This is a book review that is way overdue. In fact I have personally recommended this book about a dozen times to fundraisers in my community and website visitors alike in the past few months. Let me explain…
In March of this year I received a review copy of The Fundraising Houseparty kindly sent to me by the author, Morrie Warshawski. While reading through the handbook I realized what a great fundraising strategy this is for many cause oriented groups.
So what is a Fundraising Houseparty?
First, a houseparty is not a “special event” like a dinner where tickets are sold, sponsorships are solicited and auctions are held to raise funds. The focus is entirely on the mission of the organization and how it fulfils its purpose.
People who are invited should have an interest in the cause and learning more about the organization. Attendees learn first hand what impact their support will have and are encouraged to make direct donations.
In his book Morrie lists the five basic essential elements of the houseparty:
- People receive an invitation to come to a private home.
- The invitation makes it clear that the evening will be a fundraising event.
- Participants arrive and are served some refreshments.
- Participants sit through a brief presentation.
- A peer – someone articulate, respected and enthusiastic – stands up and asks everyone present to make a contribution.
This book makes the strategy and planning of the houseparty easy to understand and put into action. Included in the book are checklists, planning timelines, sample scripts and other helpful tools. You are shown step by step exactly how to plan a successful fundraising party.
What groups would benefit from a Fundraising Houseparty?
This book is based on Warshawski’s years of work with individuals and organizations in the field of visual and performing arts. However the actual instructions for planning the event are written in a way that other groups could apply them.
Community groups, senior care services, social service organizations and alumni associations could plan a house party fundraiser. While discussing the concept of the houseparty a friend told me that her church met its building campaign goal through a series of house parties. So this concept can be applied and adapted for a variety of organizations.
Fundraising Houseparty Results
The financial results from a houseparty will vary depending upon the organization, the attendees, the presentation and strength of the ask.
One of the great things about the houseparty though is the ability not to just raise funds, but raise friends. By beginning or building relationships with people who have an interest in your cause you will strengthen your organization. You may connect with new volunteers, future board members and other community members during or as a result of the party.
Fundraising Houseparty Case Study
When I read The Fundraising Houseparty I was convinced that it would be a good strategy for an organization for which I serve as the development coordinator. Christian Women’s Job Corps, a program that helps women go from welfare dependency to self sufficiency, is a national organization but our local group is less than 6 years old.
The houseparty was part of our general strategy to develop an individual donor base and reduce the dependancy on grants. For our first party our board members, volunteers and personal friends of our hostess, the board president, were invited.
Several people briefly spoke during the presentation, starting with our hostess welcoming everyone. Two women who had successfully completed the program gave heartfelt testimonies of how their lives had been greatly changed by the organization. One of our volunteer mentors spoke which emphasized the mentoring aspects of the program. Finally our board president-elect gave the “ask.”
Including mail-in donations the evening raised $2,054. In addition a foundation replied back to our party invitation with a grant application for an award up to $5,000. This is especially significant because that foundation does not accept solicitations; they only initiate grant awards.
Overall, the evening was a great success and the organization will be doing more home party fundraisers in the future.
Fundraising Houseparty Tips
As with any party you need to invite four times the number of people that you would like to attend. For our party last September 125 invitations were sent out and we had 54 people attend the party (including speakers and planning committee members).
As Morrie recommends in his book make sure that the invitation specifies that it is a benefit party. Including donation envelopes in the invitation for those who cannot attend also makes it pretty clear that the purpose of the event is to raise funds.
Organizers need to stay focused on the purpose of the party. The party should be held on it own and not as part of any other event. Activities which would distract attendees from the purpose of the benefit party should be avoided.
At our party at the end of the presentation people were given a brochure about the organization with a response envelope. They were encouraged to donate or pledge and could drop off the envelopes in a basket before they left. This worked very well.
Morrie Warshawski’s book The Fundraising Houseparty was indispensable in planning the CWJC party. Not only did it help me to plan the event, but also made it very easy to communicate the concept of the fundraiser to everyone who was participating – the other committee members, hosts and speakers – and help them feel comfortable with the role they would fill at the party. With this confidence we were able to host a successful party to raise funds and friends for our mission.