Q & A: Fundraiser tips from 'An Evening of Decadent Indulgence'

Darius Golkar is the co-founder & director of New Scholars, Inc., the organization he co-founded with Garang Akau, a Lost Boy of Sudan in the documentary who became the only Lost Boy to graduate from Stanford University. This Thursday, October 21st, New Scholars is hosting a sweet (literally) fundraiser in Los Altos Hills, CA. An Evening of Decadent Indulgence, which will be held at an undisclosed mansion locale, just added new tickets after quickly selling out its initial run. We spoke to Darius to hear more and get some tips on planning an enticing fundraiser.

What is ‘An Evening of Decadent Indulgence,’ and what is New Scholars?

An Evening of Decadent Indulgence is a night of fine chocolate, wine and cheese at a palatial estate to learn about New Scholars’ (NS) work to empower African entrepreneurs.

NS is a not-for-profit venture helping African entrepreneurs bootstrap their way out of poverty, to self sufficiency. NS incubates and supports small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and strives to be the catalyst that allows young people’s entrepreneurial energy to result in measurable economic empowerment and opportunities for African youth.

You don’t always hear the words “decadent” and “social venture” in the same sentence. How did you decide to make an NPO event so…pleasurable?

Doing good should be fun!

NS engages dynamic entrepreneurs that are ready to explore the world and travel to Africa to make a difference. They should have a good time doing so and what better way to start than a pleasurable event with delicious chocolate, glamorous guests, great wine and an amazing mansion?

You’re holding the event at a “secret” location. That can be a great way to entice attendees, but it doesn’t always work. What’s been your trick?

Our ‘trick’ isn’t a trick at all: trust – viral marketing amongst a trusted network.

Secrecy worked because our team of supporters sent out personal invitations to their friends. Invited guests trust their word and the secret location gives a feeling of exclusivity.

Secrecy fails if the organization or the event committee do not already have an established reputation for great events. Our volunteers do: they have co-hosted ballet events, gala events and conferences.

What other promotional tools have you used to spread the word about the event and sell it out? Who is your target audience, and how have you made sure you reach them?

We started with the right theme (chocolate tasting – not very common) and a truly spectacular venue before carefully crafting the message and invite. Then we held a pre-party and attended several parties with other entrepreneurs in attendance to spread the word.

Facebook is a great platform to virally spread the word: we posted the Eventbrite link in several Facebook status updates, in the caption of tagged pictures from the Girlgate girls, and in wall posts among friends.

How did you decide on the pricing model for the fundraiser?

Brainstorm went: number of people venue could hold (~100); amount needed to make fundraiser worth while (>$5k); +$100 too high as a price point; $75 was nice and round and has an emotional association for the event being classy, yet affordable.

Last, what’s been your favorite Eventbrite feature, if you have one?

Status and charts were extremely valuable in allowing us to track progress in real-time. Also nice to be able to email attendees without having to constantly update a list.