You might have had a pink piggy bank when you were a kid. But did you manage to stuff it with $12,000 – and then give every penny away? Through their signature “Pay the Pig” fundraiser, the Georgia Society of Executives (GSAE) has raised more than $12,000 since 2015 for charities beloved by the cities that host their annual meeting.
Pay the Pig is a raffle held every year during GSAE’s annual meeting. The raffle is as straightforward as it sounds: Attendees purchase tickets for $5 each or six for $25. All tickets are put into a bowl. One winning ticket is drawn at the end of the event. One attendee goes home with a fabulous prize. All proceeds go to a local charity.
How did such a simple, lucrative fundraiser begin? And why is it so successful?
“Wendy (Kavanagh) and I were in Charleston in the spring of 2015 doing a site visit for that year’s GSAE Annual Meeting,” said Lori Spear, CAE, former GSAE staff and board chair. “We passed a boutique with shiny, decorative pigs in the window. They were so cute that we wanted to use them in some way. We had the spur-of-the-moment idea to do a piggy bank-themed raffle that we’d call ‘Pay the Pig.’”
With a prize sponsored by the Charleston CVB, Spear and two others sold $2,300 worth of raffle tickets that year simply by walking around the meeting and asking attendees to pay the pig and support MUSC Children’s Medical Center, a Charleston children’s hospital.
“Giving back to host cities is a crucial part of GSAE’s annual meeting,” Kavanagh, CAE, explained. “As association professionals, we all host meetings for our members so we know how much work goes into it – both on our part and on behalf of the host city. So it’s nice to recognize host cities for their work supporting us,” she continued.
GSAE’s Annual Meeting is held in a different city each year. Their staff works with their host hotel and the host city’s convention and visitors’ bureau to select a local organization to receive the funds. Bread for Life (Athens, Ga.), Loaves & Fishes Ministry (Macon, Ga.), and the Sandestin Foundation for Kids (Sandestin, Fla.) have all received Pay the Pig dividends.
The prizes are good, Spear emphasized. “One year we raffled off a big screen TV; another year it was two airline tickets to anywhere in the U.S. We’ve been lucky to always have a sponsor that provides big-ticket items people want to win,” she said.
Spear and five to six volunteers sell raffle tickets using Square devices plugged into their smartphones. They accept cash as well, “but I think people are more likely to buy more tickets with using a card,” Spear added.
Spear’s volunteer team flexes some serious social muscle to bring home the bacon for that charity, too. Over the years, Pay the Pig’s volunteer army has refined their sales tactics and grown more on point with their branding. After the inaugural year, the team started buying pink tickets to match the pig theme. One year they gave out stickers that read “I Paid the Pig,” and the next they provided badge ribbons (pink, of course) so people could show off that they had donated.
“From a sales perspective that’s really helpful,” Spear said. “You can see who has participated and who has not yet paid the pig!”
Attendees can buy raffle tickets at any time during the meeting – at breakfast, before a breakout session, during evening receptions, in passing during breaks. Some volunteers announce their role by wearing branded aprons. Spear wears a boa of pink tickets draped around her neck the entire meeting as a visual reminder that anyone can buy tickets at any time.
“Pay the Pig is about getting everyone engaged and giving back, and the price point is low enough that it’s easy to get people to participate,” Spear said. “It’s accessible and affordable.”
While Pay the Pig is usually conducted during GSAE’s annual meeting, the association has held a smaller version of the fundraiser a couple times during its holiday luncheon to benefit Toys for Tots. “One year, I bought pink and white striped gift bags to set on each table. During the program, without initially saying what it was for, I asked everyone to get out their wallet – and they did. Pay the Pig has trained them well!” Spear laughed.
“It’s fun to participate in a raffle and walk around a professional meeting with a ribbon that says “I Paid the Pig,” but it’s even better to encourage a spirit of giving,” Kavanagh said. “We’re a small group of people raising an amazing amount of money. And Pay the Pig was this spur-of-the-moment idea born from wanting to use cute pigs in some way, but also from a desire to answer the question, how do we give back to a very specific community that supports us? How do we give back in a way they truly need? It’s amazing we’ve raised more than $12,000 in four years.”
GSAE’s fundraising goal this year is $3,000. Their annual meeting will be held in Greenville, S.C., at The Westin Poinsett Hotel Greenville, and the Greenville CVB have requested that The Frazee Dream Center, a free preschool, after school and summer program for under-resourced children in downtown Greenville, receive the money raised from Pay the Pig.
Because wearing Pay the Pig ribbons have become a mark of pride among GSAE members, Kavanagh and Spear are optimistic that they’ll meet their fundraising goal. Either way, you can be sure that GSAE will continue investing in its host cities, and members will be seeing pink as they’re asked to pay the pig.