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How to throw a benefit party

Sherry Tryssenaar loves getting together with family and friends. And as Chair of the YWCA Board of Directors, she’s also passionate about giving back to her community. 

A long-time supporter of the YWCA, Sherry wanted to share her favourite cause with family and friends. So she hosted a benefit party to raise funds and awareness for YWCA Mothers Without Legal Status

“When I’ve hosted parties in the past, I found that my guests were happy to bring wine, flowers or other hostess gifts,” says Sherry. “I appreciate the tradition of not showing up empty handed, but thought that perhaps, together, we could channel our giving for a better purpose.” 

By asking guests to simply donate what they would normally spend on a hostess gift, Sherry’s party with a purpose raised more than $3,000 for families in need! 

Sherry says it’s easy to turn any social event into an opportunity to support your favourite charity. To help you transform your dinner party, birthday party or casual get-together into a giving party, she’s sharing her tips on how to throw your own benefit party.


How to throw a benefit party

Pick a cause. Identify a charity that is near and dear to you. Your family and friends will happily support a cause that you are passionate about, especially if there’s a personal connection.

Narrow down the purpose. Do you want to use your gathering as a way to raise funds on a one-off basis? Or do you want to generate a longer term source of financial support for your charity of choice? If it's the latter, host an event to form a giving circle and ask guests to make monthly contributions to your cause. Don’t worry about size or money raised - every little bit helps. And raising awareness is as important as raising funds.

Contact the charity and let them know your plans. Charities want to know who is promoting their name to raise funds, so do this as a courtesy even if you don’t need any assistance at the event. 

Plan your event. It’s easiest to simply add a charitable component to an event you are already organizing. You can also plan a special event or a more active way of supporting the charity. For instance, gather friends, family or co-workers to collect food or clothing for donation.

Consider logistics. If you are hosting a food or clothing drive, figure out how you will get your donations to the charity. If you’re volunteering time, contact the charity to determine when and where your volunteer hours are needed.

Let people know how they can help. In your invite, tell people why you support your charity of choice and what you’d like guests to contribute (cash, food, clothing etc.). Make it personal – this brings the “cause” to the people you are inviting. If it’s something close to your heart, asking will be easier than you think!

Keep it fun. This is an opportunity to add some community giving to your event. Don’t overwhelm your guests with the sales pitch - this is first and foremost a party!

Give thanks to your guests and let them know the difference they’ve made. Follow up with an email or thank you card. If you've formed a giving circle, decide when you want to meet next.


4 more ways you can pay it forward with family and friends

Throw a birthday party that benefits and teach your kids about giving back. Fed up with the throw-away and duplicate toys given at your child’s birthday party? Ask other parents to skip the gift buying and give a cash donation - half goes to the charity of choice (chosen by the birthday boy or girl) and half goes towards a meaningful gift, like a musical instrument or an art set selected by the child.

Host a clothing swap for the YWCA Thrift Shop. Ask friends to bring gently worn clothes and housewares they're willing to trade, then drop off whatever's left at our Main Street thrift shop. All proceeds go to YWCA programs and services that help women and families live free from poverty and violence.

Register your wedding with the I Do Foundation and ask guests to support a charity of your choice in place of gifts. This is an especially great idea for second marriages, when you've got all the fondu sets and blenders you need!

Start a giving circle. Kind of like a book club, giving circles are a form of philanthropy where groups of individuals donate money to a pooled fund, decide together which community projects to support and, in doing so, increase their awareness of and engagement in various issues. Giving circles allow for a wide range of giving activity—some circles donate money while others volunteer their time or expertise for a cause they believe in.

Want to host a party or event to benefit the YWCA? We're here to help! Contact Vanessa Wellington, Donor Relations Manager, at vwellington@ywcavan.org or 604 895 5826 for more information.

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