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6 steps to hosting a successful fundraiser

Fundraisers help schools, political groups and charitable organizations stay afloat. Groups that do not offer products or services for sale must find other means to fund their operations, and fundraisers often fill that role.

Charities Aid Foundation says that the number of people worldwide donating money to nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, increased from 1.2 billion in 2011 to 1.4 billion in 2014.

Fundraising involves more than putting a hand out and asking for money. Successful fundraisers have various things in common, regardless of the cause they're promoting.

1. Decide on a clearly expressed purpose. Individuals do not typically donate money without first being given a good reason to do so. Therefore, when beginning a fundraiser, organizers have to decide on the purpose of the event and spell out that purpose clearly. When sharing information about the fundraiser, include how the money will be allocated. Some charitable events have more than one objective, with a primary goal of raising money and additional desires to raise awareness and connect with new donors. When establishing a financial goal, organizers must come up with a final donations figure they hope to reach.

2. Know your audience. Understanding your goal is one factor, and knowing who you are reaching out to is another. If it's school fundraising, understand that these may be cash-strapped families without much money to donate. In such instances, consider incentivizing donations by entering donors into raffles for family-friendly outings or coupons to area businesses. Identifying your target audience can help you plan effective strategies that reach that audience.

3. Advertise extensively and early. Donors may not take immediate action upon learning about a fundraiser, so plan to advertise extensively. Make sure the message gets heard and that potential donors have time to fit their donations into their budgets. Reach prospective donors through all the avenues at your disposal, including social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Don't overlook more traditional methods of advertising, including flyers and newspaper advertisements that may resonate with older donors. A combination of various types of advertising can cover all of the bases, offers the charitable giving organization GiveForward.

4. Consider getting a sponsor. Individual donations can fuel fundraisers, but a widely recognizable sponsor can help propel prospective donors to action. Many corporations include charitable donations into their quarterly budgets, and such organizations often offer donate incentives such as event tickets and goodie bags that can compel private donors to make donations. Restaurants can offer gift cards and other stores may be able to donate products to hand out. A local celebrity can bring in the foot traffic needed to make the fundraiser successful.

5. Give out prizes. People may look forward to giving to a good cause, but walking away with something tangible in return also can elicit some good feelings. Budget for prizes and other takeaways. Make the fundraiser a fun atmosphere and give participants a chance to win items through contests or other small feats that will generate good will and enjoyment.

6. Enlist volunteers. A fundraiser is not a one-person job. Volunteers are the backbone of successful fundraising efforts, so make sure you have enough volunteers to plan and execute the fundraiser. Try to find volunteers from various walks of life so each person can bring their own unique and valuable experience to the table.