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8 Creative Ideas to Maximize Profits at your Next Fundraising Event

Jeff Gordy

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Let’s face it: pulling off fundraising events takes a lot of time, money, and energy. Whether your organization has been hosting events for years or is just starting out, it can be tricky to find the perfect fundraiser that will not only bring donors to the table but also encourage them to keep giving in the future.

Tricky, but not impossible! There are many ways to make your fundraising event a success.

Just remember: while it’s important for your nonprofit to generate money during these events, they’re also a rare opportunity for your organization to interact directly with the people that keep your nonprofit’s engine running. Donors are what’s important. Your nonprofit can’t succeed without them!

Here are 8 creative ways to maximize fundraising at your organization’s next event:

  1. Think outside of the box.
  2. Promote matching gift programs.
  3. Use prospect research.
  4. Focus on acquisition and retention.
  5. Take advantage of peak giving times.
  6. Have attendees participate in crowdfunding before the event.
  7. Sell merchandise.
  8. Bring in a consultant.
  9. Engage your donors during the event.

Before you can get started, make sure you have an event management solution in place to help you streamline every facet of your fundraising event. See how Neon’s fundraising software can help you grow your fundraising and engage guests!

Let’s get creative!

One way you can increase the profits you raise from your next fundraising event is by thinking outside of the box.

1. Think outside of the box.

One of the best ways to maximize donations at your nonprofit’s next fundraiser is, of course, to throw a stellar event!

While there are benefits to sticking to what you do best when it comes to your annual events, no one wants to go to the same old event year after year. Your nonprofit should keep things fresh and creative to see the best results.

One of the best ways to get creative and still keep the main feel of your annual event intact is to introduce a slight twist to your traditional event.

For example, you could host a variety of different events. 

  • penny social is an auction with a raffle twist. Participants purchase tickets to bid on items. Once all the tickets have been “spent,” the auctioneer will pick one ticket for each item as the winning bid.
  • A charity auction can either be a live, silent, or online event. Donors will make bids on the items they’re interested in owning.
  • An escape the room event is where donors can pay admission to enter a room with a group of friends, family, or strangers. To leave the room, they’ll have to complete a series of obstacles and puzzles.
  • A walk, run, bike event can help your nonprofit raise funds through sponsorship, peer-to-peer fundraising, and registration. You could host walkathon or marathon event.

Additionally, if you host a talent show or battle of the bands, you could have a celebrity come in to host or participate in your event.

If your find that your old strategies just aren’t working and you’d like to go with a new event altogether, there are tons of fundraising ideas out there. Look for events that are doable for your nonprofit’s size and are appropriate for your mission.

And make sure you’re keeping your donors in mind, too! You don’t want to host an event that no one would be interested in. Consider your donors’ interests and which fundraising events have seen a large turnout in the past, so you can raise more money next time around!

 

One way you can increase the funds you raise at your next fundraising event is by promoting matching gift programs.

2. Promote matching gift programs.

What if you could raise twice as much money with your fundraising event while exerting the same amount of effort? 

No, you don’t have to invite 500 instead of 250 people; you just have to promote matching gift programs to your donors!

Matching gift programs are corporate giving programs that companies institute to encourage employee giving.

After an employee donates money to an eligible nonprofit and submits the correct paperwork, a company will make a matching donation to the organization, often at a 1:1 ratio but sometimes at up to a 4:1 ratio!

Make sure that you promote matching gifts to your existing and potential donors before, during, and after your event.

Letting donors know about matching gift programs prior to an event ensures that the opportunity to double their donations is in the forefront of their minds.

If you can, mention matching gifts during your event, too. Whether you have a table set up to educate donors or you ask a speaker to mention them during a presentation, inform attendees about how they can maximize the impact of their donations.

Finally, make sure you follow up with attendees after the event. Thank them for attending and remind them that they can make their donation go twice as far if they look into matching gift programs.

Many companies have deadlines that employees must stick to when submitting matching gift requests, so it’s important to let donors know about matching gift programs sooner rather than later.

Learn more about using Double the Donation and NeonCRM to encourage donors to look into matching gift programs.

 

One way you can increase the funds you raise at your next fundraising event is by using prospect research.

3. Use prospect research.

Prospect research can be an invaluable tool in your nonprofit’s general fundraising toolbox. But it can be especially useful when you’re planning your next fundraising event.

Particularly, prospect research can be helpful when your nonprofit is crafting your guest list and identifying potential major gift prospects.

i. Making your guest list

While it would be nice to invite all of your donors to your next fundraising event, most of the time it’s logistically impossible.

Prospect research can help! When you conduct a prospect screening, you’re able to determine the size and frequency of individuals’ donations to your nonprofit and other organizations.

Knowing this information can help you narrow down your guest list significantly. You can be sure to invite your most valuable prospects, so you’ll have the opportunity to interact with them and cultivate those relationships face-to-face.

Not only should inviting major gift prospects increase the revenue you receive at your fundraising event, but the relationships you cement will also improve your future fundraising, too.

ii. Identifying major gift prospects

Once you know who’s coming to your fundraising event, you’ll need to know who to focus your time and energy on. By identifying who your potential major gift prospects are, you can better pinpoint which attendees you and your team should target.

While you should ideally focus on all of your donors, it’s especially important for your potential major gift donors to feel a personal connection to your organization.

When they can put a face to a name and learn more about your nonprofit and its mission, they’re more likely to trust your organization and become major gift donors.

 

One way you can increase the funds you raise at your next fundraising event is to focus on donor acquisition and retention.

4. Focus on acquisition and retention.

While it’s true that donor retention is more valuable and cost-effective than acquisition, some of your organization’s time should be spent on acquiring new givers. You can’t retain donors if you don’t have any to begin with!

When it comes to fundraising events, split your time between cultivating existing relationships with donors and forming connections with new contributors.

Acquiring donors isn’t a quick fix for gaining more event revenue. But focusing solely on donor retention can also limit your success. 

There should be a balance of the two, especially at your next fundraising event when you have the all-too-rare opportunity to talk to donors in person!

Bonus: Your nonprofit CRM can be a major player in reaching new donors and retaining existing ones. Check out Neon’s donor management software!

One way you can increase the funds you raise at your next fundraising event is to take advantage of peak giving times.

5. Take advantage of peak giving times.

People give for many different reasons. They also give at many different times of the year.

Pro-tip: Even though people like to give in different ways, your nonprofit can generate more revenue by planning campaigns or events around peak giving times.

In general, individuals donate to charities at the end of the calendar year, when they have a better grasp on their finances and know how much they can realistically set aside for contributions.

#GivingTuesday is also a popular time for donors to make donations, since they’re getting back into the holiday giving spirit. You could either plan a fundraising event on Giving Tuesday or simply market the day to donors during a fundraising event that takes place soon in advance.

At any rate, it can be extremely beneficial for your nonprofit to plan and host a great fundraising event when people are in the best position and ideal mindset to give.

It might be difficult to raise money right after tax season; instead, plan around existing giving patterns!

 

One way you can increase the funds you raise at your next fundraising event is to have your attendees participate in crowdfunding before the event.

6. Have attendees participate in crowdfunding before the event.

Crowdfunding is becoming all the rage in fundraising, for both nonprofits and individuals.

You can mobilize your donors to become more actively involved in your organization and increase your event revenue by hosting a crowdfunding campaign before the event.

Here’s how individual crowdfunding works:

  1. Each individual will set a definitive goal for how much they’d like to raise for your organization.
  2. Each fundraiser then sets up a personal crowdfunding page (using crowdfunding software) where they can explain what they’re raising money for and add personal stories and photos to illustrate to donors why your cause is meaningful to them.
  3. Fundraisers share their pages with their networks through email and on social media to collect donations.
  4. Once the campaign is over and donors have met or exceeded their goals, they donate the money to your organization. (And attend your event, of course!)

Individual crowdfunding is similar to peer-to-peer, except it affords your fundraisers more autonomy. Since the campaign isn’t being organized by your nonprofit, donors can set their own goals, follow their own schedules, and share their pages however much they’d like to.

That also means that your organization will have less control over the campaign, but this can be a blessing when you’re busy planning a fundraising event. You don’t have to oversee the crowdfunding, so you’ll have one less thing to worry about when putting all event logistics in order.

Crowdfunding and events go great together because they help excite your donors and having an online fundraiser can help promote your event. Think about it this way: imagine that your church is hosting a charity auction as a way to raise money for a new facility. Having your congregants create crowdfunding campaigns a couple months before your auction can help fund the event, or you can just use the campaigns to raise additional money for your cause.

When your church members share their fundraiser with friends and family members, they can also mention your charity auction. This promotion can encourage people to give multiple times as some supporters will give to their loved one’s crowdfunding campaign and attend the charity auction.

By creating crowdfunding campaigns, your congregants will generate excitement for your event, and since they’ll have an active role supporting your auction, they’re more likely to attend as well.

You will, however, want to find a crowdfunding website that you can recommend your supporters use. The crowdfunding website that you choose, can greatly affect the outcome of your supporters’ campaigns, so choose wisely!

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some capabilities that your crowdfunding platform should have:

  • Customization features. The platform’s customization should go beyond adding images and videos. Look for a website that lets you add a logo and change the colors of the page to match your nonprofit’s brand.
  • Mobile-responsive fundraising pages. Donating via mobile phones is becoming more and more popular. That’s why it’s important that you pick a website with crowdfunding pages that are mobile-responsive so that every donor has a nice viewing experience.
  • Social sharing buttons. Spreading the word is vital to any campaign’s success, and social sharing buttons play a huge factor. While practically every crowdfunding website has social sharing capabilities, you want to choose a platform that displays them in prominent locations. The easier it is for donors to find the buttons, the more likely they are to share your supporters’ campaigns.
  • A support team. Since you’ll be focusing on your fundraising event, you want to choose a crowdfunding platform that can help you resolve any challenges that you might face. That way, you can get back to fundraising.

For this strategy to work, you’ll want to partner up with some of your key advocates and then send out an appeal to all of your donors telling them how to get started with crowdfunding if they’re interested in fundraising for you.

Since many people have never run crowdfunding campaigns before, it’s important to walk your supporters through how these campaigns work and help them get set up with their pages if they need assistance.

One way you can increase the funds you raise at your next fundraising event is by selling merchandise.

7. Sell merchandise.

Events and merchandise make the perfect pair! If you host a stellar event, it’s inevitable that your attendees will want a memento to remind them of what a great time they had.

Not only is selling merchandise an excellent way to raise a little extra money at your event, but it also gives your advertising a boost. Every time your donors sport your branded merch, they’re bringing more visibility to your organization and the work that you do.

Luckily, this strategy is pretty easy, too. There are a few ways you can offer products before and during your event:

  1. Incorporate it into crowdfunding. Some crowdfunding platforms will allow you to sell products in exchange for donations. By hosting a product-based nonprofit crowdfunding campaign before your event (you can even merge it with individual crowdfunding campaigns), you can sell merch and receive more donations in one fell swoop.
  2. Sell it on your event site. Many organizations put up event sites to sell tickets online and help promote their events. If your organization goes this route, you should be able to put up an online storefront where you can sell merchandise leading up to the event.
  3. Set up a booth. Your organization can also go the traditional route and simply sell merchandise at a physical booth during the event itself. This strategy works well, since you can show off the merchandise and entice your donors to buy products while your event is fresh on their minds!

Of course, you don’t have to be limited to just one of these strategies. You can use two or more of them together to help you raise even more!

Remember: the type of merchandise you choose will influence how much money you’re able to raise. Pick items that appeal to your donors and that fit with your mission. If you need a few ideas, check out this list!

One way you can increase the funds you raise at your next fundraising event is by bringing in an outside consultant.

8. Bring in a consultant.

It can be hard to go it alone, especially when it comes to something as complex as fundraising!

If your organization has never hosted a large event before or if you’re hosting your event as part of a larger campaign, it can be helpful to bring in an outside fundraising consultant.

Consultants are fundraising experts who can help your nonprofit by:

  • Assessing your current strategies and determining where there’s room for improvement.
  • Advising you on best practices.
  • Creating a strategic plan for making the most out of your fundraising efforts, whether they be event planning specifically or a larger campaign like your annual fund or a capital campaign.

Bringing in a consultant can help you raise more from your fundraising event, because consultants understand how to appeal to donors and plan profitable events.

It never hurts to have an ally on your side! (Especially one who’s a fundraising expert!)

Learn how to engage with donor during a fundraising event to develop relationships and potentially raise more funds.

9. Engage your donors during the event.

The great thing about events is that they give you an opportunity to interact with donors face-to-face. You’ll have the opportunity to speak with donors and see why they’re are passionate about supporting your cause.

Plus, engaging donors throughout the event is a great way to:

  • Ensure that attendees have a good experience.
  • Develop relationships with supporters.
  • Encourage donors to share the event on social media.
  • Ask for additional contributions.

Depending on the size of your event, you many not get the opportunity to interact with every guest, but you can still communicate with donors via text message. As most attendees will have their phones on them and be checking them throughout the night, it’s the perfect outlet to engage with your supporters.

Plus, text messages have a 90% open rate, which means that the messages you send will likely to be read by your supporters. Use text communications to send photos of supporters at the event and keep them in the loop about what’s going on.

But don’t keep the conversation one-sided; ask attendees to send:

  • Pictures and videos of themselves at the event.
  • Music recommendations.
  • Their opinions on how the event is going.

While you have your donors engaged, you can also ask them to give using their phones. Text giving and live events work well together because donations via text message are quick and can easily be done in the heat of the moment when donors are feeling extra generous.

Find a tool that allows donors to give in just a few steps. Donors are more likely to give when the process is quick and easy so that they can get back to enjoying your event.

Communicating with donors in person and through text messages are both great ways to ensure that donors are having a great time and can be used to encourage additional contributions.


Although fundraising events can be time- and money-consuming endeavors, your nonprofit can succeed by implementing these 8 strategies.

For more creative fundraising strategies, check out Neon’s list of 28 insanely innovative ideas.

Nonprofit Donor Databases: The Buyer's Guide
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