Fundraising Events: 5 Forward-Thinking Ideas

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Fundraising events have been around for a long time and more than likely, they’re not going anywhere any time soon.

If you want your event to draw big crowds and encourage big donations, you’ll need to think outside the box a little.

In this article, we’ll lay out five forward-thinking ideas to add some much needed energy to your events.

Here’s a preview of the strategies we’ll go over:

  1. Innovate your events.
  2. Make it mobile.
  3. Stay social.
  4. Create a custom event website.
  5. Think long-term.

Now, let’s jump in!

1. Innovate your events.

We can tell you all the tricks in the book, but the best way to keep supporters interested in your events is to simply plan interesting events.

Essentially, it’s time to start thinking about what your donors want to attend rather than relying on what they will attend.

At this point, it’s possible that your nonprofit has a tried-and-true method of attracting donors to your events. And don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing wrong with planning events that work and work well.

However, in order to keep donors engaged long-term while attracting new donors, you will need to spice things up every now and then.

Here are a few ideas for doing just that:

  • Combine events. Why not hold a raffle at your next walkathon? You might pair an art auction with your golf tournament or run a text-to-give campaign throughout your benefit concert. As long as both components match your target audiences, you’ll have your guests on their toes all night and excited to see what happens next!
  • Do a new take on a classic. Modernize silent auctions by adding mobile bidding or infuse tech into your traditional t-shirt fundraiser by adding an online crowdfunding component. New types of software make this so easy to implement for you and your donors!
  • Create full experiences. No matter what you choose to do, the best way to get your supporters out of their homes and to your fundraiser is by hosting an event they genuinely want to attend. Offer something fun, fresh, and experiential so that they’ll feel they got something out of attending too.

Let’s recap: Mix up your next fundraiser by adding multiple components or revitalizing a classic strategy with new technology. No matter what you’re planning, look for ways to breathe new air into it and give your donors something to look forward to — and tell their friends about.

 

2. Make it mobile.

Very little can come between some people and their phones, and you don’t want your event to have to compete for their attention.

The solution? Meet donors right where they are: their mobile devices.

You might already be utilizing mobile technology to optimize your giving strategies in other areas, but did you know that there are mobile solutions that pair perfectly with your events?

Here are just a couple of examples of how you can make your next fundraiser as mobile-friendly as can be:

  • Accept text donations. Text messages are ubiquitous these days, and you could be missing out on a wealth of giving opportunities if you ignore this platform. By working with a secure text-to-give provider, you can make donating more convenient than ever by allowing supporters to give whatever they’d like directly on their smartphones.
  • Rethink your silent auction. Mobile bidding is a super-innovative trend that takes all the paperwork out of silent auctions by replacing traditional bid sheets with a fully mobile interface. Not only are these services easy, but they’re also extremely engaging for bidders, who’ll have a blast at your next auction event.

While both of these services are designed to be simple for the user to get started with, make sure you fully explain the process to your donors before and during the event. You’ll want to let attendees know to bring their smartphones and have volunteers on hand to offer support if needed.

Let’s recap: By integrating mobile devices into your event, you can make giving more convenient — and fun! — for your supporters. Let your donors know that your event has multiple options for mobile giving and watch the donations pour in!

3. Stay social.

Hopefully, your organization has effectively made the move to social media for at least part of your promotional strategy.

You might be just starting out with social networks or already a viral sensation. Either way, there’s no reason to ignore your social media strategy while your event is taking place.

Obviously, you should be using social media as a key method of advertising your event and providing quick, important details to your donors, such as time and location. But, did you know you can continue the social fun while your fundraiser is in motion?

Here are a few of our favorite ways to stay social throughout your event:

  • Livestream the festivities. If you want the whole world to see how great your fundraising event is, you’re in luck! Thanks to livestreaming services like Periscope and Facebook Live, you can easily broadcast a video feed of your fundraiser through your social media profiles. Encourage out-of-town donors to tune in and participate in the fun by commenting.
  • Incentivize social posting. Give your donors that extra push to interact on their own social media by providing in-person incentives for doing so. For example, the tenth person to Tweet using your official event hashtag could win 10 extra raffle tickets. Make it fun by giving creative instructions for the posts, like encouraging guests to post a silly photo or share their inspiration for giving.
  • Give your followers the play-by-play. Even if you’re not doing a livestream of the entire event, consider designating a member of your committee to be in charge of social media updates throughout the night. This person can live-Tweet (or post on Facebook) during the event with a rundown of what’s happening. Don’t forget to be interactive and to keep your posts photo- and video-centric!

Let’s recap: Social media is a major player when it comes to promoting your event, but it can be a star the night of the show too! Incorporate livestreaming, social media challenges, or live-posting to make your event a hit both offline and on.


4. Create a custom event website.

Between social media, newsletters, direct mail, and your website, donors might get a little fuzzy on exactly what the details of your event are.

Building customized, designated websites for your fundraising events creates a one-stop shop for all your attendees’ questions and needs.

Rather than having to navigate an array of social media pages and your organization’s general site, supporters can quickly find all the information and giving resources they need on a dedicated event site.

You’ll definitely want to make sure your event site has the time, date, location, and attire of your event all displayed prominently. A place to register or purchase tickets is also a must-have. And, if your event has a peer-to-peer component, you should also provide a link for supporters to set up their donation pages.

With the right software, you should be able to fully brand your site to match your organization. Including logos, images, and your own color scheme can brighten up your page and really make it your own!

Thanks to fundraising event software, these sites are easy to set up and can house a variety of features depending on your needs.

Here are a few features in particular that we love:

  • Host a fire sale. If your auction has any unsold or last-minute items, you can still offer them on your site at a lower rate. Continue advertising your event site after the fundraiser and let donors who may not have seen these items that they’re available at a lower starting bid or on a first-come basis.
  • Prepare for next year. Your guests are still excited from the success of this year’s event, so now is the perfect time to start getting the word out for upcoming fundraisers. Advertise the date on your current site and promote sign-up opportunities for volunteers.
  • Keep the giving going. Before and after your fundraising event, offer online donation opportunities right there on your event website. Many types of event management software allow you to easily embed online donation forms onto your event sites, and the best ones will integrate seamlessly into your other donation software and programs.

Let’s recap: Separate from your nonprofit’s website, a customized event website can provide donors with easy access to any information they might need about your fundraiser. Plus, some website software also includes other useful features, like donation forms and online auction services.


5. Think long-term.

So, you’ve managed to put together a near-perfect fundraiser. Congratulations!

You may think your job here is done, but the most successful fundraisers don’t end when the doors close.

Don’t view your attendees as one-time participants! Instead, consider your fundraising event the start (or turning point) of long-term donor relationships.

Here are a few ways to use your fundraising event as a chance to steward your donors now and down the road:

  • Make commitment easy and accessible. Give previous supporters and brand new faces opportunities to commit at the event by having a recurring gift table as well as plenty of resources about other upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, or matching gift information.
  • Follow up immediately and personally when the event ends. A gift receipt is great, but your donors won’t connect to anything as well as the simple but effective thank-you note. An event is also a great opportunity to get new supporters looped in on your email list so they can receive pertinent and informative news about next steps.
  • Actually talk to them! Especially for new donors, it’s important to get some face time to get to know them and give them a chance to get to know your organization better. There’s no better place than an event to speak one-on-one to both new and existing supporters; use this as a valuable time to show them that their support is needed and valued on a personal level.

Let’s recap: Events are a great chance to meet with donors in person and connect with them in a new, tangible way. Make sure donors’ long-term commitment is a focal point at your event, and keep that interest going after the fundraiser ends.


Fundraising events are a staple for fundraisers everywhere, but even some of the classics can use a modern twist.

Shake up your next fundraising event by incorporating one (or all!) of these ideas, and let us know what worked for you in the comments!

Want more help planning your next fundraising event? Take a look at these additional resources:

  1. http://blog.fundly.com/fundraising-ideas/
  2. https://www.booster.com/blog/school-fundraising-ideas/
  3. https://topnonprofits.com/4-ways-small-midsize-nonprofits-overcome-digital-fundraising-challenges/
  4. https://doublethedonation.com/nonprofit-software-and-resources/text-to-give-tools-for-nonprofits/
  5. https://topnonprofits.com/5-small-changes-that-may-save-your-nonprofit-event/
  6. https://www.atpay.com/church-fundraising-ideas/
  7. https://topnonprofits.com/donor-thank-you-letters-6-actionable-tips/

About author

Amy DeVita

Amy DeVita is managing partner at Top Nonprofits. A publisher, entrepreneur, mother, wife, social media enthusiast and fan and avid supporter of the do-gooders in the nonprofit/ for-impact sector. She has written for Top Nonprofits and Third Sector Today; she has been quoted on pieces about social media and social impact on The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. She was named to the Leading Women Entrepreneurs in NJ Monthly and she is a member of Social Media for Nonprofits' Leadership Council. In her spare time she enjoys kayaking, yoga, hiking, traveling, and playing Scrabble. Amy lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and three dogs. In 1984 she earned the "Most Improved Average" honor on her bowling league.

4 comments

  1. HOWARD R GOTTLIEB 2 May, 2017 at 16:54 Reply

    I love your last point. Think long term.

    We have helped groups with their fundraisers for more than a decade and most of those groups don’t plan ahead before starting a fundraiser. That means they spent zero time thinking long term.

    A little planning along with a little long term focus can completely change the game for these groups.

    • Amy DeVita 5 May, 2017 at 13:00 Reply

      Thanks, Howard! Funny you mention that. We hosted an ED at a NJ Boys & Girls Club on a webinar about building corporate community partnerships recently– she refers to getting that upfront work done as the “Dirty 30” to get to the return or the “Heavenly 70”. I think it applies to fundraisers (and just about anything else in work or life!!), too. What’s the best tool you’ve used or seen anyone use that helps them to think long-term v. end of the month, quarter, fiscal, etc?

  2. Tracy Galloway 24 May, 2017 at 02:44 Reply

    Do you mind me asking what do you mean by “long term”?? We have “Shine a Light on NF” all across the U.S. and we are thinking about hosting a cocktail fundraiser next year when the buildings in Charlotte, NC are lit. I am just curious, are you talking about beyond the event???

    • Amy DeVita 25 May, 2017 at 09:32 Reply

      Thanks for your question, Tracy! Yes, when I say “long term” I mean beyond the actual event. We all tend to get so caught up in the prep, but often fall short of prepping for the “after.” That means keeping in touch with those who took part (or who couldn’t attend!) and getting them more engaged — doing so provides many hands to help us lift in the future. With your cocktail fundraiser, consider how you can extend the conversation beyond that one night. One suggestion: Use social media to get the word out before, during and after the event. Ask attendees to follow your org on the channels you most use; Ask them to post pics of the lit up city of Charlotte, or them having fun (which of course they will be!) or share some funny story from the event, use a specific hashtag to make it easy to follow, use Storify after and share it with your stakeholders and they can relive the event (or, in the case of those who couldn’t attend see what they were missing!) Added bonus, you can increase your social followers at the same time!

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