When you think back on the major adventures or experiences you’ve had in your life, rarely are your memories average. Each flashback is unique in the way it makes you feel, good or bad. Maybe you remember a taste, a smell, the butterflies you felt before making a huge leap of faith—we store all of these little memories like treasures. They stick with us, shape how we view and approach the world, and impact our decision making.

The experiences your donors have with your organization leave impressions, good and bad. Every interaction will influence their decision to give or not to give.

With this in mind, here are tips for planning a fundraising event that is memorable, spiced up, and unique. 

Get Creative

Instead of serving the same chicken, pasta, and fish dishes that you always do (and that every other event does), change it up. Serve beef or an international dish that your attendees won’t expect. For your venue, don’t just book another conference hall and call it a day—that’s boring. It’s pretty much what everyone’s been doing for their events for years. While you may not want to break the bank on ambiance, consider ditching the conference hall for something a bit more memorable and ‘out there.’ A lakeside cabin, a rustic farmhouse, a bowling alley, a cruise liner; these locations may not be typically used for corporate meet-ups, but who says they can’t be?

Be Diverse with the Entertainment

When planning entertainment, go with something different. Hire a mime or a magician or maybe a tuba band (ok, maybe you should shy away from the tuba at the event). When you do something different, it will help you stand out from the crowd. You want people to come to your event instead of another’s because they can’t wait to see what you are serving up, or what the entertainment will be, or what crazy theme or centerpiece you come up with next. As far as a guest speaker is concerned, a celebrity isn’t always what an event needs. Ask around within an industry for someone new on the scene who’s making waves, getting published, starting cool projects, and being written about. A few lesser-known speakers or experts who may be more eager to speak could offer some adrenaline at the perfect moment. And oftentimes that new speaker provides a fresh perspective that even a seasoned expert cannot.

Focus on a New Angle

Whenever possible, tie your uniqueness to your mission. Is your mission teaching and equipping? Go with a school theme and have your students come up with some ideas for the theme or entertainment. We all know kids can be very creative. Are you helping the less fortunate? Maybe take your attendees into the world of those your organization serves through creative decorating. Do homework on the industry your event is promoting, and understand all the topics currently being discussed at other industry events. Can you find an emerging perspective that will draw a thought-leader crowd? Better yet, are you able to present fresh topics that none of your competitors seem to have touched on?

A children’s hospital once had patients decorate each placemat and table. I know that the placemats told more of a story and made more of an impact than any band could have.

It’s time to make memories, stand out from the crowd, and stay at the front or your donors’ minds.

Planning Your Fall Events? Check out these resources:


Melissa Rancour is a Sr. Instructional Designer at Blackbaud. Melissa’s mission is to help nonprofits use technology as effectively and efficiently as possible to achieve their goals. When Melissa isn’t creating new trainings and eLearning courses about Raiser’s Edge or Raiser’s Edge NXT, she can be found volunteering at local nonprofits, hiking the beautiful Oregon coast, or spending time with her family.

Get nonprofit articles, best practice advice, fundraising ideas and invaluable industry reports and webinars delivered for free!