Leveraging the power of poker is one of the best ways to raise money for a nonprofit. Trust us, we’ve run over 1,500 charity poker tournaments here at The Poker People and our clients have raised literally MILLIONS of dollars. So how does a nonprofit set themselves up for success? Glad you asked.
1 – You Gotta Give to Get
When your players walk in the door, they have already given you much more than a ticket price; they gave you their time. They arranged for babysitters, turned down other offers, drove in traffic, and made the decision to put themselves in a room where they know they will be asked for money. That is a big deal, and you need to reward them for it right away.
Provide clear parking directions. Have a greeter give them a warm welcome as soon as they walk in the door. Make check efficient and easy. Give them a free drink, food, and a raffle ticket just for showing up. Then, let them relax and take in the experience. There will be plenty of time to push them for more donations later in the evening.
Pro Tip: Print your spreadsheets alphabetically and in large font. Registration areas are often crowded and poorly lit. Your volunteers will thank you.
2 – Everyone Likes a Winner
How you present your charity is almost as important as the work you do. Create an atmosphere of positive messages. You have successes, so show them off. You don’t need to beat people over the head with statistics and bad news to get donations. I’ve heard that 74% of statistics are ignored immediately anyway.
Advertise your successes with posters around the room or play a video loop. Show off the tools of your trade with a display of the first aid kits or homeless toiletry supplies or wheelchairs you supply. Let people see what you do and remind them of the positive impact made by their donations.
3 – Make Board Members Talk to People
When someone is a bounty in one of our tournaments, we hang a large medal around their neck (think Olympic size medal, not Flav-O-Flav). This indicates that when that player gets knocked out of the tournament, the person who “beat the bounty” wins a reward. If there was someone next to you with a big a red ribbon around their neck, you would ask them about it, right? That medal is a great ice breaker and gives your Board Member a chance to start a conversation about the bounty that turns into one about the charity.
Pro Tip: Make sure your bounties know well ahead of time what you have planned and are ok with it being a target.
4 – Let the Game Do Its Thing
When you play poker and lose a hand, it affects you. You feel it. As your chips are going across the table to your opponent’s stack, you are already looking for a way to redeem yourself, to change course. It’s human nature. When at that very moment the dealer says, “For another $20 you can have more chips,” you are going to say YES.
There is a social pressure to stay involved (some call it revenge, but we don’t judge). There is a competitive fire to win in everyone. You are very likely to go into your wallet and grab that $20 to get back into the game. Not once did someone ask you for a donation to a charity. No one mentioned the tax benefits, or how your money would help build a well in another country. You don’t care, it is not about the charity then, it is about ego, and you want to WIN.
That’s the beauty of poker as a fundraising mechanism. The game will put everyone in a situation where they want to buy more chips at some point; it is unavoidable. And the charity gets the benefit of that donation. It is a win /win.
5 – Diversify Your Holdings
Everyone has a magic number in their heads of what they are willing to spend at a charity event. Your job is to give them several ways to get to that number (and a little bit beyond). Poker is obviously the main way people will donate, but you can’t go wrong offering alternatives. Selling drink tickets, raffle tickets, silent auction items, live auctions, and pledge request cards are all time-tested ways to increase spending. You want to present these options clearly and not all at once or it will look like a desperate money grab.
Pro Tip: If you are doing a raffle and an auction, separate the tables and use different colored tablecloths to differentiate them.
So those are a few of the things we have figured out over the last 16 years. I hope that they will help you be more successful. When you work with The Poker People you will also have a dedicated Event Manager who will be with you every step of the way. They know all 5 of these tips and a whole bunch more. If you’re thinking about leveraging the power of poker for your next fundraiser, please consider going All In with The Poker People.