What’s Your Crab? Lessons on Planning a Successful Fundraising Event

May 3 – Fundraising isn’t an easy task. It’s often time consuming and you never know whether it is going to be a success or not. Last year I organized a Yoga Fundraiser for the Baltimore Out of the Darkness Community Walk and to my surprise, it failed miserably. Not one single person showed up.

I advertised it with our walkers, on community calendars, and yoga websites. The yoga teacher could not have been nicer. Isn’t everyone doing yoga these days?

Guess what?! I’ve never been to a yoga class before. I don’t know much about yoga. I’m not part of that community. Yoga’s great, and there are plenty of successful yoga-themed fundraisers out there, but needless to say, this was the wrong fundraiser event for me.

How to do it right

The Maryland Chapter Party for Life Crab Feast has been a beloved spring fundraiser for the AFSP Maryland Chapter for seven years in a row. Most guests consider it a traditional obligation. The concept is simple and it works.

Choose the right event for you. The success of the Party for Life banks on Marylander’s obsession with all-you-can-eat steamed crabs. However, the event is not like any other Maryland Crab Feast. Its organizers and guests make it unique. We all have been affected by suicide one way or the other and we all decided to get together for one night to remember the lives of those we lost, celebrate the survivors, and give hope to those who struggle while the sun sets over the Baltimore harbor.

Organize committees. Donna Curley, the event chair, is a natural hostess. Each of the 300 guests know they are a part of the Maryland Chapter family. However, it takes the whole Maryland board, walk chairs, and volunteers to plan and execute this event. Some are responsible for organizing silent auction items, some try to find corporate sponsors, and others help to promote the event.

Supplement the event with fundraising activities. Ticket sales cover the event expenses, but silent auction items help us achieve the fundraising goal. For months, board members gather donations including jewelry, restaurant gift cards, flight tickets, and sports memorabilia enticing to Orioles, Ravens or the occasional Redskins fan. For each consumed bushel of crabs, the owner of the restaurant donates a percentage back to the Maryland Chapter. By opening the event up to corporate sponsors, the chapter is able to increase its fundraising goal each year.

Have fun! Did I mention all-you-can-eat steamed crabs, oysters, corn and chicken wings? The more fun it is, the more likely your event is to become an annual endeavor.

Now it’s your turn! Choose the right event for you and your community. What will people be excited about? Will it be a Paint Nite, 5K Race, or a cooking class? Be creative!

To register for the Party for Life please visit: https://afsp.donordrive.com/event/PartyforLife17

If you’re interested in creating an AFSP fundraising event in your community, reach out to your chapter’s area director, or email Angela Crowley, Director of Special Events & Online Giving, at [email protected].


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