Hosting a Conference? Tips on Fundraising

Volume 37, Number 3


Keya Koul is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and an attorney with the Albuquerque, New Mexico, office of Castle Stawiarski, LLC.

Having your city or state chosen as the location for an ABA YLD conference is a great honor. The first step is usually putting together a Host Committee that does most of the work that is required to organize a conference of this magnitude. One of the most challenging parts of hosting an ABA YLD conference is the fundraising. The conference and its events require substantial funds and it is the responsibility of the Host Committee to get that money.

Compile a Sponsors List

To reach all potential sponsors, the Host Committee needs to approach fundraising in a methodical fashion by creating a sponsor list and dividing it between committee members. If Host Committee members have connections with any of the people or organizations on the sponsors list, then it makes sense to assign that member to that potential sponsor. The list of potential sponsors must be approved by the ABA YLD, and therefore, it is important to begin work on fundraising early.

Kari Petrasek, who chaired the Host Committee for the Seattle Fall Conference, shared some advice about fundraising: “In order to get a sponsorship from large corporate entities, it is beneficial to include a young lawyer from that corporation on your host committee. By doing so, we were able to obtain a substantial contribution from one of our corporate sponsors. Persistence also pays off. In a couple of instances, one person contacted a potential sponsor and was told no, but another host committee member who had a different contact in the same firm made the ‘ask’ and was told ‘yes.’ The best successes come from having a personal connection with the entity you plan on asking.”


Host Committee

The Chair of the Host Committee takes on the especially important role of managing the fundraising efforts of the other members of the Host Committee. Not everyone has experience in fundraising and quite often people are hesitant to cold call organizations to ask for sponsorships. It is the role of the Chair of the Host Committee to regularly follow up and ensure that all members of the Host Committee are participating equally in the fundraising efforts.

Also, it is important to use the strengths of the Host Committee members, especially if they have had prior fundraising experience and success. Dainen N. Penta, a member of the Seattle Host Committee, commented: “I have had some very successful fundraising experience as 2010–2011 co-chair for our Statewide Diversity Conference, which is an annual conference produced jointly by our 13 minority bar associations. In 2010, we set a fundraising record—that was a banner year, where persistence paid off. Success was found not only in following up with our contacts in law firms and corporate legal departments, but also in thinking strategically about who we knew, and trying out many different contacts. Lawyers are busy people, and sometimes it’s just a matter of getting a sponsorship ‘ask’ on the right person’s ‘to-do’ list. We also benefited from the past success of the conference and an additional appeal to sponsors who had contributed for the first four years to be part of a ‘5th Anniversary Celebration,’ as well as tapping into the collective goodwill of the minority bars,” says Dainen N. Penta, member of the Seattle Host Committee.

By focusing on early planning, organization, and using the strengths of Host Committee members, success in fundraising for a conference can be ensured.

Fundraising Tips

Both Ms. Petrasek and Mr. Penta polled the Seattle Host Committee for other fundraising tips, which include:

• Start fundraising early and often.

• Persistence pays off.

• Don’t take a “maybe” as a “no.”

• Use cross-pollination effectively. Although the natural tendency is to shy away from having multiple people contact an organization or entity, it can be incredibly effective to have different people make contacts at different levels of an organization when it is done strategically.

• Make sure that contact lists are fully divided and that members of the fundraising team are coordinating and updating one another when someone has a contact off his or her list.

• Get commitments from members before they join the committee.

• Follow up regularly.

To find out more about the 2011 ABA YLD Fall Conference in Seattle, please visit



  • Don't Forget

  • About The Affiliate

  • Stay Connected

  • Reprints & Back Issues

  • For More Information

  • Contact Us