May 13, 2021

12 Fundraising Event Tips to Boost Success


The heart of event fundraising never changes: The most important thing about planning your fundraising event is your invitation list. Make sure your attendee list is diverse and varied with a nice mix of people, long-time supporters and those who may have never heard of you before, as well as those with different levels of wealth. But the work doesn’t stop there. Read on to find out key tips you can use to effectively maximize the success of your next fundraising event:

  1. Fill a room with generous people.
  2. Captivate the audience with passion and storytelling. 
  3. Empower people to make a difference.
  4. Keep supporters connected. 
  5. Make it convenient for people to RSVP
  6. Encourage out-of-towners to make donations. 
  7. Send mobile alerts before, during, and after events.
  8. Empower ambassadors with crowdfunding. 
  9. Use video to invite, remind, and thank supporters. 
  10. Create a live giving demonstration. 
  11. Recognize donations in real-time until the goal is reached. 
  12. Provide multiple ways for people to donate. 

Let’s jump right into the first tip!

1. Fill a room with generous people

Filling a room is the most fundamental step as well as the most basic one.

Many organizations have great success by having board members recruit for the event. Have them invite contacts that they know will attend and donate. This guarantees that there will be some initial donor activity that will encourage the rest of the crowd to join in. Board members can contact businesses and corporations in the area to sponsor the event and offer them corporate tables as well.

Another way to get your board members to recruit attendees is to make them table captains where they will be responsible for inviting 10-15 people, depending on how many seats there are.

Getting people in the room is 80% of the heavy lifting.

2. Captivate the audience with passion and storytelling

Storytelling has been a buzzword over the past few years. Every nonprofit conference you go to is about storytelling, how it works, being compelling and telling your story in a way that makes the donation ask easy and natural.

young woman speaking into microphone

If you’re making your ask in a live event setting and it is challenging to ask for money at the end of your story, then the truth is that your story isn’t being told the right way.

No matter whether you’re an animal cause, political cause, social service, or legal aid organization; across the spectrum, the basis of event operation is the same. Bring people to dinner, let them have salad, and give them have a chance to talk. Open your event with the most enticing thing you have, whether it is a video, slideshow or speaker, and captivate your audience with your most compelling story.

Once your story is told then you make your ask. A fundraising thermometer displayed on-screen can help create a moment of excitement that catalyzes the audience to give. This important piece at your live event changes the decision-making process from being an individual decision to being a community giving opportunity in which your audience is uniting to meet a shared goal, which is really special to see.

Captivating the audience through storytelling is vital to the success of your event, and putting that storytelling right at the front of the night is essential so that nobody is surprised with the ask. After all, that’s the whole reason why you’re there—to raise money for your cause.

3. Empower people to make a difference

People like to feel like what they are doing is having an tangible effect. Just as you tell them why they need to donate with your compelling story, you also need to tell them how their donation is making a difference.

Give examples as to what different levels of giving are going to provide for your cause, like a new pair of shoes for a person in need, a month’s worth of food for an endangered animal, or a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience for school children. That way you give your audience the opportunity to drive societal change they want see.

4. Keep supporters connected

You want to keep attendees connected to what’s happening, how it relates to them, and think about how you are going to communicate with them in the future.

It’s not just the ask—you want them to come back year after year to your event. Keeping communications with them throughout the year is the best way to keep both their mind and their wallets open.

5. Make it convenient for people to RSVP

Mobile technologies have fundamentally changed the way we connect and give. Not just text messages & SMS but also across direct mail, email, social media, and on your website.

United Way donation and RSVP screens on tablet and iphone

55% of email is opened on a mobile device. This is a drastic shift in the way people consume the content you send them, so you want to be sure that every piece of event collateral is responsive so it reaches your audience across devices.

This includes your:

  • Donation form
  • Event registration form
  • Event landing page
  • Donor Pages
  • Email you send for the event

With social media you’re off the hook because Facebook and Twitter are already mobile. However, one-click social sharing is essential to get supporters sharing your event with their networks.

Additional Tip: You can embed your event registration form directly into a tab on your Facebook page so donors can sign up without ever leaving the social network.

Check out this awesome infographic on social media trends for 2016.

Sending mobile messages means you can let supporters know about your upcoming event with a bite-sized piece of information right on their mobile device. Link to the registration form for easy RSVPing wherever they may be.

The easier you make it to RSVP, the more people will be compelled to sign up and attend your event.

6. Encourage out-of-towners to make donations

Make sure that if people can’t be at the live event, that they can still make donations in lieu of attendance. Displaying your out-of-towner donor names on-screen is a great way to recognize them even though they are not in attendance. Also verbally thank the donors as their name appears on the screen just in case someone is filming your event that they can watch later, and be sure to send thank you emails and text messages to all who participated in the event.

7. Send mobile alerts before, during, and after events

Requiring mobile numbers at sign up is a best practice that many organizations overlook. You are going to want to send mobile alerts before, during, and after events, so in the registration form you’ll want to include mobile phone number as a required field. That way you can lead up to the event with text message reminders and follow up with supporters afterward to thank them for their attendance.

If an attendee is new or they are coming in on somebody else’s invite, it’s even more effective to be able to have that personal touch point with your organization.

8. Empower ambassadors with crowdfunding

Create an exclusive opportunity with crowdfunding. Utilizing crowdfunding is a great idea at any fundraising event like luncheons, dinners or galas. It adds a little competition to your event while making it fun.

Two women holding up their phone screens to show their donation profiles

One way your nonprofit can utilize crowdfunding is to assign team captains or leaders from each table that are responsible to raise a certain amount of money. Then the tables can actually compete against each other to raise that amount of money.

Display the results at the end of their friendly competition on a screen for everyone to see so each team is credited for the amount of money that they raised, and have the food and drinks afterwards positioned as a celebration of the amount raised.

9.  Use video to invite, remind, and thank participants

What if you could get a 4x click-through rate and a 96% completion rate? It’s possible with video.
Visually compelling videos are important not only to draw viewers in, but because videos autoplay on Facebook and Instagram and the user may not necessarily have the sound on on their device. Videos should deliver your message visually, quickly, and efficiently to draw viewers in.

For example, one large organization took a big bold stand in their video marketing over Christmas cutting down the length of their videos. Two years ago they were 60-second videos, last year there were 30 seconds, and this year they were 15 seconds.

The amazing results? It boosted their video completion rate to 96%, so almost one-hundred percent of people made it to the end of video.

This is fantastic and extremely important because most videos have the to call to action at the end, which means more people saw their message than ever before.

Another reason to cut your videos down to 15 seconds is because that is the cap for Instagram. Doing so instantly makes the content significantly more shareable across platforms.

10.  Create a live giving demonstration

In the video above, Steve Harvey Raised over $1 Million in just one month by putting everything he had into asking for donations to raise money to help our nation’s fatherless youth.

One mistake many organizations make is only passively asking for donations. We have been to multiple events for nonprofit organizations and some are lucky enough to have big celebrities standing on stage, however even a big name does not always guarantee great results.

At one event there was an actress from a television show at the height of its popularity who stood on the stage, but the organization refused to include any on-screen element.

When she made the ask for attendees to donate, only two people responded.

This seems insane, but there was no way for people to see how they had impacted the cause or to see how much the night had raised altogether. Needless to say, the organization’s goals were not met and it was a huge missed opportunity.

In contrast, there was an event for a different organization where they decided they were going to put absolutely everything on an on-screen fundraising thermometer.

All their online gifts. All their offline gifts. All the money raised through crowdfunding.

They had volunteers taking paper pledges and checks because they had a large percentage of older Greatest Generation supporters in attendance.

These people are not necessarily online givers, but they were happy to write a check.

They took the checks and added those amounts into the their fundraising platform and displayed them all on screen creating excitement and driving that thermometer upwards.

In a room with only 200 hundred people, they raised over a $100,000 in less than 15 minutes.

If that doesn’t prove the effectiveness that live giving demonstrations have, I don’t know what will. This very interactive moment allowed people to really be involved in a celebration, and the organization reaped the rewards in return.

11.  Recognize donations in real-time until the goal is reached

This is an extension of making a live giving demonstration. It allows people to see who is giving, who is giving more than once, and how much people are giving. It influences the decisions attendees are making about what they’re going to give and whether they give a little bit more because they visually see everyone trying to reach that goal.

Also, again, play to that ego factor in their psychology: get their name on the screen. Yes, it might seem like it’s for vanity’s sake, but you would be surprised how important that is to people—especially when you add a layer of friendly competition and pit donors against each other.

One example is a service member’s organization where the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Air Force we’re all competing against one another on separate thermometer screens. There was a lot of energy in the room and it was really exciting to see.

It truly makes the fundraising part of the night fun, and no longer a chore. Nobody is shuffling their feet hoping that someone gives money. The main focus is something that everybody can contribute to and be a part of in making a difference for your cause.

12.  Provide multiple ways for people to donate

Checks, cash, smartphone, swiper… Don’t limit the ways people can give to mobile alone! Every single donation counts, so you want to be sure to roll all these payment components onto the on-screen thermometer at the event so people can see their contribution regardless of how they give.

If you have a silent auction or sell raffle tickets you should include those totals as well as the name of the winners into the thermometer.

Having a thermometer at your fundraising event really is the central piece that drives incremental revenue at a live event for many nonprofits.

In short, you must make it easy for people to RSVP for your event and give, create a moment of excitement at the event itself, and use mobile for effective follow up with attendees and donors. Which of these techniques will your organization be implementing at its next event?

Our goal at GiveSmart is to help nonprofit organizations create and manage successful digital fundraising campaigns, raise more money and retain donors longer. Request a free demo with one of our fundraising experts to learn, step by step, how GiveSmart can simply help set up your campaigns while transforming your results.


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