Raising Funds at Public
Events & in Public Places

ComedyVoting activists, of course, will naturally go to wherever the people assemble. This includes community events ranging from fairs, festivals, celebrations, flea markets, and the like, to the entrances of public buildings, supermarkets, theaters, stadiums and arenas, comedy and dance clubs, and other large community-serving operations. The list of public events and places where activists can reach potential voters directly is lengthy.

As voting activists interact with the public, many in the community will have a supportive impulse in return. If you make it easy and natural for people to give a donation, you'll get lots of small donations as a part of your activities in the community.

While soliciting donations is not the leading objective of most community activities, leaving out asking for donations altogether would be missing an opportunity. And that opportunity is about more than making money. Every time somebody drops a buck in your donation jar, they've registered and recorded in their own minds that they support what you are doing. This is valuable because it makes those people more willing to help in the future.

Voting activists attend community events and stand in front of building entrances primarily to promote voter registration and turnout. As part of this, they recruit volunteers, build lists of supporters, and distribute practical voting information – how, where, and when to register and vote. They can also usually solicit and accept donations.

Finding & Selecting Opportunities

Adding the solicitation of donations to community activities is mostly a matter of first thinking of it and then of doing it in a manner that is situationally and socially appropriate. Sometimes that means not soliciting donations at all if doing so is going to cause an unnecessary conflict. You never want to be an irritating obstruction to the flow of walkers, interfere with an existing business or office, nor should you want to resemble someone who is there mainly to collect donations. The types of events (or high-traffic locations) you might consider include:

A Democratic candidate's events (with candidate's permission).

"Open" political events (demonstrations, rallies, marches, protest assemblies).

A booth or table inside public events (with permission at fairs, live shows, flea markets, farmers markets, etc.).

A booth or table inside a meeting room or meeting room lobby when local conferences, meetings, or public talks are planned where you would fit in (with permission).

In front of government offices as allowed by local rules (DMV, City Hall).

In front of local businesses (supermarkets, movie theatres, entertainment venues).

Inside local businesses with owners' active support (bars, coffee shops, restaurants, gyms, personal care services, retailers).

Deciding How You'd Like to Participate

You won't always get a booth or large table space just because you request it, but the first issue is to decide what to ask for. If you want several volunteers behind a table to talk with people, you'll need a larger table or booth. If you have printed materials to give out as well as things like buttons, bumper stickers, t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and so on (see our page on selling these things), you'll also need a larger surface. On the other hand, the best contact with potential voters may be out in front of a small table rather than trapped behind a large one. You'll need to decide what you think will work best in the setting as you expect it to be, and then request the space you think you will need.

Let Your Sign Do the Asking

With this sort of "add-on" donation appeal, it is almost never a good idea to verbally ask for a donation. But don't just set out a jar with "Donations" slapped on the front either. Use a container with a sign clearly printed, large enough to be readable from several feet away, and attached so it can be read from the left or the right side of the donation container. The sign should give people a reason to donate, such as:

If you will be working without a table and passing out information, a can or pail sitting on the ground right beside you with a similar sign can be effective, but you'll need to determine if the setting isn't too crowded to make this approach practical.

Working With Businesses & Others With Public Counters

Businesses or other types of organizations that have a significant flow of public visitors can support you by allowing you to place a small stack of pro-voting information next to a locked acrylic donation box on a counter. You assume the theft risk, of course, and you'll need to judge if these donation boxes might work and in which types of community settings. See, for example, this donation box available through Amazon.

Interacting With Live Audiences

Local businesses and community organizations that attract audiences for entertainment or other sizable events might – if asked – be willing to allow a table inside their event and be willing to plug your table from the microphone up front. Picture a comedy club or music venue that has allowed your table and given it a visible position. Then imagine the MC picks the right time to say something like this: "You've probably noticed the table with voting info in back. Now I know we're all here tonight to laugh and have a good time, but for any of you not registered to vote, this coming election is just too important to sit out. So don't leave tonight without stopping by their table, getting voting info, and maybe dropping your drink change in their bucket."

At Events You Sponsor or Co-Sponsor

Your own events, if they attract significant "new" volunteers or prospective volunteers, shouldn't be overlooked, particularly if you sell group branded t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and the like. (You can "sell" these at cost as a volunteer perk, and it helps build identity for your group.) Promising types of events for fundraising sales include community outreach meetings, house meetings, trainings, and as add-ons at your own fundraisers.

Published: October 2021
Revised: June 2023

To Link Or Republish >>