Events put the fun in fundraising. It’s your party and you can do whatever you want to. Fundraising events get donors and nonprofits in the same room to forge stronger bonds, start new relationships, and bring in money. There’s little downside.

They just take care and planning. Both of which you’ll be able to handle as long as you put in the work. Use these three best practices to know where to focus your limited time and resources.

Get the course of your fundraiser mapped out and it will be full steam ahead.

#1: Pick the right type of event for your organization.

Nonprofit professionals understand the value in segmenting donors for improved communications. That understanding is how organizations use knowledge of donors to curate the perfect marketing strategy. It is the smart thing to do.

Have you ever thought about letting donor preferences influence your events? It’s a similar process. Personalization is personalization, no matter what aspect of fundraising you’re customizing.

If you want your event to prove fruitful, you need attendees. Start with your donors, determine what they like, and make sure your events will appeal to them. Event guest lists shouldn’t be all new prospects. You’ll want a mix of loyal donors, new supporters, and interested parties.

You need your event, your organization, and your desired audience to mesh.


  • your budget
  • the event’s cost
  • the type of donor you’re looking to attract
  • how much initial cost you can cover
  • the time of year
  • your mission
  • and much more

Selecting the right fundraising event is a comprehensive process that deserves analysis from all angles. There are tons of fundraising options available, so you won’t have a shortage of choices. Rather, your struggle will be in narrowing down the list to the best fit for your organization.

Galas are popular fundraisers, but they are not for everyone. Maybe your supporters and your organization are better matched with a fun run, which is an equally popular choice.

Don’t get too attached to the idea of the standard fundraisers, though. You’ll box yourself in. They are not one size fits all. Just because an event option is common, that doesn’t make it a must. In fact, many of your supporters will be excited by some original ideas.  

The choices are endless, you could:

Your supporters have their own identities, and if you can know them well enough to design an event that they’d love, go for it! Fundraising gold stars await.

#2: Know your attendees, and target marketing accordingly.

As was mentioned earlier, you have to have a sense of whom you need to attend to your event, so you can choose something that will draw those types of supporters in.

Event selection is just the beginning. Wholly know who you want in attendance and what you want from them.

That might feel like a difficult request, but you’ll be able to do it. Compare the process to making plans for dinner.

One person asks, “What are you in the mood for?”

Initially, you honestly say, “I’m pretty open.”

Then, one-by-one you work your way through the various cuisine options and restaurants. Three Italian places and a trendy new tapas eatery later, you settle on ordering pizza in.

You might not have thought you knew what you wanted, but you really did. You just had to investigate from the right vantage point.

When outlining your event, first ask yourself:

Do we care more about attendance quality or attendance quantity for this event?

In other words, are big attendance numbers more important than a smaller number of consistently fundraising participants? Your answer will be determined by the event you’ve chosen, but realistically, participants that double as donors should be the most targeted.

Look to your past participants to start filling out your guest list. You want people there who are willing to not only donate, but who will be able to encourage others to do so. It will ideally be a fundraising crowd.

This is especially true of events when gathering pledges is critical to the fundraising endgame. Events like various “a-thons” have to have active fundraising teams with dedicated leaders.

Approach the people who you know will be good candidates first, and then broaden the scope of your marketing.

#3: Keep the future in focus.

The immediate aftermath of an event is satisfying. All of your hard work is behind you and you get to celebrate the money you’ve raised.

But...what’s next?

Are you taking the guest list from your events and working to bring new leads into your donor pool? Even if someone just happened upon your event, that person did show up. His or her presence indicates a level of interest that you can leverage in future communications to lay the foundation for an ongoing relationship.

There are so many doors open to you right after an event, walk through those doors before they close behind your guests. For instance, many of the donors from the day/night of your event could be matching gift eligible. If you don’t appropriately follow up with them, you’re leaving money on the table — a major fundraising taboo.

To best leverage your event for future success, make sure that you:

  • Gather contact information from all attendees
  • Put together some kind of event take-home (gift bag, t-shirt), the appropriate content of which will vary from event to event
  • Send out speedy thank yous
  • Include participants in future event invites
  • Work to transition interested parties into your donor pipeline

Donor retention is a crucial aspect of nonprofit prosperity. Handling post-event follow-ups correctly initiates the donor-organization relationship in an organic way that donors will react to positively.

With these three best practices, you’ll have a tip for each phase of the event:

  1. Planning
  2. Implementation
  3. Post-event Communications

Use these three strategies, but don’t stop with them. An event-based fundraiser is...well, it’s an event. Your organization will be juggling innumerable tasks, and there are best practices for all of them.

Think of these best practices as your fundraising event movie trailer. You’ve gotten a preview, but you haven’t seen the whole thing yet. Just wait. There is so much more excitement and funding to come.

Dan Quirk is the Marketing Manager at DonorPro, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. Dan's marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.

Dan received his degree in Business Management from Grove City College and earned a Marketing Strategy Certification from Cornell University. In addition, he is a Certified Inbound Marketer, Certified Hubspot Marketer, and a Certified Customer Advocacy Marketer.


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