February 19, 2024
Nonprofit Technology & Fundraising Blog
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Robert Perry at Tattooed Mom in Philadelphia. Photographed by Conrad Benner/Streets Dept.
As the owner of beloved Philadelphia mainstay Tattooed Mom, Robert Perry knows a thing or two about planning a hit nonprofit fundraising event for an awesome cause. Dotted with vintage bumper cars and kitschy collectibles, his two-story bar has served as a destination for all types of creatives, from touring bands and off-duty artists to Center City techies and colorful neighborhood regulars. As if that isn’t cool enough, Robert leverages success to give back to his community.
For twenty years, Tattooed Mom has provided a wide array of nonprofits and community arts groups with a vibrant place to gather, celebrate, and raise money for their missions. So before you venture out to secure a venue and vendors for your event, consider the sage advice of a savvy business owner with a mission of his own: creating a safe space for people to come together and affect positive change.
Every great event that’s ever happened at Tattooed Mom started with a simple request. “Don’t be afraid to go into your community and ask for help. People are surprisingly really generous very very willing to share and give,” Robert says, “You can get donations, gift cards, prize packs, a space to hold your event. It never hurts to ask.”
Nonprofits aren’t the only ones having all the fun. Robert and his team at Tattooed Mom hold fundraisers of their own. The main secret to their events’ success is simple: Be as inclusive as possible. The more participants you rally, the more buzz for your big night. “Every year, Tattooed Mom puts on a sticker art show.” Robert explains, “We invite sticker artists from all over the world to submit their work and donate 100% of the proceeds to local community arts nonprofits that send working artists to teach arts education in city schools that don’t have art programs.” It’s more than getting people in the door.
“What are you going to do once people are your event?” Robert asks. “From the experiences I’ve seen, you have to engage people. Make it into a party and make it engaging and fun, so your supporters will come along with their friends and people who have never heard about you but think your event sounds like a good time.”
Incorporate activities or aspects into your event that help people learn about your mission. “You can open them up to being more invested in your mission and being more generous in wanting to support your mission. A local chapter of a health services organization hosted a Quizzo night that put a clever spin on the work they do and communicated their mission in a way that wasn’t heavy-handed – it was fun. And there were prizes. You have one chance to get people in the door. Be sure to make it count.”
While you can and should ask every local business in your community to pitch in, start with some wind in your sales by asking businesses with a track record of helping nonprofits. Not only are you more likely to get a yes, you’ll also reap the benefits of that business’ experience in planning and promotion.
Robert explains how so many of Tattooed Mom’s fundraising events get their start. “People will approach me and say, ‘I was at an event at Tattooed Mom and it went really well, so would you be open to working with us?’ Our fundraising events are mostly due to word of mouth because we’ve hosted so many fundraisers for nonprofits and community groups.”
“I think a good partnership is where both parties are willing to put energy and time and creativity into an event,” Robert says. “Both parties should be excited about the partnership and aim to make the event the best it can be, so there’s a mutual benefit to both the organization and the business. Each side should bring creative energy and openness to the table, along with a willingness to follow through to make your plans successful.”
You can have a great idea and solid partnerships, but if no one shows up, your event will fall flat.
“If you don’t dedicate time and effort to the promotion piece of your event, people won’t know there’s something to show up for. I’ve seen people work so hard and forget the promotional part. Find someone at your organization or in your community who is comfortable reaching out to people and savvy with social media,” Robert advises. “Also, ask the businesses you’re partnering with to help you get the word out. They might have a customer base that doesn’t know about you but might be interested in your event or your organization in general. Provide partnering businesses with links, fliers, and a Facebook event link to share. They’ll do it, because that promotion benefits them, too.”