Hosting a successful fundraising event can be a huge challenge! With so many moving parts to be coordinated and organized, there’s all the more reason to feel proud of your nonprofit’s accomplishments when you reach your goals.
But remember, you can always shoot higher! After all, increasing fundraising capacity is a prerequisite for any sustained organizational growth.
You’ve experimented with all kinds of engagement-boosting methods for your online campaigns, like interactive fundraising thermometers, crowdfunding strategies, and unique social media marketing.
You’ve come up with plenty of creative and engaging fundraising ideas, too. Boosting donations at a fundraising event requires a unique approach, though. You’ll need to combine your best ideas for engaging donors and attendees through special incentives, technology, and media strategies.
Read through these examples of foolproof donation-boosting event strategies for some inspiration:
- Sell branded t-shirts before and during your fundraising event.
- Boost your social media marketing in smart ways.
- Provide some invite-only perks at your fundraising event.
- Conduct a peer-to-peer fundraiser running up to the event.
- Use intuitive software to plan and ticket your fundraising event.
Check out the resources and tips in each section to discover some creative ways you can boost engagement and donations at your next fundraising event! Your attendees and your bottom line will thank you.
1. Sell branded t-shirts before and during your fundraising event.
Custom t-shirts are a classic fundraising staple — and for good reason! They’re among the most reliable fundraising items a nonprofit can offer its event attendees, plus they can provide free promotion for years to come, especially if the t-shirt is well-designed.
You’ve likely sold t-shirts at your major fundraising events in the past, but to really boost engagement and revenue, think of new ways to design and offer them.
An excellent event t-shirt will feature a distinctive, trendy, and relevant design attendees will love and immediately respond to. In order to get that kind of response, your t-shirt needs to communicate some specific info about your event but also:
- Your organization’s mission and tone
- Your organization’s visual brand identity
- Your donors’ and attendees’ identities
Why do your supporters care about your work? What is your image? How do your core attendees like to dress? Let your t-shirt design reflect your answers.
When planning how to best incorporate branded t-shirts into your event, find a flexible shirt fundraising platform that allows both crowdfunding-style online campaigns and wholesale bulk purchases for direct sales to your attendees.
For a unique approach that will get your supporters excited in the weeks leading up to your event, offer both online and in-person t-shirt sales!
Look for features like Bonfire’s Smart Launch, too. This tool will automatically reopen your t-shirt campaign whenever a supporter decides to make a purchase, meaning those who missed their chance to buy a t-shirt on the day of your event can still order one later.
2. Boost your social media marketing in smart ways.
You already use social media to promote your campaigns and stay in touch with your supporters, volunteers, and stakeholders across your community. Social media marketing is a particularly powerful tool for spreading the word about certain types of fundraising events, too!
Large, community-oriented, public events like street festivals, marathons, parades, and concerts are all perfect subjects for some strategic social media marketing.
While many organizations and businesses worry that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to organically reach new audiences on (oftentimes oversaturated) social media platforms, there are some nonprofit sectors from which you can take some inspiration.
Animal shelters consistently find great success promoting their activities on Facebook because they tend to very closely follow a number of best practices for social media marketing:
- Use images thoughtfully. A cute picture of a puppy or a recently rescued cat with a carefully-crafted caption makes a strong emotional appeal for support. Use media to thoughtfully make emotional appeals based on your own mission.
- Directly engage with your audience. Post specific success stories and tag individuals in thank-you messages and acknowledgments! Get permission to post photos of supporters enjoying your event or volunteers setting up.
- Be straightforward. Animal shelters make very direct appeals for support, like promoting adoption drives, requesting donations, and asking for volunteers. When promoting your event, ask for support in straightforward ways without gimmicks.
When promoting your fundraising event, keep your approach simple and direct! Social media platforms might be highly saturated by for-profit companies fighting for attention in ridiculous ways.
However, audiences will always be more likely to respect and respond to a nonprofit that earnestly engages with its supporters, shares updates, and invites everyone to its events.
3. Provide some invite-only perks at your fundraising event.
Another foolproof way to boost your donation revenue at fundraising events is to provide some special perks designed to increase cross-campaign traffic.
That is, integrate your online fundraising campaigns and your in-person fundraising events by offering your online donors special offers and invitations.
Here’s an example of how this might work. Let’s say you’re conducting a crowdfunding campaign directed towards college students, and you’re also planning a street festival for a month or two later.
When you receive an online crowdfunding donation, send a thank-you email with a special offer and invitation to the festival attached. Then, during the event, your online donor can redeem their offer for a free t-shirt or maybe admittance to a special beer garden area.
You can offer any number of special invite-only offers to your online donors, like:
- Tickets to invite-only events
- Free food and drink vouchers
- A coupon for a free t-shirt
- BOGO merchandise offers
- Free raffle tickets
Be sure to offer all attendees the chance to make a mobile crowdfunding donation from their phone, purchase extra vouchers or merchandise, or even make an extra suggested donation for admittance to the invite-only perks, too!
Creating tiers of benefits is a surefire way to encourage upgrades in the form of increased in-person donations.
4. Conduct a peer-to-peer fundraiser running up to the event.
If your organization has conducted online campaigns in the past, consider hosting a peer-to-peer fundraiser in the month or two leading up to your next major event!
As one of the most engaging forms of online fundraising, peer-to-peer fundraisers let your most dedicated volunteers raise funds on your behalf. As such, they work perfectly with all kinds of major events.
In fact, peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns tend to be the most successful and engaging when building up to a major event. This gives your volunteer page hosts something to promote, and it gives your overall campaign a more defined sense of purpose.
Plus, rewarding your supporters with a grand finale event is a perfect way to cap off the excitement and drive that propelled your campaign. Some types of larger fundraising events are especially well-suited to be integrated into peer-to-peer fundraisers, like:
- Marathons or walkathons
- Festivals or fairs
- Charity auctions and large raffles
- Galas or special dinners
- Awards or recognition ceremonies
When researching the best peer-to-peer fundraising websites to host your campaign, be sure to look for platforms that offer tons of customization options and social media sharing tools, like Qgiv!
Plus, hosting a peer-to-peer fundraiser is a great way to offer event merchandise both before and during your major event. Our steps for creating and selling event t-shirts with Bonfire can give you some strong ideas for your shirt merchandising strategy (or your event merchandising strategy more generally).
5. Use intuitive software to plan and ticket your fundraising event.
Using comprehensive event planning software is a best practice for your event fundraising overall. Intuitive digital tools will ease the entire planning process, saving your organization considerable time and resources in the long run.
If your nonprofit is in the market for some new fundraising and event planning software, be sure to start your research with Salsa’s list of the most important questions you should ask before making any purchases.
Even aside from the general streamlining your event planning process will experience with new software, remember that intuitive ticketing and registration systems are perfect tools for increasing donation intake at your fundraising event.
Think of the different ticketing options you can offer attendees, like:
- Ticket levels with varying benefits
- Add-on food and drink vouchers
- Seating chart customization option
- Early access to online auction events
Encouraging your registered attendees to customize their experience at your fundraising event is an easy way to offer different options at different price levels.
When considering your registration and ticketing strategy, it’s also a good idea to think about any additional giving methods you’ll choose to offer during your event. These will need to be planned out, coordinated, and promoted well in advance, but the payoff can be huge.
Text giving tools, for example, are an effective way to boost real-time donations at large live events, performances, and ceremonies.
The big idea: Use event software and other tools that let you customize attendee experience and offer new ways to give. These options will translate to more donations during your event.
Every fundraising event is completely different; their specific purpose, your mission, and the wants of your donors will dictate exactly which strategies you’ll pursue.
Following some of these foolproof, all-purpose best practices, though, will help you to boost donations no matter what kind of event you’re hosting!
Kevin Penney is the CMO and co-founder of Bonfire.com, a company that’s reinventing how people create, sell, and purchase custom apparel. He loves solving difficult problems, working with the Bonfire Product team, and hockey. He has over 10 years experience in digital media, design, and technology.