3 Tips to Make the Most of Your Fundraising Event

by Helen Cartwright

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Fundraising events are often the go-to way for nonprofits to make money. They are fun and the community looks forward to well-planned, well-executed events each year. Whether your organization holds an annual auction, chili cook-off, dance, casino night or donkey ball game, the organization of the event is the key to raising more money each year.

People are busy. That's not news. In order to convince them to take time out of their own busy schedules and give you a day or evening as well as their money, you have to make it worth their while. Fundraising events need to be fun and the reason for the event needs to be clear. If you make your event a much-anticipated evening out or an exciting event the whole family will enjoy, you will guarantee yourself not just participants, but word of mouth advertising. In order to make the most out of your fundraising event, consider these three strategies.

1. Use the Element of Surprise

While everyone might look forward to your annual auction, sometimes an event that has been done the same way year after year can get stale. If it's just the same old junk and the same people, you might find that many of your attendees have something else to do that day. Surprise your event attendees by getting a local celebrity (a local TV anchor, radio DJ, or athlete) to be the auctioneer or announcer at your event. You might also surprise the community with new prizes for them to bid on like a trip for two or another fun prize.

2. Find Sponsors Who Will Make the Event Their Own

Finding a sponsor, such as a local car dealer or grocery store, to singularly promote and participate in your event can do a few things for you. First, by making them the primary sponsor, you are giving them a charitable opportunity to promote their own business. For example, if your local charity auction is to benefit the Humane Society in your town, then your local car dealership will now be known as the dealer that cares about animals. By sponsoring this event and then maybe later having an adoption event at the car dealership or a walk-a-thon where the registration and starting line is from the dealership, you are creating a relationship with a sponsor that is mutually beneficial. The sponsor gets all of those eyeballs looking at their cars as well as the goodwill of the community.

Each year, giving out an award for a volunteer or other notable person in the community is a good way to create goodwill, recognize the efforts of others, and interest other people in volunteering to make your event a success.

According to the Fundraising Authority, it is also important to have the right leadership for your event. Having members of the community on a steering committee that can help out by promoting and talking about your event will help you reach your fundraising goals. Business leaders, local celebrities, donors, and other well-known community members are essential to the success of any major fundraising event.

These people are the ones who will champion your event and just by talking about it will make it the "event to be at" each year.

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3. Do Something Remarkable

The success of your event is solely determined on how much fun the attendees have. Even though everyone wants to raise money for your cause, if your event turns out to be a snore-fest, no one will want to go anymore. Creating interesting and fun ways to make your event "gossip-worthy" or social media-friendly will help you grow the event over time. You don't just want people to bid on an item at an auction. Instead, you want them to post a selfie winning that item from a handsome local celebrity on social media and telling everyone what a good time they had.

Next year, all the girlfriends of the woman who posted that selfie might come along to the event just to see what the fun was all about!

Starting an after party at a local pub or even in the backyard of a community member is also a fun way to keep the action alive. After doing something like a dance, an auction, or a walk/run, it's nice to have a place to meet up, chat about the event and anything else, and perhaps talk about the fundraising need in a less formal environment. This is where you can network with a lot of people at one time without constant phone tag. And because they are already in the mind of supporting your charity, they will be happy to talk about your needs even more. You never know what kind of sponsors or volunteer help you will be able to find on the heels of a successful fundraiser.

Network for Good suggests assessing your event afterwards and analyzing the results. Talk with your volunteers and those who attended and find out what they liked about the event. Hearing about the event from the perspective of those who attended will help you make your event even more successful in the future.

Hosting an event isn't difficult, but making it an event people will remember and look forward to requires a lot of thought, planning, and care. If you show people you care about their experience, they will turn out to support your cause.

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