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Fresh Ideas for Fundraising Events

With the colder weather moving in, the charity walks, runs and rides are probably over for this year. But for many small non-profits, the planning of fundraising events for 2013 may be in full swing.  So building on the topic of our Halloween post - From Soup to Zombies: Don’t Be Afraid of Innovation - here are some fresh ideas to help spark innovative fundraising events in the coming year.

As a recent Hillborn eNews article noted:

“Even though special events revenues don't make up a large percentage of overall donations for charities, the role of these events in an organization's development strategy is critical. Special events can raise funds, cultivate relationships with donors and reach out to new, relevant prospects such as young professionals in the first stages of relationship building with your cause.”

From Soup to Mud - how will you differentiate your fundraising event?

In our Halloween post, we highlighted a couple of events that used innovative ideas to raise awareness, engage communities, and raise funds. One was Soupstock, where the organizers rallied local chefs, businesses and musicians to warm the hearts, minds and stomachs of thousands of event participants. While anyone could attend to listen to the music for free, volunteers at the event sold $10 tickets (also available ahead of the event online) that could be redeemed for three bowls of soup or bread.  Local chefs, restaurants and bakeries offered up their creations at over 80 tents set up around the park. The programs and speeches (in between musical guests) raised awareness of the cause and sales of t-shirts and soup bowls offered further fundraising opportunities. 

A recent Event 360 post - We've Seen The Future and It's Covered In Mud - offers some additional ideas for organizations looking to go beyond the usual fundraising events. Authors Patrick Riley and Sarah Coniglio suggest that “participants are looking for something fresh, though, many organizations have started to diversify their event portfolio. Thus the rise of "alternative" events.” And they also note that “[w]hen it comes to fundraising events, mud is in.” In their post they “share some best practices [they’ve] picked up from producing the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's MuckRuckus MS™.”

Fresh and  innovative event ideas might involve a new type of event (like Soupstock) or as the Event 360 post suggests: "color runs, glow runs, rappelling events, dance marathons, zombie walks and more. Another big trend involves walks, runs and rides that offer participants a unique experience, like running across the Golden Gate Bridge or biking on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive. That is, location becomes the differentiator.”

101 Fundraising Activity Ideas

For those small organizations just getting started with fundraising events, we found a great resource available from The Children’s Institute. Their 101 Fundraising Activity Ideas PDF offers ideas for small groups to consider, including:

  • Competitions/Contests (e.g., Trivia Bowl, Buck-a-pound, etc.)
  • Events (e.g., Carnivals, Motorcycle Rides, Massage-a-thons, etc.)
  • Sales (e.g., Calendar sale, gift wrapping drive, etc.)
  • Collections (e.g., Seasonal Chore-a-thon. Loose change collection, Recycling drive, etc.)

Technology for Fundraising Events

Of course, fundraising events - of any size - take a lot of planning. So if your organization is just getting started, you might want to investigate ways of planning and administering your event with online tools. As the Hillborn eNews post by Erika  Racicot (noted earlier) suggests:

“Web-based platforms offering specific tools to help organisations optimize fundraising efforts, have become a very popular alternative to traditional methods. They can cover a wide range of tasks leading to significant reductions in staff hours and cost. There are several to choose from, all offering variations of services and costs.”

Organizations that are hosting one or a number of events each year might want to consider using cloud-based tools that can help you automate the promotion and registration administration of your events. For example, Wild Apricot’s Membership Management Software offers an event management module that you can use for fundraising events (as well as meetings, workshops and conferences) that includes online registration, payment and promotion features. Managing events "in the cloud" with online software, can be particularly helpful if you have a number of volunteers or staff involved.  Using online systems enable everyone to access the system anywhere, anytime and ensures all registration information in your database is always current.

It's about more than just fundraising

As Joanne Fritz suggests in a helpful post - How to Make the Most of Your Special Events -  with special events "it's not always about the money." While they may not raise a lot of funds, fundraising events can help your organization:

  • build relationships, helping potential donors to feel a connection with your cause
  • provide great "face time" with your supporters, sometimes setting the stage for large gifts
  • bring in new donors and introduce them to your organization
  • generate a lot of publicity.

But to achieve these objectives, you'll need to find an innovative way to differentiate your event so that it has broad community appeal.

More resources:

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Published Wednesday, 07 November 2012 at 8:32 AM
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