Transform Your Event Into a Fun-Filled Donation Machine

There are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the US. That means that there are A LOT of fundraisers that take place each year. Sure! 70% of the population makes a donation each year, but with so many nonprofits creating SO MANY fundraisers, how do you stand out?

You make it fun! Over the years, we’ve seen thousands of nonprofit events come through our doors and we would bet that 90% of them are creating serious campaigns. There’s nothing wrong with the black-tie event, but adding fun activities and creating enticing atmospheres can be a serious boon to your fundraiser. After all, who doesn’t like to have a little fun?

So, take off that tie, unbutton that shirt, and let’s talk about how you can transform your event into an activity-driven donation sprint — not a suit-and-tie marathon.

Learn how to create a fun, effective fundraising event.

1. Host An Activity

You have one primary goal at your nonprofit event — get donations. But that doesn’t mean you have to come and outright ask for them. Instead, find ways to make donating… fun. Think about asking guests to donate to an activity.

For example, they can make donations by entering a run for charity. They can try to let attendees win prizes at a raffle. Or, you can even set up a picnic or relay race in the park. 80% of Americans believe that fundraising events that are in-person create positive change. But, that doesn’t mean that they want them to be boring. Think of exciting ways to keep them entertained beyond the basic online thermometer you can follow along online. Create activities — not events.

Some fun fundraising events: 

  • Silent Auctions
  • Traditional Car Wash
  • Charity Auctions
  • Trivia Nights
  • Sip & Paint Nights
  • Holiday craft-making or lessons
  • Fun runs, race for a cure, marathons, etc.
  • Local fair or picnic

2. Tie Everything Back to Your Cause

When you transform an event into an activity, something magical happens. Suddenly, there’s a quid pro quo. Before, donating was all about helping a cause and feeling those good vibes. But, when you make it an activity, there’s something on the line. It could be the vase at that auction or the finish line at that 5k. There’s something personal to be gained.

But, when things get competitive, we can all forget what really matters — the cause. Don’t let that happen! If you can make the activity central to your cause, you can give them BOTH the activity and the feel-good vibes. You want double trouble. Always remind people why they should be donating. This can be done by hooking them up with merch at that next big race (which can also do wonders for your overall event ROI). Or you can make the raffle prizes central to your overall mission statement. However you do it, keep attendees aware of the cause during the fun activities as well as updating on your donations.

3. Encourage Friends & Family Time

71% of people say that they’ve sold fundraising items to friends & family. Why? Because family is always there to support the causes that you support. In a sense, they’re supporting you. That’s why we recommend that you have attendees invite their friends & family to your event.

Not only does it help create some of that family comradery that can easily translate into competition (which is always good if your activity is a raffle, auction, or fun run,) but it simply gets you more donations. Even if attendees’ family & friends don’t care about your cause, they’ll donate simply to support them. It’s a win-win!

Here are a few different ways to make your event family-friendly:

  • If charging to attend, offer family discounted rates or group deals
  • Create a space for everyone (Kid zones, teen areas, bars & garden for adults, etc.)
  • Daycare center 

4. Create Stories

Everything should be story-driven. Whether it’s your amazing Twitter campaigns that help stuff your event with hungry donors or those Facebook ads that you’re using to target high-value donors, you need to be telling a story. And your activity should be the same way. Why are you throwing a fun run? What’s so important about the auction.

This is a great example of storytelling in fundraising.

You know those donation jars at the convenient store that you drop your spare change into? They always have a picture of a real person with a little story, right?

Ever wondered why that is?

Here’s why:

There are a million ways to go about telling a story. You can use the story of a single person to inspire a change (ala the donation jars). Or you can create branded characters that deliver powerful messages (like this amazing video.) It’s all about visual storytelling. 

5. Throw Out the Rule Book

Finally, learn to break some rules. Do nonprofit events have to be bound by some magic rulebook? Do you really need to follow steps A, B, and C? We don’t think so. We believe that being human, interesting, and engaging is what really matters. Don’t get so caught up in creating your event that you forget to participate in it and engage with your guests in the moment. 

Go give your attendees some high-fives, and take off your tie. Live a little!

This is the marketing director at Purplepass.

About the Author: Savannah McIntosh is currently the Marketing Director for Purplepass Ticketing, an all-in-one ticketing and event management software. You can find more event planning tips, marketing hacks, and latest event trends at their blog.