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  • What the event is for,
  • When and where the event is,
  • Why it is important that they attend,
  • An indication that this is a fundraising event and what the minimum ask is,
  • An interesting speaker or speakers that they would get to see/meet,
  • Information on how to RSVP or simply donate if they can’t attend.

Two to three days prior to the event, follow up with a phone call or email to those who have RSVP’d to remind them of the party. Indicate that you’re looking forward to meeting them and thank them for their interest in your cause.

Day of Event Logistics

For each house party you’ll need the following:

Food. You can usually get a local grocery store to donate food for a cause—especially if it is a worthy one, and if you acknowledge their donation at the event. Sometimes a local eatery will be willing to donate appetizers, or even cater the event as part of their donation to the cause.

Alcohol. It’s true, people tend to part with their money easier if they’ve had a drink or two first.

A current list of people that are attending, along with their contact information.

At least one guest speaker and a person that we’re calling an “evangelist” who will speak passionately and make the “ask.”

The Event

As people arrive, greet them and let them mingle for about an hour or so. Make sure that your guest speakers are present from the beginning of the event. Your guests will enjoy the chance to talk with them and feel as they are part of an inner circle of people who are helping to make a difference. Ply your guests with the food and drinks. Listen to what they have to say, and take notes. Some of these people may become converts during the course of the event for your cause and want to share their ideas with you. Let them. If they’re talking, they’re also likely to be donating.

Remember, some guests may not actually make a donation. And some guests may make a donation that is less than the requested minimum. Chances are, however, that this will be the exception rather than the rule as peer pressure tends to win out—especially if you keep your parties to less than 20 people.

The “Ask”

About an hour into the event, assemble your guests. Turn off the music and get people settled. Line up at least two speakers, preferably three. The first one or two should be your guest speakers. They should speak for about 5 minutes on why your cause is so important, and why it is important to them. Guest speakers that are in politics, heads of organizations, or have some celebrity within the group will do.

Next, line up your evangelist. This is the person that will make the “ask.” The “ask” is the moment where people are asked to reach in to their wallets or take out their checkbooks and make a donation. Right there. Right then. Asks that include a donation at a later time can be difficult to follow up on. It is OK for folks to indicate that they will be donating at a later time, but there is an amazing energy that develops when people are actually handing over cash or writing checks on the spot.

Follow Up

The very next day, be sure to send a thank you letter or email to each and everyone who has attended, regardless if they’ve given or not. Follow up is critical, and can make the difference between parties. Word gets around if people don’t feel appreciated, and future parties get harder to get people to. If your organization is a non-profit, be sure to include a letter indicating what their donation is for, and if it is tax-deductible.

The Take-Away

House parties are an easy and effective way to generate funding for your cause in a relatively short amount of time. The first house party is always the hardest. Future parties get faster and easier to set up once you have a system in place. Don’t be discouraged if you set a goal of raising $1000 at your first party, but instead generate just $600. Learn from what did and didn’t work, and change your asking style, invitation lists, and message for each individual party. No single formula will work for all causes and asks. Use your intuition, and feel free to change things up even mid-party.

Finally, have fun. Fundraising is one of the most stressful and most difficult aspects of either running an organization or helping to move a cause forward. As Margaret Mead once said, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”