James P. Reber

Successful Fundraising & Producing for over 30 Years

Fundraising Event Review & "Makeover": 3 Success Stories

#1 "The Concert for Kids"    

San Juan Bautista Child Development Center is a wonderful community service provider in East San Jose. Among the services the center provides is a unique low-cost (and sometimes no-cost) childcare program for working families. Many wage earners cannot afford regular daycare and they need to work every day to make ends meet. If a child has a cold, the parents can drop the child off at San Juan Bautista Child Development Center (SJBCDC) for the day. The center has a dedicated staff and great volunteers.

I became involved with SJBCDC as part of pro-bono work that I do for some non-profit organizations. I met with board and staff and provided general advice on a variety of fundraising issues. An area that especially interested me, and on which the organization needed help, was the annual concert that SJBCDC did to raise funds for its programs.

The event was great. Through a connection with a well-regarded professional musician, SJBCDC was able to provide incredible entertainment for a small event like this concert./ The concert included dinner and the dinner used every staff member, board member and volunteer to give their all to make things work. The average net for the event was just over $3,000. I felt that by evaluating the event and re-allocating resources of time and energy, the event net could be doubled or more.

I then took the event and re-worked it, pointing out areas where prices could be raised by adding a special re-show reception. Selling the tickets in more organized , concentrated way was also a part of the new approach. A few other simple changes were made and I created a new written plan.

I also produced the event the first time, hoping to "test drive" the new plan. Part of my reasoning was to show SJBCDC that by hiring a professional to manage the event, the key board and staff members were free to socialize and spend valuable time with the donors in attendance. The next few years, the event increased to around $30,000 net, well beyond expectations.

#2 The Walk For AIDS             

I was contacted by the Walk For AIDS in the Spring of 1992 about producing the annual walk-a-thon in October of the same year. The Walk had existed for two years and had originally been a three or four county simultaneous event (very complicated). Luckily, the event had been simplified and Santa Clara County was going to have its own Walk For AIDS to raise funding for local AIDS programs and services.

The time frame was very tight, but I had already produced a major event in a very short time frame, too (The Opening of the San Jose McEnery Convention Center was done in just 5 months). So, I immediately reviewed the plans from the previous two years and evaluated every document, promotional piece, registration forms and processes, and funding sources. With the help of some people who had been involved with the previous Walks, I was able to understand how it worked.

Then, very quickly, I revamped the basic processes and operations of the Walk For AIDS. With only a few months to go, the new marketing procedures were implemented. The time frame forced me to make quick decisions and stick with them. All previous donors and sponsors were contacted and brought up to date. Many renewed, despite having been left with no word for months about the previous Walk. Anyway, the upshot was that the net funding increased from just over $100,000 to just under $200,000 that year.

#3 The PACT Luncheon    

People Acting In Community Together is a truly unique organization that has been serving San Jose and Silicon Valley for nearly 20 years. As PACT itself states its mission: "People Acting in Community Together (PACT) awakens people to their greatest resources each other and teaches them how to improve the education, health, employment and safety of their families and their neighborhoods." This means lots of behind the scenes organizing of people at a grass roots level.

One of the most visible aspects of PACT's existence is an annual event that draws a packed (no pun intended) house to see one of Silicon Valley's great citizens honored. PACT's annual Leadership in Action Awards Luncheon has always been a success and the event is steeped in tradition, including volunteer supporters, a top-notch volunteer fundraising committee, and staff that puts in incredibly long hours.

I was brought in by my friend, Matt Hammer, PACT Executive Director, a few years ago, to evaluate the annual luncheon and see if more funding could be gained from it. I met regularly with the blue-ribbon fundraising committee, and had several detail sessions with Matt and his staff.

Basically, I took the event as it was and without changing ticket prices or the strong community feel that makes it unique, I re-organized the funding structure of the event at the high end. Following a very simple diagram and funding plan, PACT was able to increase net funding from that luncheon, which I also produced for them, by about $30,000.

As is usually the case when I do an Event Review & "Makeover", the group is able to take on the future growth by itself, based on the new model and plan. I prefer this kind of relationship where I am able to make a big difference in the short-term and leave the organization with the know-how to do it themselves.

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James P. Reber, Nonprofit Fundraiser, Fundraising Consultant, Public Speaker, Event Planner, Event Producer, San Jose, Silicon Valley, California serves the South Bay Area, including nearby communities of Santa Clara, Cupertino, Milpitas, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Morgan Hill, Campbell, Fremont, Redwood City, Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley, and San Mateo. Mr. Reber serves Santa Clara County, San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties, as well as the greater San Francisco Bay Area - Alameda, San Francisco, San Benito, Contra Costa, and Monterey Counties.