Fete Convenor’s Perspective

How to Make a Great Fete

St’s Peters & Pauls School in Bulimba, recently held a hugely successful fete, raising over $106,000. We were lucky enough to find out from Rebecca Lawrence, Fete Convenor, what made it a successful school fete.
A veteran of two fetes, Rebecca Lawrence, has hung up her fete team shirt for the last time. Before she retires, we asked her a few pointers on ‘How to make a great fete’.
1. Two fetes – what were you thinking??
I had really enjoyed seeing the first fete at my children’s school but had not been too involved as my youngest was too small. I’m a marketing consultant but had taken a career break while the children were little and the 2012 fete seemed like a good way of supporting the school, demonstrating the value of volunteering to my children and also dipping a toe back in the water of event planning. Over a coffee two of my friends, a lawyer on sabbatical and a former legal secretary also showed an interest and we made a pact to do it as a team of three, playing to our strengths.
2. How did you start?
With a bottle of wine and a briefing from the previous fete convenor who had just broken the record for an enormously successful fete – so no pressure!
We received a huge folder of documents and a usb stick with all the files from the 2010 fete which we transferred into a dropbox folder to share. At first we worked through timeframes and running sheets and followed their lead for booking all the services and suppliers and created our own deadlines. I took care of the marketing, sponsorship and communications; one friend took over stall management and the other managed all the logistics from getting a liquor license, ordering portaloos and bins through to booking the rides.
Where we diverted was that we treated the event as I would any other corporate event. This was risky in that it could be said that we took away some of the ‘charm’ of getting the children to design posters and decorations but what we lost in charm we made up for in sponsorship.
3. How challenging is it to get volunteers?
We were very lucky in that our school has a very active parent body – although, like most schools, it’s usually the same few who put their hand up for everything. We found breaking tasks down and being quite prescriptive helped. In the end we used the message “Have you volunteered your two hours yet?” as we deduced that if each family donated two hours of time we could cover the fete day operationally.
Where we slipped up for the first fete was not understanding the huge amount of ‘post-fete’ work. The morning after the 2012 fete was our darkest day. We knew we had raised $96,000 and were on a high with our success only to be called at 7am to be asked to come in and mop the Parish Hall! We had thought we would go out for a celebratory lunch but instead spent the day cleaning halls, toilets and fairy floss machines. Not so in 2014!
The other area that proved challenging is managing prizes and donations. There’s really no short cut here, just a matter of door knocking and calling which can be quite exhausting. There is a huge amount of work in collating the prizes and documenting them so that everyone gets value. In 2012 the three fete convenors did this as well as everything else but in 2014 we created a dedicated team for this role which worked much better.
4. Sponsorship seems key to your success – any tips?
We created a transparent and specific sponsorship strategy that we offered to businesses that we thought would get value from it. Each sponsor could see exactly what each level of sponsorship involved both financially and in terms of value to their business. Our premium sponsor received more prominent positioning on all marketing material, naming rights on the stage and more frequent promotion for example. We were lucky in that we had a number of parents who run businesses who thought the fete sponsorship was relevant to their audience which helped immensely.
5. How important to the bottom line were the ride bands and kiddies corner?
Whilst we were very mindful that the purpose of the fete was to raise funds for the school, we also wanted to make sure that the children had a fete to remember. We have not raised the price of ride bands since 2010 and feel that $25 is a large investment for families with multiple children.
This year we introduced Kiddies Corner for children who are too little for the rides. We included a soft play area, bouncy castle and ball pits which were limitless but also activities that wrist band entitled the wearer to enjoy once such as Crazy Hair, decorating a cup cake and face painting for $15. This was very popular for the smaller children and offered younger children something to occupy them too. We were surprised how many babies and toddlers came along that haven’t even started school yet so we will certainly recommend this for future fetes.
One of our strategies to increase revenue given that we didn’t want to increase price was to sell more rides. We did this by ensuring we promoted the Early Bird wrist band sales to the broader community and as a result we had lots of families from beyond the school come along and enjoy the day.
6. How did you allocate profits?
We appointed a dedicated Fete Treasurer to work independently of the P&F Treasurer whose sole purpose was to control fete finances. Our cost control was extremely tight and this contributed to the bottom line at both fetes. The day before the fete we could plainly see that we were already profitable by having allocated costs to each stall, marketing and activities such as auction and raffle.
On the day we had a team of 11 working on the accounts with a master spreadsheet allocating profits and counting money. We had Money Runners who collected money throughout the day and also banked it to ensure there was no risk.
7. With such a huge community project how did you go about thanking people?
We launched a website early on in the fete process with one of its primary objectives to thank people involved from sponsors, supporters and volunteers. In 2012 we had published weekly printed newsletters listing all those we wished to thank but this was costly in terms of time and money. We had also launched a facebook page in 2012 that we used again to thank people and promote our sponsors. Whilst we are sure we were a bit ‘annoying’ to our followers, we felt people would understand that we have a duty to thank those involved and ensure no one felt overlooked.
The school P&F also throws a Thank You party a couple of weeks after the event which we invite everyone involved from sponsors, volunteers and parents on babysitting duty – it’s a great night.
8. With so many individuals involved were there any political issues?
Of course! But the beauty of being a ‘volunteer’ is that by being open and honest whilst reminding people you are trying to do something for the greater good, most people are pretty forgiving. To the best of my knowledge no one has retained any grudges and we’re all still friends!
Rebecca now runs her own business Love Your Local Group which aims to support and promote local businesses through consolidated marketing and events. Find out more at www.loveyourlocalmarkets.com.au and www.bulimbabusiness.com.au
Have you held a great fete or need more tips? Contact us to get your copy of The Practical Fundraising Handbook

Originally published 19 June, 2014

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