A very common “go-to” funding idea for small nonprofits is fundraising events.
Events are a great way to bring like-minded people together and have a good time in the name of your cause.
Some fundraising events are huge, drawing attendees and sponsors like moths to a flame. Other events are smaller, more intimate gatherings where guests are directly asked for money.
Both have their place and can be highly profitable.
You can raise money with all kinds of fundraising events like parties, galas, sporting events, concerts… and the list goes on and on.
With so many options, it can be hard to pick the right event for your situation.
So, how do you know which one will be THE ONE that raises big bucks for you? Or the one that’s easiest to organize and promote, practically selling itself?
Here are three kinds of fundraising events that work for most nonprofits and how to choose the right one for you.
Evaluating Ideas for Fundraising Events
When you’re evaluating a potential fundraising event, don’t just look at the potential revenue. Consider how much time and energy it will take to make your event successful.
Pay attention to the donor/attendee experience, then weigh out the potential cost and get ready to PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!
You already know that every dollar counts in your nonprofit. That means that spending money on an event can be a little scary.
You don’t want to spend more than you raise, and poor planning can turn an event into a budget buster that wastes your most precious resource – time and volunteers.
BUT the flip side?
Tupperware parties, garage sales, and candle fundraisers will not sustain your budget.
They don’t establish any future relationships or revenue streams. They don’t do anything to promote your brand, your cause, or your mission. Yes, your org will get a handful of dollars for doing basically nothing. But is it really worth that $100 to promote and attach your name to Suzie’s multilevel marketing opportunity? (Probably not!)
Fundraisers are basically just sales anyway. They’re transactional by nature and not a good long-term solution for funding.
When choosing events and fundraisers, it’s important that you look at the long game. Affiliating your organization with every random fundraiser will dilute your message, annoy your followers, and cheapen your brand.
I know sometimes it’s hard to say “no” to a fundraiser idea your volunteers or Board come up with. When you’re desperate for money, that $200 from Buffalo Wild Wings night looks good!
But if you’re surviving on little fundraisers, you’ve got a bigger problem. Your revenue isn’t sustainable, and you will find yourself living from one fundraiser to the next and one event to the next.
It’s a hamster wheel you don’t want to be on.
That’s why it’s important to do ONE fundraising event each year, do it well, give it everything you’ve got, then move on to other kinds of fundraising. Diverse funding streams are the key to success.
And that’s where the RIGHT event comes in.
A well-run event can build MANY relationships within your community that will serve you well for years to come! It can attract potential new donors and partners, keep your current donors close, sustain excitement about your cause, and build awareness in the community.
So, what’s the RIGHT event for your nonprofit?
The RIGHT event:
- Raises 10-20% of your annual budget.
- Generates at least 4-5 times what you spend to host it.
- Brings in dozens of new donors (or renews existing ones).
- Deepens relationships and draws supporters closer to your mission.
- Attracts corporate sponsors.
- Draws volunteers easily.
- Sells out every year.
Ok, got it?
There are many KINDS of events, but they fall into two basic categories: The Community/Fun Event and the Heartstrings Event.
Community/Fun Events are widely promoted events that encourage people to do something active or fun while supporting your cause.
A Community/Fun Event can help you build community relationships. Participants usually pay upfront to take part, in one way or another. So you’re not asking them for a straight-up donation, even though you should educate them about your organization in some way and hopefully add them to your list of supporters.
People leave Community/Fun Events feeling good. And that’s good for you because they’ll likely talk about their experience for several days afterward, telling friends and co-workers what a blast they had!
Community/Fun Events are great for corporate sponsors, too. A sponsor who provides monetary donations or in-kind donations like services or a venue can be listed on all the marketing materials…banners…bookmarks…t-shirts and so on. Because these events often attract the community at large, the right sponsors are usually happy to participate.
The downside of Community/Fun Events is that they may attract lots of people who are there for the experience and don’t necessarily care about your cause. But if the event meets your goals for revenue and awareness, it might be ok.
Examples of Community/Fun fundraising events include:
Heartstrings Events are more specific to your cause and are designed to attract those people who already care about your cause and your mission.
Typically, a Heartstrings Event has one main goal – to ask people for support. Point blank.
Attendees have either been invited by you or someone else representing your organization, or they have purchased tickets – which means they already care.
These attendees know they will be asked to donate, as it’s very clear that fundraising is the sole purpose for the event.
Heartstrings Events can range from small gatherings of potential donors to large gatherings in ballrooms, restaurants, or other venues.
A well run and enjoyable Heartstrings Event can pave the way for faithful donors who will support your vision long term.
A few events that fall into this category, listed in order of ease of planning and preparation:
Whichever event you choose, work to make it a Signature Event.
A Signature Event is a fundraising event that everyone in your community automatically associates with your organization.
This can be any type of event (golf tournament, gala, walk, etc.). As long as it generates lots of buzz in the community both before and afterward, and brings in the results you want, it’s a Signature Event.
Over time, it should become something that donors, volunteers, and community look forward to. This is the fundraising event that people anticipate! It’s easy to promote and easy to sell out.
So, once you decide on the right event for your nonprofit, start working to make it a Signature Event. Create a committee of movers and shakers from the community to work on the event. Cast a vision for the event. Set goals. Go after sponsors.
The more clear you are about the event and the more planning you do, the more likely you’ll be to hit your revenue goals with your Signature Event.
And when you focus on ONE Signature Event, you can stop doing all those other little fundraising events, freeing up time and energy to focus on other areas of fundraising.
The Bottom Line
There are LOTS of ways to raise money, including fundraising events. Choose an event that maximizes the skills and talents of your volunteers. Pick one that sounds like fun to you, because the planning and execution will be easier if you’re enjoying the work.
Don’t fall into the trap of quick-fixes – you can hold online fundraisers periodically to fund urgent needs, but don’t rely on them for a long-term solution.
Choose the right fundraising events for your small nonprofit and get ready to put your organization’s face out there in the community, attract new donors, and raise lots of money!
Which Type of Fundraising Event is Best for your nonprofit? https://www.classy.org/blog/which-type-of-fundraising-event-is-best-for-your-nonprofit/
How to Create a Signature Fundraising Event https://www.dojiggy.com/blog/signature-fundraising-event-ideas/
wonderful resource that I’ll be sure to share. Thank you!
This is pure gold: “”Do ONE fundraising event each year, do it well, give it everything you’ve got, then move on to other kinds of fundraising.”
YES! If we can get small nonprofits OFF the fundraising event hamster wheel, life gets easier!
[…] Sandy Rees answers the question, Which fundraising events bring in the most money for small nonprofits? […]
The ideal content for all small charities who need more fund fundraising events are they best solution the content dentally explained the different types fundraising events help people directly or indirectly encourage for charity giving.
[…] favourite methods to earn a living at your subsequent nonprofit fundraising occasion, regardless of what kind of fundraising event […]