Fundraising Events

July 14, 2011

Today's post is part 7 of chapter 5 of my book, A Day of Hope: Leading Volunteers to Make a Difference in Your CommunityI realize that some of these posts might not be exactly related to "leadership," but I believe they are relevant. Feel free to pass them on to someone you know who works at a nonprofit organization or church.


There are lots of different fundraising events that you can do to support your cause.  The important thing is to identify your strengths and make sure the fundraising events you do match up with those strengths. 

The range of ideas for different fundraising events is almost limitless.  You can do car washes, poker tournaments, crab feeds, spaghetti dinners, bunko nights, wine and cheese tasters, golf tournaments, walks, marathons, etc.  The list is almost endless.  To demonstrate the amount of ideas which can be generated, I went to a meeting agenda we had when we met in July 2007.  Here is a list of the fundraising ideas we generated and how much we hoped to earn:

  • Car Wash – $300
  • Fundraiser BBQ at someone’s house – $200
  • Get big companies involved in an event such as Target, Safeway, Wal-Mart – We have decided that we will do some kind of a food drive if we pursue this avenue.
  • Softball tournament – $200
  • Baseball home run sponsor, donation per home run
  • Desert Auction – has to be paired with Wine & Cheese
  • Workplace competition to see who fundraises the most money, and that person gets a spa treatment.
  • Jack Doo – Putting a barrel at Liberty Market for people to drop off food and leave it there
  • Brownie Walk – This is a good game that we can have at another fundraiser
  • Walking door to door like we did last year except with some more planning – This raises a ton of food
  • Flyers on cars in parking lots
  • Pumpkin sales for Halloween – $300
  • Haunted food party
  • Walking around the local college’s dorms again – This will get us about 25 baskets of food
  • Chi Delta Beta men’s auction fundraiser – $750
  • Yellow bag on doorsteps with a note that we’ll pick up the food from their home in a couple of days
  • Poker Tournament – $1,100
  • Pizza Party
  • Radio station idea with a drive in food drop off – competition between cities
  • Golf tournament with sponsors – $10,000  
  • Get the Sacramento King, Oakland A’s, San Francisco 49ers, and Oakland Raiders to donate some memorabilia to auction at our Golf Tournament
  • Hit up authors Seth Godin, Mark Sanborn, and Tony Robbins for donations as well as Todd and Michelle at Anthony Robbins Foundation to get some books to auction off
  • Talk to Michelle at the Modesto Bee about any fundraisers that we are doing

Lots of ideas isn’t it!  That’s one of the beautiful things of gathering lots of people together in a room where you talk about fundraising—they generate lots of ideas.

When trying to decide which ideas you will focus on to fundraise, choose just a few and do those few exceptionally well.  You can only do so many fundraisers because if you do too many, you’ll wear out the people who regularly come to donate.  One of the events we did for A Day of Hope a few times was a card tournament at California State University, Stanislaus for college students.  We did the event with limited success, and we maybe did one other event where we wanted to engage college students, but that was it.  If we had tried to do too many events that involved college students, it would have been a mistake.  We can only ask them to do so much with the limited amount of time and money (very little money) they have.

When you fundraise, you need to establish what you are going to “raise.”  When we wanted to do a card tournament for college students, it would have been ludicrous to ask them all to pay $50 to play.  They don’t even have $5.  Instead, we made the entry fee two cans of food.

After the card tournament in the spring we go to a different demographic of people for summer—normal drivers who are on the road for fundraiser car washes.  That is a deep pool of people from different parts of the community such as college students, college professors, business CEOs, writers, stay at home moms, etc. 

No matter what type of fundraiser you hold, there are certain elements to the event that you need to piece together for the event to be successful. Here’s a quick list:

  • Time – Planning fundraising events takes time and effort!  Event fundraisers don’t happen magically; they are lots of hard work and take dedication to make happen.  
  • Volunteers – You’re going to need volunteers to help plan and work the event.  Volunteers with different skill sets are needed to help make your event successful.
  • Sponsors – If you’re doing a large public fundraising event, it always helps if you can have at least one large sponsor to attach their name to the event.  This gives your fundraiser credibility and allows people to see a familiar name in relation to your event, for example: A Day of Hope’s Spaghetti Fundraiser presented by McDonald’s. 
  • Marketing – This is the key, and it’s where the rubber meets the road.  Marketing takes volunteers, time, and money.  You have to distribute flyers everywhere you can, tell your friend about the event, send information to local newspapers, and post the information on your Facebook or Myspace page.

One important tip is to not do too many events close to the Thanksgiving holiday.  In my experience, we’re always working hard in the last two weeks of October and the beginning of November.  We’re busy preparing to actually deliver the food by gathering it, sorting it, and getting maps and information ready for the families we plan to serve.  Trying to do a fundraising event in the middle of all that work is difficult.  If you do decide to pursue it, then make sure you have some volunteers who can help you.

Most of your fundraising events should be throughout the summer, in September, or the beginning of October.  Here in sunny California you can do car washes all year, but I always intentionally schedule our last car wash the third week in October.  This allows us to focus on collecting food and getting ready to actually deliver the food to people for Thanksgiving.

Question: My position on fundraising events is very clear. What is your experience and do you see value in them? 

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I also may have received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

2 responses to Fundraising Events

  1. Fundraising is all about putting your heart out to help others, It’s about knowing the purpose, vision and mission why you decided in organizing the event. The ideas here can be used by other fundraisers.

  2. That is very true, Lauren. Fundraising is about putting your heart out to help others and serve others. And when potential donors see you putting your heart into serving others they often want to donate to support what you are doing.