Safe, efficient lighting is something most of us take as a given. But in Ranmalpur, India, a small desert settlement, the use of kerosene lamps is a safety concern, a time-waster, and an environmental hazard. Learning about the problem, an enterprising trio of young UCSF students and researchers—Yelena Bronevetsky, Sarah Abdul-Wajid, and Alexis Brumwell—decided to raise the money to donate sustainable solar lanterns to the town. It was a dramatic example of changing the planet by fixing a single serious problem half a world away. And what powered the fundraising was just as remote a solution: a dance party in San Francisco. Coordinating their fundraising through the online philanthropy hub Citizen Effect—which we featured last week on the blog—the group threw a great January event that’s already having an impact on Ranmalpur watch the new lanterns in action). We were excited to catch up with the group, who showed that being an eventholding newbie is no problem when you’ve got energy and a creative approach.

Finding a venue deal

Venues are not only willing to cut deals for parties—they may be extra-eager to host NPO events. For team Solar Lantern, hunting for the best offer via e-mail paid off when they landed Milk Bar in SF’s Haight neighborhood: “[The deal] included free use of the space, advertising on their website, a DJ, freedom to charge what we wished at the door, and 10% of the bar tab.” A bit of legwork and leveraging can cut costs and seriously spike the totals that go to the cause.

Promoting the old way—and the new

When it comes to promoting your event, there’s really no substitute for a diverse approach. That’s why, in addition to working their social media channels, the Solar Lantern crew sent out mass e-mails and hit the pavement: “We created fliers that were carried on us at all times to hand out to potential guests.” The women handed them out around the UCSF campus, and at establishments of all sorts. And they believe that it was no single method, but rather the combination, that led to a successful event.

Getting people in the door

The Solar Lantern group were also shrewd about building and getting the most from their crowd, in two particular ways. First, for all the promotion they did in their social networks, they also opened the door to walk-ins. And they let people know why they should walk in. “If you’re holding your affair where you can expect foot traffic from the general public, it’s beneficial to have information about the cause,” they say. This is a particularly good lesson for nonprofit gatherings: An event with a cause has a unique draw for potential attendees, but you have to tell them about it.

They also opted not to be strict about the donation amount: “We had a $10 suggested donation at the door, but decided not to turn anyone away who did not wish to donate the entire sum.” While this strategy only makes sense in some cases, it turned out to be smart for a crowd comprised largely of college kids and walk-ins. “It didn’t hurt us to have more people at the party,” they note. “And every little bit helps.”

Join our new nonprofit program, Eventbrite for Causes! Featuring discount rates and a supportive community, it’s your first step to hosting great NPO events.

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