Top 10 Fundraising Tips For Equestrian Enterprises
By Nikki Alvin-Smith
Whatever your need for funding, whether you operate a horse rescue, therapeutic riding program, GMO, or are a horse show organizer, there are times when you need a little extra dollar boost for your budget. For some organizations the reliance on the fundraising finance is close to 100 percent, for others it is extra cash that can help develop a program or event, or improve the equine property with a capital expense such as a new barn, run-in shed or storage building. Here are the top 10 trending tips for your fundraising efforts.
1. Build The Triangle
When you see the donkey you recently rescued standing in the pouring rain out in the pasture awaiting adoption, you probably long for a run-in shed. You could win one in a contest, the way Ashley Nelms of Flare Oaks Rescue, Harnett County, N.C. did recently from a generous Sweepstakes event sponsored by Horizon Structures LLC., but more the more likely case is you’ll need to purchase it.
For this you need to begin by building the triangle. The three corners of the triangle are product procurement, promotion, and winner announcement.
The products you’ll want to secure should be geared to your target audience of buyers. For example, if you are show organizer with events servicing mostly dressage riders, then find a business that will donate dressage type items such as double bridles, dressage saddle pads, or appropriate apparel for the dressage competitor. Once you have successfully secured some products then you have to figure out how you will promote the sale of said items for hard cash. This may come in the form of a raffle with inexpensive tickets such as $1 for one, $5 for ten, or a silent or live auction to be held in conjunction with another event you have planned.
Use of social media for quick promotion is essential and the businesses that donate should be included in the marketing message. This will encourage future donations.
Ensure you give a specific timeline for the drawing if it is a raffle or silent auction. If the winner is to be announced as part of an event (which is a great idea), be certain to let folks know if they need to be present to win and collect their contact info, name and telephone number and possibly email so you can contact them directly to organize delivery of the prize if they are not required to be present. If you collect their email addresses for later marketing use, be sure to define that in your terms and conditions of competition with a statement they are agreeing to the use of their information by you and that you will not distribute it to third parties. Privacy can be a tricky topic.
When the winner is selected, don’t miss the opportunity to herald the announcement to all and sundry. Not just at the gathering, but also through your social media platform and wherever you have advertised the raffle or auction. It is imperative that you follow through with this factor as many people complain that a reason they don’t enter contests is they never hear anyone has actually won. Don’t miss this premier opportunity to engage your community in your fundraising efforts.
This triangle also applies to tack sale events. You can procure new or used items and clean and repair them for sale at a tack sale event. Remember to allow plenty of time to organize all these ‘gifts’ so you are not scrambling around just prior to the event. You’ll want all the items spic and span, well photographed and ready to blast on social media alongside your promotional statements.
Some folks may even consider donating a part of a product. For example, if someone has a used saddle for sale they may want some cash back but may be prepared to split the profit if you can garner a certain price.
2. Fame Helps
Don’t be shy to ask celebrities within your equestrian discipline to autograph items that you’d like to sell off in an auction or raffle. Many run of the mill items such as baseball caps will sell well with a few notable signatures added. Have complete transparency when approaching the celebrity equestrian and explain exactly what your fundraising effort is for and how the product will be sold. With sponsorship contracts and competition rules in place, advanced competitors have to be careful about who and what they endorse.
3. Publicity from Contributed Media
Registered charities often engage with magazines and other media avenues for free advertising. This will help defray expenses of marketing your fundraising events and heighten the profile of your business. This in turn may boost donations to your cause. Many radio stations and TV networks offer public services announcements (PSA) and so don’t be afraid to ask for their help.
4. In-Kind Donations Matter
Corporations and local businesses may be keen to support your business with an in-kind donation. This will again help improve the profitability of any event you host as you may receive products such as discounted hotel prices, food and drinks for a gala event of discounts on services such as airline fees.
5. Cash In On Professional and Technical Services
Professionals that are willing to donate their expertise and energy to help you promote your charity or community service can again save you much needed cash and help you save the fundraising dollars you garner for other needs.
6. Charity Matching
If your organization is a registered charity, then many employers will match an employee’s donation. When you are asking for donations don’t forget to ask.
7. Gala Event
GMO’s often host end of year awards banquets. These have everybody in a holiday giving goodwill mood. This is the perfect time to harness their ‘inner gifting’ which may come in the form of gift certificates from local restaurants, blanket cleaners, saddle fitting services or even lesson gift certificates from trainers.
You can create an Open House or public event around any theme. For example you might offer a small entry fee and provide events such face painting, pony rides and other kid friendly activities to encourage families to attend. If you have an indoor you might host a barn dance. Try to think outside the box. Scavenger hunts around the property, Halloween parties with a trail set through the woods where you can hide some spooky surprises, cook-off competitions, barbeque feasts, the list is endless.
8. Mail Don’t Email
A well-worded letter to a business owner with an attachment about your forthcoming event with a request for sponsorship that showcases the worthiness of your cause, will be better received than an email.
If you are seeking sponsorships for a horse show or other event always provide an array of sponsorship options at different price points. An easy payment method or flexible payment plan is also appreciated and promotion of the business utilizing banners and their marketing materials in gift bags or entry packets is a great idea.
9. Google Grants and Crowd Funding Sites
These are many free tools to help you spread news about your good work. Google offer grants for online advertising through their platforms such as expanded You Tube channels, Google Apps and Google Earth.
U.S.-based nonprofits can visit www.google.com/grants to sign up for a Google Grant. A Google Grant consists of up to $10,000 per month in free "AdWords" advertising. Your link will appear above the other results in Google searches and provides great exposure and a funnel to bring more potential donors to your fundraising efforts. You can also fill out a simple application to access all free services at www.google.com/nonprofits . This is a great resource for tips on how to make the most of Google's software, and their new nonprofit marketplace, which lists companies that offer free or discounted services to nonprofits.
Grants are available from social conscientious connections such as Foundations and Societies and these are worth investigating when you are seeking fundraising dollars. However, they are a relatively small segment of the market and generally require much time and effort to apply for and are highly competitive.
Crowd funding sites such GoFundMe are an excellent method to raise money for a particular project. For example, fencing for a paddock, a new therapeutic riding horse or money to purchase a new barn or run-in-shed.
For horse related businesses the purchase of run-in sheds or animal shelter in general are high on the want list. For small animal rescues and service providers a commercial grade kennel with easy clean surfaces, heating and cooling options and secure/safe pens spaces are popular. These larger purchases are often thought hard to fund, but in fact these projects are often so visual that donors are quick to sign up. No animal lover wants to think of a critter cold and wet, or living in an overcrowded space. Research building companies that offer multiple structure options and offer financing, so that you can raise the initial capital and then make payments that may be tax deductible and where you can amortize/depreciate the building each year. Consult a tax professional for advice.
In regard to affordability and instant availability of a much needed shelter check in with modular or prefab construction companies. Here is an interesting podcast that offers advice from Jill Siragusa at Horizon Structures LLC. where she discusses ‘everything barn building’ and shares based on over a decade of experience helping horse owners find the best shelter for their critters, great and small.
Facebook/Instagram and social media platforms should all be kept active with engaging posts and updates on your cause. Facebook has an audience the same size as the world’s third largest country with over 600 million followers, so that is a great place to start and to encourage folks to follow your organization and to donate. Use the ‘causes’ tool www.causes.com on your Facebook page and Facebook Group to supplement your fundraising efforts.
10. Don’t Forget Your Manners
The single biggest mistake folks make when fundraising is they forget to individually thank their donors after the event or after receipt of the donation. A handwritten thank-you note that includes a photo of someone enjoying the services your provide will keep them sweet for your next round of requests.
For fundraising that you do online, where an increasing number of donor dollars are spent, remember to express your thanks for member contributions. Public recognition helps develop loyalty and encourages others to become included by adding their support.