Last month accountancy firm Raffingers held their first ever charity ball, raising an amazing £12,000 to be split between Ovarian Cancer Action and Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund. Lauren Aston, Marketing Manager at Raffingers, tells us about the highs and lows of organising an event of this size and shares her advice for others planning a fundraising event…
Deciding on our charities…
In the past, our involvement with charities had been limited to sponsoring events in the local area. This year we wanted to organise something ourselves and to work with charities that are close to our hearts. Sadly, a colleague had recently lost her husband to pancreatic cancer and I had lost my mum to ovarian cancer, so we knew that these were causes we wanted to support, and that the team would rally behind them.
Planning the event…
There are only five of us in the charity committee, so we had to delegate carefully. Our offices are in Essex and London and our first task was finding a venue that was accessible and not too expensive, so we could maximise our profit margins — we are accountants after all!
Once we’d decided on a venue, (Waltham Abbey Marriott Hotel), it was then a question of spreading the word. Our partners invited their own clients and also asked them to donate prizes for the auction or raffle. We were amazed by the response – clients donated iPads, golf days, a spa trip and even a Karting experience with a world champion! Even those who weren’t able to make the event themselves were often kind enough to give a donation. Local businesses were also very generous, offering a range of prizes for the raffle, and the team did a shout-out on Facebook and received further gifts from family and friends.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity to raise awareness and some extra money, we also produced a brochure with the agenda for the night and profiles of the two charities. With so many businesses attending we made a further £2,000 selling ad space to clients.
Highs and lows…
There were a lot of things to coordinate, from sourcing high-quality raffle prizes, to decorating the venue, to ensuring that guests’ dietary requirements were met. When we first contacted people in January the initial response was that September was too far away to think about. However, we were glad we’d asked people to save the date, so that when July came around we were able to do a big push and sell lots of tickets.
As it was our first event of this kind, there were a few things that we hadn’t anticipated – such as how popular the raffle tickets would be! There was a brief moment of panic when we thought that we were going to run out before we’d got round to all of the guests, but luckily another book of raffle tickets was found last minute.
On the night…
The 114 guests sat down to a three-course meal, played heads-or-tails, took part in the raffle and silent auction and danced the night away.
The evening went by in a flash but we couldn’t have been happier. One of the Raffingers partners performed with his band and everyone had an amazing time dancing until the very end! We had so much positive feedback afterwards, including one client telling us he wanted to make our ball an annual event for his staff.
Advice for others planning an event…
- Don’t be afraid to tell people that it is a charity event – you may find you’re able to negotiate better prices on things such as venue hire.
- A personal touch goes a long way: instead of sending out generic emails, we asked the partners to get in touch personally with their clients and got a great response.
- Capitalise on contacts – one of our clients is a wholesaler and can offer us a deal on alcohol, so we plan to find a venue that offers corkage next year.
- Don’t forget to follow up with thank yous after the event – people love to have their generosity acknowledged.
- Finally…relax! Although it can be nerve-racking to ask for donations, you’ll be amazed how generous and willing to help people are.
For more information and advice on organising corporate events, contact Daisy@ovarian.org.uk