It’s the 21st Century.  Advertising your charity events through posters and banners still reaches a good number of people, but with minimal time and effort, you can post to an online calendar and reap substantial rewards. 

Most event planners want to reach the largest audience possible, which will bring growth and greater success to the event and the organization.  But organizations generally have negligible budgets, and limited human resources,  so many throw up fliers announcing their event and hope for the best.  But with the advent of the Internet there are a myriad of tools available to help “spread the word” quickly, and at a minimal cost. 

Word of mouth is great, but as a frequent attendee of the many “feeds” (pig feed, duck feed, spaghetti feed, crab feed, chicken feed) in our area, I can attest that most of the tables are filled with friends and families of the very people who organized the event.  When I organize an event, I want to see more than just our own members, otherwise, why not just ask the members for donations and save all the time and money spent to organize and produce the event?  The way to grow your organization, and reach full potential, is to bring in outsiders.  These outsiders probably don’t object to your cause, but with so many causes vying for their time, energy and money, they simply may not be aware of your organization. 

This is where the crab feeds, festivals, and dinner-dance-auctions come in to attract many people who may have never heard of an organization’s cause.  Not only will the group garner dollars from a crowd they normally have little access to, but they will also raise awareness for their cause, and name recognition for the organization, which will bring greater success down the line.  An additional intangible benefit is the greater sense of community that will sprout up as more people become aware of all the diverse and wonderful organizations in our area.   Many don’t realize it, but these organizations, and the passionate people who support them, play a huge role in why Petaluma is such a great place to live.  Half the reason I attend these events is because I get to visit with old friends and make new ones.  Over the past several years, I have gained a greater understanding of our community by sitting and talking with new and old friends over a lasagna feed dinner than I ever could have by reading the papers or attending city council meetings.  I am constantly surprised at how interconnected we all are, and how tend to share a common interest in maintaining our unique quality of life.

I know that the Interwebs is scary, but if you are reading this you must have at least some brief knowledge.  You may have to be the voice of reason of your local organization or cause. Ask them, “Are we advertising online?  …but its free.”  You may have to step forward and volunteer to do the posting yourself, but rest assure that your time will be well spent.  When you see your event’s crowds growing, and ticket sales climbing, you will be able to take pride as an innovator for your organization.

A simple search of “Petaluma events” or “Petaluma calendar” will turn up a handful of calendar sites that will post your event for free.  The first one I check is www.petaluma360.com, but I usually post to several calendars since there is no single, centralized calendar yet.  You will be surprised at the added success your event will have once you start attracting more than just regular members. Heck, if it is a “feed” of some sort, count me in, with my whole family in tow, regardless (almost) of what your charity is.  I may not join your organization, or donate to your cause (above the price of the dinner) but at least you have a captive audience waiting for great food.  Throw in a silent auction and you are sure to attract added donations since people can’t seem to resist a chance to bid on something.  Worst case scenario, we help pack your house, which brings a great energy to any event.  Making the experience memorable, with people meeting for the first time, old friends reconnecting, and family getting a much needed visit with each other, and it often leads to looser pocketbooks when it comes to donations, raffles, and auctions and a greater chance of bringing in new members. 

There are a lot of people, like me, who thoroughly enjoy being part of this community and would be more than happy to help out by attending your events (especially if it involves food…) but we often don’t hear about your event until it is too late. 

The bottom line is that it takes almost no time to set up an account and post your event to an online calendar (or two.)  In order to grow and succeed at your fundraising efforts, organizers need to reach beyond their normal constituents.  The last thing you want is to be raising funds from the very people who have spent so much time and energy pulling off the fundraiser. That is preaching to the choir, and besides wearing your own hearty volunteers down, it won’t help you reach your full potential, nor your organizational goals.

Please feel free to contact me with any events you would like to see highlighted on my “Petaluma This Weekend” blog, even if they aren’t necessarily a charity event.  I attended a couple of great events last weekend that I wouldn’t have known of if their organizers hadn’t contacted me to help spread the word.