How to Plan the Fall Fundraiser Everyone Will Be Talking About | npENGAGE

How to Plan the Fall Fundraiser Everyone Will Be Talking About

By on Sep 8, 2014


We’ve almost made it through the sweaty summer season and fall—in all its chilly glory—is knocking anxiously at our doors. Bright yellow buses swarm the streets, retailers tout their trendiest transition pieces, football reclaims the right to the remote, and this year’s fall fundraisers demand your focus.

Auctions, casino nights, galas, golf tournaments, fish fries, 5ks, raffles, and walks—whatever type of event your organization uses to raise funds—require a lot of planning, coordination, attention to detail, and time to bring to life. In a nutshell: putting on an event takes a lot of work.

But somehow you find the time, people, and the energy to make it happen. And year after year, event day comes and goes and you cross your fingers that you met your goal. 

And then. . .

Right as you’re digging up the last of your expense receipts and scraping together what looks like a favorable giving report, you look at Instagram®, Facebook®,  or the news and see coverage of brilliantly executed events with tons of smiling volunteers, generous guests, and crazy amounts of press that people just can’t stop talking about. As you’re about to celebrate the success of your event, you’re left wondering if it was really that successful. Sure, you came pretty darn close to your goal, people showed up, and you had a few good eggs for volunteers. . .

but was it really a success?

With the amazing work your organization is doing and the passion you and your team bring to the table, there is no reason for anyone, including yourself, to leave your event underwhelmed. It’s time to put ho-hum events to bed this year and really make an impression on everyone, from your volunteers and guests to your board of directors. 

That’s where we can help.

We reached out to fundraising event experts and got them to spill the deets on their top tips for pulling off a killer event (without pulling their hair out). It’s time to make your event the place to be. Whether planning for your next event is well underway or is about to begin, don’t make another move without reading the following advice from the experts themselves.

1. Let the attendance list build itself.

Set yourself up for an awesome turnout. When you send an invitation, include an extra for a friend or family member to attend.  Make your registration page sharable with an “invite a colleague” or “forward to a friend” button. Send a Facebook® invitation to your network, encourage your team to invite their networks, and offer a discount code for bringing a friend. These are all very simple actions that could work on your behalf to generate an awesome turnout.

2. Make headlines and use social media to generate buzz.

The concept of “if you build it they will come” doesn’t apply here. It’s up to you to be newsworthy and the sooner you accept that, the easier being newsworthy will become. Press not only feeds your immediate goal of generating participation in your event, but it also raises awareness for your greater mission.

At the very least, make it a point to reach out to local papers and news stations. When you do, make your event something your local media will want to report on. For example, instead of saying, “We’re having a fish fry this Friday,” how about, “At our fish fry this Friday, we’re going to try to break the world record for number of fish fried in five minutes!” Help news outlets help you by giving them something their audience would want to hear about. Here are two other great resources to help you make headline news:

3. Have checklists on hand.

This sounds like a boring tip, but there is nothing worse than the feeling of your stomach sinking when you’ve forgotten something. You count the sponsor tables 10 times but for some reason it feels like there aren’t enough. What were the names of the three people who still owed money for their tickets, again? Where is the vendor with the chairs – weren’t they supposed to be here by now?

These little nuisances can throw things off right out of the gate, but they don’t have to. Have the following lists on hand with multiple copies printed out, saved to your tablet, on a USB drive—just anywhere! Having lists handy will help you be cool as a cucumber and in complete control.

  • Sponsor list  
  • Attendee list  
  • Who still owes money for their tickets list 
  • Volunteers list
  • List of volunteer duties  
  • Vendor contact info list 

Learn how to create these quickly and easily with this online course on Generating Event Reports.

4. Remind people why supporting your organization is so important.

Your event might be over, but that doesn’t mean your exposure has to be. Get the word out there about what your organization does, your team, and what your participants helped your organization achieve. Summarize your event’s success in a blog post, newsletter, or on social media.

Don’t forget to get back in touch with the press. You want to use this opportunity to remind people why their support is so important. Make it relative. Instead of saying how much money you raised, put it in terms of impact: “because of you, 500 kids have a safe place to go after school.” 

When you allow people to visualize and humanize their support, a connection is made and they are more likely to continue their support. 

5. Show your gratitude to your volunteers with a small token of appreciation.

A little gesture of appreciation goes a long way. Volunteers vary in gender, background, age, and commitment level—which can be tricky to manage. One way to communicate your appreciation genuinely and effectively to them all is through a small gift. Whether it is a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop or a framed photo from the event, this small act can make a big difference in volunteer retention.

Check out these gift ideas:  Appreciation Gifts Don’t Have to Break the Bank

Fall 2013 was the last time your organization’s event will go down in ho-hum history. This year, exceed your goals, sell out seats, make headline news, and share your success—and do it all with ease.

For our full list of 24 tips, download “Planning for Success: 24 Tips for Creating Your Next Great Event” today!


Emily Popson is a Demand Generation Marketing Manager at Blackbaud. Emily’s mission is to help nonprofits use technology as effectively and efficiently as possible to achieve their goals. When Emily isn’t getting the word out about awesome educational resources available to nonprofits, she can be found hanging out in crow pose on the beaches of Charleston, SC or scouring local farmers markets for the perfect organic peach.

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