house party and have cookies (or get them donated) and refreshments (donated or ask host, otherwise nonprofit pay for).

To maximize the number of hosts your nonprofit gets for house parties; I tend to think that the nonprofit should be prepared to do everything involved with hosting a house party. The only hard and fast expectation from the host should be that they are there helping the event and that they provide the use of their home. In most cases, in my experience, the host will at least help cover food.

Regardless, it should pay off. All you need to do is get one donation to cover the meager cost of refreshments and cookies (if they weren’t donated or covered by the host), but you may reap later donations by attendees and the one person that did donate may become a lifelong donor. It’s better to eat the meager cost of throwing a house party (or to build relationships with businesses to get donated food/beverages), than to just keep not having house parties because no one is signing up.

Finally, make sure to make everything clear and easy. Whether you agree with me about who should be responsible for what, spell it all out in a house party information sheet. It's important to make sure the host feels that they aren't on their own with it.

One more thing - House parties don't have to be about fundraising for prospective hosts that don't like fundraising - they can be information sessions (friendraising).


Anonymous said...

"Friendraising"?? I LOVE that! Great idea, great theme, will start following you on Twitter! Thanks.

Kelly Stettner

businessjohn said...

I've heard that "house parties" are less popular than they used to be and that businesses based on that model are renting out business meeting rooms at hotels.