Fundraising Events: How to Decide What Kind of Fundraiser to Host

Hannah Morgan
Written by :

Hannah Morgan

Categories: Event Tips

You (and probably a committee) have decided to host a fundraising event, but you do not have any idea about what type of event to host.   Unfortunately, most committees start in the wrong place - Type of Event.     The work for the event begins with a conversation like the following: Committee member 1 says, "I attended a really successful auction dinner, we should do that." Committee member 2 responds, "Well, do you remember The Organization to Do More Good's fantastic brew pub crawl last year - let's have a wine tasting crawl instead."   Meanwhile, an executive director is dying inside.   In short this conversation is the WRONG way to launch a new event.  

This blog post will give you some tips on how to get started planning what type of event is best for your organization:

1. Define Who You Want To Target 

One thing we do at Swell is to encourage all of our clients to think about what they want to accomplish first. Events are an integral part of your donor acquisition strategy.  Answer this question: Who do you want to reach through the event? 

Next, create an event committee that reflects the donors you wish to reach. (If you're reading this and host an existing event, you can accomplish this by adding individuals who reflect groups you wish to reach.) 

This first step is the most important for success.  Whether they help you establish the concept for your event or whether you bring the concept to them and make sure it lands well. Either way, if you build the people first you're headed to success, and you can measure those goals based on what you've set that you are trying to accomplish.

2. Why not What?

This is so often a trap of event planning. Nonprofits sit around and say, "What kind of event can we do?" They start looking up event concepts and ideas.

Instead begin with the following:  (1)What are we trying to accomplish? (2)  Why are we hosting this event?"

To Assist:  Download our Event Goal Setting Worksheet.  

Some questions to ask yourself could be any of the following. Do you have new donors? Are they younger? Do you want older donors? Do you want a geographic focus? Has your nonprofit changed in some way where you've maybe incorporated into a new area? Is there a geographic group that you want to bring in? What do you want that event to say about your brand identity? I've witnessed events transform a brand identity of an organization and shift the way that organization is viewed in the market based on the event that they do.

3. Events Should Reflect Your Identity

One thing nonprofits can forget is that an event is often the only visible activity that a donor sees.  We tell our donors about all the good work we do. We tell them that we're innovative. We tell them that we conserve, we use all of these words that relate to our program area, but so often those donors never really get to see us in action. The one thing donors can see is your event, and it is a huge opportunity to show off your culture, to show off your brand, and to showcase how you do things.

This exercise begins with writing down the words you associate with your brand.   Next, any event concept, design, program and details should attempt to cause a guest to see those words in action.    


4. Fun

The event must be fun and this is where you can rely on your committee.  It's a fundraising event so it doesn't need to be over-the-top and take away from your brand but enough that they leave and tell a friend to come next year.  Check out one of our top posts: Are You Throwing a Party or a Fundraiser ? 

Having an event that is “too fun” can take away from the message of your organization. Swell worked with an organization that threw a beer festival one year. While that beer festival was successful, it really did not do anything and, in fact, in some ways, you could argue that it deterred from what they were trying to talk about in terms of their mission.

Stay Tuned for our Next Blog Post: Our 2019 List of Creative Fundraising Ideas.



Now that you have some tips to get started thinking about what kind of event you want to throw, reach out to us! Join a Demo and get started with the movement of Doing More Good through events.