How to Throw Your First Fundraiser

August 3, 2013

You’re throwing your first fundraising event and whether it’s a cocktail party at a board member’s home, a formal dinner at a rented location or a backyard barbecue, there are a few things you should know about making the event a success.

For one thing, every fundraising event, regardless of size, needs to have a specific goal in advance i.e. how much are you going to raise? However, meeting that goal can be harder than simply asking people for money. Below are five essential guidelines for hosting a successful fundraiser, reaching your goal and having a good time while contributing to a great cause.

5 Essential Guidelines for a Successful Fundraiser

1. Who’s coming?
After confirming that your board is both willing and excited to participate, the first step is determining who will come. One key element is to create an event committee that will plan the fundraiser. Look to past board members, general members, volunteers or friends to form your committee. When you create an event committee it’s important to ask each member how they can realistically contribute. The most effective committee is one where each person has a task to raise X amount of dollars either through ticket sales or by securing an item for auction. Each member should know what they are responsible for to reach your goal. Once you have a group to help, ask yourself this question – should your event mostly consist of friends or a larger selection of donors? If you find that you could expect about fifty people to attend, it’s probably best to prepare a gathering at your house. If the guest list is fifty or more you may want to rent a space. Either way planning your invite list will help you organize an event that makes sense for the number of people in your network.

2. What kind of event?
Once you determine the ideal size of your fundraiser, you will know if a cookout at your house or a formal dinner at an event space is more appropriate. Wherever you hold your event, you will want to gear it towards the type of organization for whom you are raising funds. For instance, if you are a nature conservancy you may want to consider having your fundraiser outside, or if you’re a historical society, you may want to have a period themed event at a local landmark. However, some organizations may not be as obvious – be creative!

3. Budget
Since your ultimate goal is to raise money for your cause, you and your committee need to answer the following questions about your budget:

1. How much money do you want to make?
2. How much will the event cost?
3. How many people do you need to attend to make money?

When pricing tickets be aware that the sale of tickets is not usually the biggest contribution to the fundraiser. Take into consideration what your network will pay for each ticket. To make a larger profit ask your committee to reach out to the community and see if anyone can donate to the event – whether underwriting food, donating items for a silent auction, or contributing time to make floral arrangements. Remember not to get carried away things like decorations or creating a custom souvenir. Be vigilant about keeping costs down. The mission of your organization is to raise funds for your cause and that is also the purpose of the event.

4. Additional revenue
Beyond ticket sales most of the revenue will come from creative opportunities. If it’s a smaller event at your house, you may have a raffle or sell merchandise, like t-shirts, to raise funds. For a larger, more formal event, silent/live auctions, raffles and the option to purchase tables are all lucrative ways to raise funds. Another idea is to ask corporations, local business and individuals to buy program ads or even sponsor the event in some way.

5. Post-event
Once you’ve thrown your fundraiser it’s important to follow up with your committee and guests. Anyone who made an in-kind donation or attended will appreciate thank you letters that mention the success of the event. At the fundraiser, keep detailed notes on who won auction items, as well as the guest list so you can invite them to your next event. Finally, it’s necessary for the committee to gather and discuss what they would do differently the next year, while reflecting on the positive.

Remember it’s important to raise money, but also make people aware of what cause the fundraiser is benefiting. Consider it an introduction to the future growth of the organization, and a way to gain long term support.

Originally Posted : August 3,2008 on


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