Every year, nonprofit professionals must fill their fundraising calendar with events that help them generate the revenue they need to fund their mission. But when hosting so many events, how can you make sure that each one is creative, engaging, and attractive to your supporters?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of hosting the same tried-and-true event year after year. Instead, spice up your fundraising calendar by interspersing new, creative events along with your traditional offerings.
To revamp your nonprofit event-planning efforts, this guide will go over four tips and tricks for hosting creative events that help you generate the revenue your nonprofit needs. Let’s begin!
1. Get creative with your event format.
When most people think of nonprofit events, they think of activities that take place in person, such as a black-tie gala or a fun run. And there’s nothing wrong with these events, as they allow you to connect with and engage your donors face-to-face. But, to break away from the traditional, consider getting creative with your event format.
For example, try hosting a virtual event. They come with a variety of benefits, including:
- Increased attendance. Since these events are hosted online, a larger number of people will be able to attend. You’ll be able to capture those attendees who couldn’t commute, got sick, or otherwise couldn’t attend!
- Greater accessibility. With in-person nonprofit events, the number of attendees is often limited by physical location. That includes venue space and the distance of the space from potential attendees. A virtual event removes these limitations, allowing a greater number of attendees to access your event.
- Cost-effectiveness. In the virtual event space, all you’ll need to host your fundraiser is the software to facilitate it! This makes virtual events more cost-effective than in-person ones, as you won’t need to rent a venue space or worry about catering.
- Creative potential. Hosting an event virtually brings a wealth of creative potential that you can harness to create a great experience for your attendees. From virtual reality elements to multimedia presentations, you can use technology to augment the event experience and create a memorable fundraiser.
If you don’t want to completely do away with the in-person aspect of your event, consider organizing a hybrid fundraiser instead. This type of event mixes both in-person and virtual elements, allowing you to get the best of both worlds. According to Swaim Strategies, hybrid events can be transformational experiences that allow you to dream beyond a ballroom gala. These dynamic gatherings are memorable for attendees, making them a great way to enhance your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts.
2. Choose a fun event concept.
Playing with and considering different event formats allows you to look at your existing events through a different lens, helping you connect to a greater number of supporters through a more creative event. However, another way to ensure that your event is creative and unique is to choose a fresh event concept, which is the central idea or theme that guides your event.
When choosing a new event concept, consider the following ideas:
- Fresh new idea. Leave behind traditional fundraising events and try researching fresh new ideas to organize. For example, Best Fundraising Ideas offers a catalog of fun event ideas that your nonprofit can host, including afternoon tea, rubber duck races, and wine tastings.
- Incorporate a creative theme. Bring a new angle to your event by adding a creative theme. For example, you could host a green-themed gala to raise awareness about climate change and environmental sustainability.
- Leverage the holiday spirit. A great strategy for making your event feel relevant to attendees is to make it holiday-themed. For example, you could host a Christmas-themed fundraising event in December, complete with snowflake and Santa Claus decorations.
- Tap into trends. Constantly evolving and staying ahead of trends is important for nonprofits for multiple reasons, including determining what kind of fundraising event you should host next. For example, if there’s a greatly anticipated superhero movie coming out soon, your school could host a superhero walk-a-thon, where you encourage students to dress up like their favorite superhero.
To research ideas for your next nonprofit event, don’t be afraid to look through a variety of materials. While the internet is a great way to keep up with trends and learn about newly popular fundraising events, you can also lean on the expertise of nonprofit books. Aside from containing fundraising ideas, nonprofit books can challenge your understanding of fundraising and give you new insights into generating revenue in a meaningful way for your supporters.
3. Incorporate extra activities.
To further engage attendees through a creative fundraising event, incorporate extra activities. For some events, such as a gala, extra activities are necessary to ensure that attendees have a great time. However, even for busy events such as school auctions, having extra activities can break up the cadence of the event and keep attendees interested.
Some extra activities you can incorporate into your event include:
- Concessions stand
- Live entertainment
- Photo booths
- Guest speakers
- VIP reception
When deciding what activities to bring to your event, consider which best fit into the scope and theme of your event. For example, if you’re hosting a gala in-person, a jazz band would fit your event’s mood, and a VIP reception would be more along the lines of what your major donors and sponsors could expect from their experience.
4. Add gamification and interactive elements.
Gamification and interactive elements generate excitement during your event, allowing attendees to become more invested in your fundraising. Some creative elements you can include in your next event include:
- Spin the wheel. Invite donors who have made a gift above a specific amount to spin the wheel for the potential to win a prize. Prizes can range from small trinkets like mugs branded with your nonprofit’s logo to bigger-ticket items, such as cruise tickets.
- Donation matching. Encourage donations by announcing a major donor’s intention to match every gift made within a specific time frame, such as the next ten minutes. This also gives attendees a sense of urgency, as they’ll know that their gifts will have more impact if they make it during that time period.
- Trivia contest. Engage attendees by incorporating a trivia contest about your nonprofit, your mission, or about your fundraising event. Facilitate connections between attendees by asking them to form small groups to compete in and keep them interested in your fundraising event.
- Video. Incorporating nonprofit video content in your fundraising event is a creative way to keep your attendees’ interest. Consider spotlighting specific beneficiaries and the impact your nonprofit has made on their lives to demonstrate the benefits of supporting your organization.
Your attendees want to feel included in your nonprofit event—they don’t want to just be spectators. Gamification elements keep event attendees involved and engaged, keeping them interested in your nonprofit’s mission and making it more likely for them to give.
Breaking the mold with a creative nonprofit event is never a bad move, but be sure to choose an event that fits with your nonprofit. A fundraiser that fits within the context of your nonprofit’s mission will ultimately strengthen the connection between your organization and your donors to ensure fundraising success now and for years to come.