It may seem early to be talking about Halloween, but I’m not bringing it up so you can get dibs on a Batman costume. Your nonprofit should be planning a Halloween fundraiser, and you need to start now.
I’ve done my share of Halloween fundraisers, but I’m no expert. So I called someone who is: Sal Perisano, CEO of iParty Stores. iParty has 52 stores in New England and Florida and Sal knows his stuff about candy corn, costumes, and fog machines. The chain was voted Party Retailer of the Year in 2008.
Sal and I have some great reasons for you to embrace this most ghoulish time of the year. We’ve outlined five of them. Next week we’ll be back with Halloween fundraising ideas that will scare up funds and have your supporters howling with delight.
Halloween is Big Business
Nearly 70 percent of Americans celebrate Halloween. Last year, they spent $6.8 BILLION, nearly double what they spent in 2005. This makes Halloween the second largest consumer holiday after Christmas.
And, like Christmas, Halloween shopping is starting earlier than ever.
“Moms are buying costumes two months out,” explained Sal. “They’re finding all sorts of uses for them, including kids’ pajamas. Our first advertisements for Halloween ran in August.”
The popularity of Halloween with consumers makes the holiday a good bet for nonprofits.
Halloween is for Everyone, Including Pets
Children, teens, adults, even the family pets are getting in on the Halloween fun. Kids love it for the candy. Teens love the parties. Adults love the chance to let loose. And pets love it for what else: the costumes.
“Our hottest selling costumes are for pets,” said Sal. “We sell over 90 pet costumes online. People dress their pets up as sharks, Elvis, even a strip of bacon.”
Halloween puts the fun in FUNdraising for everyone.
“Since the presidential election is a week after Halloween, political costumes will be hot,” added Sal. “Both Democrats and Republicans appreciate a good laugh, especially at the other’s expense.”
There’ll be no lack of ideas or participants for Halloween fundraisers, which should bolster nonprofits’ confidence of success.
Halloween is Part of Everyone’s Business Model
Every kind of business is trying to grab a piece of the multi-billion dollar Halloween pie. Scrubadub Carwash here in Massachusetts even offers haunted car washes for fans of the holiday.
The good news for nonprofits is that they don’t have to “sell” businesses on Halloween sponsorships and cause marketing. Businesses get it, and understand the value of the holiday.
Halloween Social Media Activity Will be Scary
Expect lots of updates, tweets, pins, and posts this October. Sal and I predict that Halloween will rival the Olympics on social media as people share party invites, costumes, tricks, and pictures.
“People are already filming themselves in our stores with masks and costumes and uploading the video to YouTube,” Sal said. “We’re gearing up for a big push on Facebook and Twitter as that’s where our customers are.”
There’s a real opportunity for nonprofits to tap into a trending topic with their Halloween fundraisers. Social media is also an option for digital fundraising as supporters can “like” a Facebook page or “pin” a scary picture on Pinterest that will trigger a donation from a corporate partner.
Nonprofits are Cashing-in on Halloween
Sal knows firsthand just how successful a Halloween Fundraiser can be. iParty hosted an annual October fundraiser that raised $160,000 for one of his favorite nonprofits. Organizations such as UNICEF have raised tens of millions with Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF.
Thanks to the current zombie craze, nonprofits are having success with fundraisers that cater to the undead. As the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported last October: “Friends for Life, a nonprofit animal shelter in Houston, raised $8,100 earlier this month from a horde of ghouls ambling through a suburb in West Houston.”
Sal thinks Halloween can support nonprofits in a bunch of ways.
“Let’s face it, Halloween is a great time to have a blood drive,” he said. “The other opportunity is for product donations. The Pine Street Inn, a homeless shelter for men in Boston, accepts candy donations.”
Some kids forgo candy all together and instead collect canned goods for the needy.
Zombie walks and candy drives are just two ideas to consider for a Halloween fundraiser. Sal and I will be back next week with more ideas on how to make Halloween as well known for gifts as Christmas!