Great ideas often lead to great things, but somewhere along the way investment and fundraising are often required. Nonprofits, political causes, and business startups all need cash to expand and grow. Although many groups may dream of a mega grant or super venture capitalist, the support of small donors and individual investors is often the foundation from which everything grows.

One of the most successful ways to attract these people is through small gatherings. These “house parties” are a popular and successful way to raise money for non-profit organizations, political functions, and commercial businesses. Although the reasons for these gatherings are always to raise funds, the purpose of the money creates subtle differences in the structure and style of the events.

Let’s take a look at the three types of events and see how they vary.

Nonprofit events go by many names, such as hall gathering, house gathering, house party, or roundup. The purpose can range from funding social programs or religious organizations, supporting the arts, humanitarian outreach, environmental awareness, or assisting dozens of other charitable causes.

• These small hall benefits are usually organized by two or more people commonly called co-chairs.

• Successful house parties need two or more months’ notice.

• As a practice, the host does not ask for money. Instead, one of the co-chairs or the keynote speaker will discuss the funding needs and benefits of supporting the organization or cause.

• A popular way to increase donations is to offer matching dollars. This is a popular incentive. A major funder agrees to make a specified donation as long as its amount is matched by other sponsors.

Political fundraising can be focused on a single candidate, group of candidates, or local political party. Small group fundraising represents a significant number of dollars for junior and senior candidates.

• Political parties at home usually start with a committee led by a chairman. In most cases, all members are responsible for bringing guests.

• The purpose must be defined. There may be more than one objective, but each objective must be very clear.

• Unless it is a general fundraiser, a target audience should be defined at the outset. The food, the location and the activities must be geared towards the target audience.

Investor Gatherings also go by various names, such as networking house parties or Angel events.

• Although these small parties are often held in homes, informal settings in businesses or prestigious venues are also fine.

• Incentives, perks, and well-known speakers are often used to attract attendees.

• Some trade groups are available to host events.

Although the three types of small events have some differences, successful events share many of the same elements.

1. Prestigious location: private houses are fine and sometimes the best option. Setting the event in a prominent neighborhood or notable home can attract guests and set a financial tone.

2. The organizers set a realistic financial goal with a specific amount they plan to raise.

3. The budget must be established in the initial planning and must be paid in advance. (Dealing with last minute fees or unpaid bills creates a negative atmosphere.) A flawless event reflects on the organization, the candidate or the company.

4. Leadership must be clear and defined. Jobs and roles must be written and understood by all team members.

5. Time management is very important. If the event is listed as two hours long, do not exceed the time. Working overtime angers potential donors.

6. Aggressively market to the target audience. Be sure to budget for your marketing campaign which can include personal contacts, mailed invitations, direct mail, and artist contacts.

7. Thank you letters (or calls) should be sent to all attendees who attended salon meetings or investment parties, whether they invested immediately or not.

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