Give yourself plenty of lead time before holding the event to plan, organize and promote your bowl-a-thon, particularly if your organization is required to register with local, county/parish, state and/or federal governmental authorities.
HAVE A MISSION
Define your fundraising mission statement. Sure, you want to raise money for a good cause, but your solicitation efforts need to be appealing to potential participants, donors, and/or sponsors. “To help teenage drug abusers” is definitely a worthy cause, but is much more apt to get support when you specify what the problem is and your organization’s proposed solution – i.e., “Our community doesn’t provide services specific to teenage addicts; we intend to rectify that by funding weekly counseling sessions for teens only.”
Use language in your appeal for support that is imagery and empathetic in nature while creating a sense of urgency and “ownership” of both the problem and the solution: “While we offer counseling services for drug abusers in general, none are targeted specifically towards the teenagers in our community who are attempting to overcome their addiction problems. Mixed with adult addicts in these sessions, our troubled youth are less likely to participate in discussions, or to share their thoughts and feelings. Instead, they come away from these sessions feeling alienated and disconnected, with a sense that there is no one who can understand their situation. More often than not, they stop seeking help, soon falling back into the habits and patterns that fuel their addiction. Our teenage addicts, our children, need us to provide them with the understanding and assistance they so desperately need in order to break free from their addictions. We can enable them to succeed by creating a “teens only” program where they are surrounded and supported by a group of their peers who can identify with the pressures and issues facing teens – a place where they feel safe to share experiences, ideas, and to accept help.”
SET SPECIFIC GOALS
State your fundraising goal in monetary terms. Be reasonable in setting a goal that is reasonable and attainable; if the amount to be raised is “astronomical”, you’re less likely to be able to attract participants, sponsors and/or donors. If the amount of funding required to accomplish your mission is substantial, do not be afraid to state that fact in your appeal for support, but point out that whatever funds are raised through the bowl-a-thon will definitely further your organization’s efforts to realize its mission, and are appreciated.
Advertise, advertise, advertise! Post flyers in the bowling alley(s) participating in your organization’s fundraising efforts. Check with local bowling leagues to see if they would be willing to spread the word and/or participate. Place ads in local newspapers (especially independent papers which often target the local population). Look into radio and televised community events notices. Contact your local community public broadcast television station about the possibility of taping a short show promoting your charitable event. Contact other organizations with similar or complementary missions to ask for their assistance and support. Email friends and family. Write letters to persons, institutions, and companies that sponsored or donated to prior fundraising efforts.
DEFINE DONOR BENEFITS
Let participants, sponsors and/or donors know whether their monetary gift is tax deductible – IRS rules are constantly changing regarding donations. Check with the IRS and/or an experienced attorney regarding these changes.
PROVIDE PARTICIPANT INCENTIVES
Provide incentives for participation. For potential sponsors, offer a listing on your webpage, promote their businesses in your fundraising materials and/or bowl-a-thon booklet, display advertising banners in the alley or perhaps even broadcast their businesses on the bowling alley(s) monitors during the event (prior to offering such incentives, clear them with the alley first.) Offer a certificate of participation, a t-shirt, or some other form of recognition to bowlers, perhaps even performance-related “prizes”, such as a trophy, plaque, or donated services (a free pizza, movie tickets, etc.) for the highest individual and/or team score, most pledges collected, etc.
KEEP PEOPLE INFORMED
If collecting online sponsorships and donations, send an immediate acknowledgment of receipt, as well thanking them for their support. For those who want to donate by other means, allow them to specify how they want to be contacted – by email or written correspondence, and make certain that you provide these with a acknowledgment and thanks upon receipt by the same means.
Provide those collecting pledges with a specific deadline date to deliver collected funds, even if their efforts to collect are incomplete – design the pledge sheet so that name, address and/or email information is collected when funds are pledged so that your organization can complete the collection process.
SAY "THANK YOU!"
Most importantly, send everyone who participated in the fundraiser a THANK YOU letter – bowlers, sponsors, donors, and anyone who volunteered or provided a service for your event…and don’t forget the bowling alley. Thank them for their participation and emphasize how their gift of time, money, prizes, etc. furthered your bowl-a-thon’s success. If you came close to meeting your fundraising goal (or perhaps even exceeded it!) crow a bit and let them know!