What do donations and hors d’oeuvres have in common?
You’ll find tons of them at all the best fundraising events!
Sadly, we can’t tell you how to assemble the perfect cheese plate.
But we can show you how to throw a fun, memorable, on-budget, and super successful nonprofit fundraising event that will help you build positive relationships with donors and supporters, increase awareness of your organization’s cause, and (of course) raise money in support of your mission.
9 Steps to Successful Fundraising Event Planning
Step 1: Set clear goals
Before you do anything, it’s really important to be clear about what you want this fundraising event to achieve for your nonprofit. Start the planning process by asking yourself (and your team) questions like:
Is this event strictly about raising money? If so, how much?
Is there another purpose baked in, such as building a network or marketing a particular program?
Define 1 or 2 priority goals first, and let those inform your planning decisions across the next 8 steps.
Without a clearly defined goal, you risk wasting a lot of time and money making gut-based (rather than evidenced-based) decisions that result in minimal benefit, and that team members can more readily become divided on. Not good.
Need help with brainstorming? Consider the S.M.A.R.T. goals system. It’s a tried-and-true tactic that helps folks create goals that are (s)pecific, (m)easurable, (a)chievable, (r)elevant, and (t)ime-bound.
Step 2: Define your audience
Consider whether the general public is welcome or if you want to cater to a more specific audience.
Use the basis of your non-profit and your goal for the event as a starting point. This information will help dictate your theme, budget, event space, and more.
For instance, say you support reading programs for elementary-aged kids in your local community and you want to raise awareness and recognition for your cause. A free daytime carnival may be just the fit if you’re looking to draw in young, local families.
Step 3: Clarify your budget
Speaking of budgets: This is another key element that needs to be defined before you dive further into non profit event planning.
When considering your budget, account for elements such as space rental, marketing, catering, staff, entertainment and/or presenters, decorations, security, furniture, audio/visual equipment, transportation, ticketing software, follow-up communications, and anything else that’s going to be part of your event. And of course, make sure you leave a little wiggle room in case your expenses surpass estimates.
If your organization isn’t equipped to cover the budget from its own coffers, consider seeking out event sponsors who can help you manage costs. Just make sure the sponsors’ values are aligned with that of your organization, or you risk diluting your brand and turning off potential donors.
Step 4: Determine who will be responsible for what
As your nonprofit event plans take shape, you’ll no doubt assemble a team of staff, vendors, volunteers, and other participants. This team is a great asset, but it needs to be effectively organized.
Clarify exactly who is responsible for each role and task, and ensure everyone on the team has a clear understanding of these responsibilities. That way you’ll streamline the entire fundraiser planning and production process, and cover all your bases.
Step 5: Select and book an event space
Once you have your goals, audience, budget, and team in place, it’s time to select and book an event space.
Make sure you consider your budget and whether the space is the appropriate size. Just like Goldilocks, you want a space that’s just right—not excessively large or too small to host enough people to meet your financial goals.
Also make sure the layout is conducive to your planned theme and schedule and that there is adequate parking. And figure out whether you’ll need to secure any permits (for example, to serve alcohol), buy or rent furniture or sound equipment, and so on.
Step 6: Create a marketing plan
Start marketing your fundraising event a minimum of two or three months before the big day.
An effective marketing plan should target people both in person and across multiple platforms, including social media. Here are some fundraising tips to craft a marketing plan that gets your event noticed and inspires people to sign up.
Step 7: Sell tickets
It’s important to clarify who is responsible for different elements of the ticketing process, as this aspect of any event can quickly go awry. Before you sell any tickets, you’ll need to decide how you’ll sell those tickets, what the tickets will look like, what incentives are for early ticket purchases, and more.
Step 8: Practice running through the event
Before paying attendees walk through the event space’s doors, practice set up and run through presentations. This way, you’ll be able to determine the appropriate layout for the venue, troubleshoot audio/visual issues, identify extra furniture or equipment needs, establish a smooth flow for timing the entire event, etc.
Step 9: Send thank you notes and surveys
Right after the event, thank everyone who helped, including staff and volunteers, as well as everyone who chose to attend. Depending on how long that list is, you could choose to send handwritten cards or emails, or make phone calls. The medium doesn’t matter so much as putting thought and heartfelt thanks into whatever you write.
It’s also smart to send out event surveys to everyone who attended. The feedback you receive will help improve future events and assess the success of the one you just held.
While you may be exhausted after hosting a fundraising event, the work isn’t quite over! Make sure you take the time to update your nonprofit supporters about the event’s fundraising results so they can feel like they were part of something meaningful. Also take time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t so you can apply those lessons to your next fundraising endeavors.
Finally (finally!), make sure you give yourself and your team some time to rest up and appreciate everything you’ve accomplished. Managing a nonprofit fundraising event from start to finish is no joke, and everyone involved deserves some time to catch their breath (and digest all those hors d’oeuvres!) before moving on to the next fundraising project.
Do your friends have any idea how smart you are?
Display this infographic on your site to show off your know-how while helping others celebrate more fundraising goals.
The term “peer-to-peer fundraising” might conjure images of begging your friends to pony up for your car payment or your cat’s medical bills. But that’s not actually what we’re talking about here.
(Though by all means, do whatever it takes to help your cat!)
If you’re wondering how to fundraise for a personal cause, this article might not be exactly what you’re after.
But if you’re part of an organization that’s looking to enhance its fundraising while expanding its recognition, or you’re looking to fundraise on behalf of an organization that’s near and dear to your heart, then you’ve come to the right place.
That’s because peer-to-peer fundraising is a great way to raise funds for many types of causes and organizations.
In fact, research from The Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Thirty suggests the top 30 peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns in the U.S. raised more than $1 billion in 2017 alone.
Want to claim a piece of that pie?
Read on to learn what peer-to-peer fundraising is all about, plus how to get started with your own campaign.
What Is Peer-to-Peer Fundraising?
What we’re talking about here is a particular style of fundraising that involves empowering your organization’s campaigners to raise funds for your organization by encouraging the people in their network—family, friends, colleagues, and so on—to donate to the cause.
You might also hear peer-to-peer fundraising referred to as P2P fundraising, personal fundraising, social fundraising, or team fundraising.
There are lots of ways to do a P2P fundraising campaign—many of which you’ve probably participated in yourself.
For example, there are time-limited P2P campaigns where fundraisers might challenge their communities to help them raise a specific dollar amount within a specific amount of time (such as #GivingTuesday).
Other examples include activities like walkathons, fundraising events, or personal challenges like No-Shave November where people skip shaving for a month and raise funds from their networks to support cancer prevention and research.
The nonprofit recruits campaigners, who commit to setting up personal campaign pages, soliciting donations from their networks, and marketing the campaign.
During the campaign, the nonprofit supports its fundraisers with resources, promotion, and appreciation. The nonprofit also keeps tabs on their fundraisers’ progress, and follows up with new donors.
Depending on the style of P2P campaign, the campaign concludes after a financial goal is reached or a deadline passes.
What is the Difference Between Peer-to-Peer Fundraising and Crowdfunding?
It’s easy to confuse peer-to-peer fundraising with crowdfunding because both strategies involve tapping into a large network of donors to solicit many smaller donations. In fact, P2P fundraising is often considered a type of crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding campaigns are managed by the organization that’s doing the fundraising, whereas peer-to-peer fundraising will involve many “managers” (i.e. campaigners) working to drum up donations. Think of crowdfunding as a one-to-many approach, whereas P2P is many-to-one. Crowdfunding campaigns are managed by 1 person: the person doing the fundraising. These campaigns involve tapping into the organizer (or organizer’s) network for donations and hoping the word will spread. P2P campaigns have word-of-mouth marketing baked into them, because your campaigners are charged with doing just that.
Crowdfunding campaigns often have a specific fundraising goal in mind and use a single progress bar to track overall progress. In contrast, P2P fundraising might involve many mini goals that are specific to the campaigners involved (though this often depends on the type of P2P fundraiser).
Crowdfunding campaigns typically rely on a single web page, whereas P2P fundraising will probably involve many personalized web pages managed by individual campaigners.
5 Best Practices for Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Every peer-to-peer fundraising campaign is different, which means the strategies that work well for one organization might fall as flat as an under-baked cake for another.
Because your campaigners will most likely use a personal web page to solicit and track donations, they need to be able to navigate the site without much hassle. Learn more about how to create a personal fundraising page here.
2. Make your web pages look pretty
No matter the fundraising campaign, good design is important. People will be more likely to stick around on the site, get inspired, and donate if the pages are thoughtfully organized, mobile-optimized, and nice to look at. (We’re willing to bet that white font on a black background has never inspired a major donation!)
Wondering which personal fundraising website you should use? Check out this list of 10 stellar options.
3. Promote the campaign
While it’s tremendously helpful when your campaigners raise funds for your organization, it (unfortunately) doesn’t mean you can spend the campaign sipping mimosas at a spa.
Make sure to promote the campaign on your organization’s website, social media platforms, and perhaps via direct mail to boost the reach of your hardworking P2P campaigners.
4. Follow up with new donors
As soon as new donors contribute, thank them and add them to your donor database. That way, when a new P2P campaign rolls around, your pool of potential campaigners will be even larger!
5. Show appreciation for your campaigners
Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns only happen because people who believe in your cause are willing to volunteer their time to help raise funds. That’s a huge honor, and it’s important that your organization acts like it by profusely thanking—even gifting—your generous campaigners.
6 Tips for Starting a Peer-to-Peer Campaign
Okay, you’re convinced peer-to-peer fundraising might work for your organization. So how do you actually create a personal fundraiser?
Fear not! We’ve got some tried-and-true tips to start your own peer-to-peer campaign.
1. Choose your campaign type
Before launching a P2P campaign, take time to consider which format best suits your goals. Most P2P campaigns fall into one of the following categories: time-based campaigns, rolling campaigns, and giving days. The right choice for you will depend on your financial goals, time constraints, staff capabilities, and intentions regarding how the money will be used.
2. Select your fundraising software
There are dozens of fundraising platforms available, which means nonprofits have more choices than ever before. The right platform will be the one that’s best tailored to your organization’s specific needs, but here are a few features to look for.
The option to create individual fundraising pages
The option to customize giving forms
The option to easily share the campaign on social media
Ease of use
Integration with merchandise sales
Gamification options (such as badges, progress bars, leaderboards, etc.)
3. Craft your story
Both campaigners and donors are more likely to stay involved in your campaign if it’s driven by a compelling story. Before you start recruiting participants, take time to think about the story that explains why people should care about your campaign. (Hint: “Because our roof is caving in” is not a compelling story. But “Ginny’s life got better in this home, and now we’re trying to build a new roof so we can improve other kids’ lives too” just might.)
When you start working with campaigners, educate them about the power of story. Their appeals to their networks will be much more effective if they tell the story of why they have personally come to support your cause instead of simply saying, “I’m raising money. Click here to donate.” (Not very motivating, right?)
4. Identify your campaigners
Browse through your donor database to identify people who have demonstrated high levels of enthusiasm for your cause by volunteering their time, making regular or large donations, and/or expressing interest in doing more. These are indicators that a person will be motivated to advocate on your behalf.
It might also be helpful to identify opportunities for partnerships with local businesses, other nonprofits, influencers, and/or major donors. Some of these partners might be willing to offer matching gifts, which can be a great way to boost participation in your campaign.
5. Set your campaigners up for success
Once you gather your crew of peer-to-peer fundraisers, give them the resources necessary to fundraise successfully. That might include:
An on-boarding session that introduces participants to the campaign’s structure, story, and goals
Regular check-ins (in person or via digital conferencing)
Tutorials for navigating their personal fundraising page
Email and social media templates
Sharing participants’ posts on social media
Regularly celebrating your fundraisers
6. Follow up
At the end of the campaign, make sure to update everyone who participated and thank your campaigners and new donors.
Then, plan to stay in touch with all your campaigners (old and new) as you put their money to good use. Showing people they’ve contributed to something meaningful will inspire them to get involved next time another campaign rolls around.
Stellar Examples of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Struggling to come up with ideas for your peer-to-peer fundraiser? Here are a few tried-and-true options to get your creative wheels turning.
Athletic events such as runs, walks, swims, and golf outings where campaigners raise funds from their network prior to participating in the event
Bowl-a-thons, game nights, rubber ducky races, and other family-friendly competitions
Pub crawls or casino nights (if you’re going the less family-friendly route!)
Quirky challenges, such as No Shave November or polar plunges
It might also be helpful to get your campaigners involved in choosing the theme and format of the campaign. They could come up with something that’s never been done before, which is sure to attract attention. For instance, one participant in the Children’s Miracle Network’s Extra Life campaign committed to getting a tattoo if his friends and family raised $2,000!
Peer-to-peer fundraising is kind of like a great big family reunion: It offers your organization the chance to connect with a sprawling network of people you might never have previously talked to. Only in this case, odds are good that those people will be interested in supporting your organization’s cause (instead of fighting over politics by the punch bowl).
By empowering your campaigners to raise funds on your organization’s behalf, you’ll grow your nonprofit’s pool of campaigners, raise money, and build relationships with people who will continue to cheerlead your organization even after the campaign has ended.
Share this Image On Your Site
Let your friends know how smart you are by sharing this handy infographic on your nonprofit’s blog or with your social media network.
First Descents is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults (ages 18 – 39) impacted by cancer and other serious health conditions.
What is the Goal?
The ultimate goal of First Descents is to help increase self-esteem, body image, and self-compassion, as well as alleviate the alienation, depression, and fatigue often associated with having the disease.
The mission of First Descents is to address the needs of one of the fastest-growing and most underserved age demographics in oncology by providing entirely free, life-changing outdoor adventures to young adults impacted by cancer and other serious health conditions.
A Little History…
Since 2001, First Descents (FD) has been supporting the physical, mental, and emotional health of young adults living with and surviving cancer.
Inspired by his aunt’s successful battle against cancer, professional kayaker and future CNN Hero Award Winner, Brad Ludden, founded First Descents in 2001 at just 18 years old.
The inaugural adventure trip saw 10 cancer survivors brave the Colorado River aboard whitewater kayaks.
By 2011, 27 outdoor programs were changing the lives of 283 people—a number that nearly doubled in the next year.
Nearly two decades of life-changing adventures—and no signs of slowing.
There’s an adventure for everyone.
From a single day of local indoor climbing to a week-long white water kayaking adventure, FD provides a variety of program types that meet the individual needs of participants, allowing individuals to get out on a program as soon as possible.
No previous “adventuring” experience? No problem!
Guides with tremendous know-how provide the adaptive programming and expert instruction necessary to participate in one of First Descents’ local, regional, national or international programs such as:
1. Week-Long Programs
FD often welcomes first-timers into their community through multi-day outdoor programs that test participants’ limits, build friendships, and promote individual growth.
Programs are set in breathtakingly spectacular settings across the nation, and may include:
Kayaking through the Oregonian wilderness
Surfing the Outer Banks of North Carolina
Rafting Class 3 rapids on the Colorado River
Mountain biking in San Francisco’s backyard
Climbing adventures at Rocky Mountain National Park
2. Local Adventure Communities
First-timers and FD alumni may join in on one-day or multi-day outdoor adventures at a local level.
Currently, over 18 FD hubs in select cities (such as Pittsburgh, Detroit, Boston, New York City, and Phoenix) offer regional programming, monthly meetups, and events throughout the year.
3. International Adventure Programs
FD alumni are eligible to participate in the ultimate adventure experience—one that takes place across the globe—and introduces a select few to multi-sport pursuits in areas like:
Thailand (caving and rappelling)
The mountains of Patagonia (whitewater rafting class V rapids)
The Italian Alps (rock climbing and hiking)
Ireland (sea kayaking in between historic castle visits)
4. Medical Center Partnerships
Joining forces with regional hospitals and clinics, such as Dana Farber in Boston, First Descents partners with healthcare providers to create custom weekend programs for first-timers and alumni who wish to experience First Descents, but are unable to attend programs due to treatment schedules, health concerns, or family and work responsibilities.
How First Descents Helps
Programs run by First Descents use a combination of skills development, challenging adventures, and forging connections with peers in the same boat.
“Experience the healing power of adventure.”
Run the rapids in San Marcos. Bike the Florida Keys. Climb the Cascade Mountains
Over the years, First Descents programs have proven their worth. According to a University of Michigan study conducted in 2015, First Descents participants experience a reconnection to their bodies, feel more resilient, and regain confidence in their physical abilities.
100% of participants report increased ability to cope with cancer and its effects.
99% of participants want to stay involved in FD programs.
Participants experiencing depression post-program dropped by 10%.
Who Can Use First Descents Services?
First Descents programs are for individuals ages 18-39, diagnosed at age 15 or older.
Lodging, food, gear, and activities during programs are free.
First Descents also awards travel scholarships to anyone unable to afford transportation to program locations.
An onsite medic is present during all adventure programs to provide individualized care to participants.
Emergency response plans explicitly tailored to program sites are also in place.
First Descents additionally ensures quality attention and care by not exceeding 15 participants in a single venture.
Impact and Future Plans
First Descents figures now boast more than 1,500 unique experiences taking place annually.
Plus the organization’s mission and goals continue to evolve.
In 2018, First Descents launched a pilot program for multiple sclerosis (MS) that now offers rock climbing and whitewater rafting adventures to young adults impacted by MS.
Interest is high for what FD has to offer, but they can’t accommodate everybody, and there’s a waitlist!
The organization holds many fundraising events—from climbathons and marathons, to annual balls—that help them grow and expand their reach.
Dirty water is the culprit behind the diseases that kill more people every year than all forms of violence put together, including war.
What’s more disheartening is that 43 percent of those deaths are children under the age of five.
One child dies every two minutes from drinking contaminated water—that’s nearly 900 children lost daily to something completely preventable— and one of the many reasons why One ATTA Time strives to increase global distribution of their life-changing water filter kits.
One ATA Time is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides solutions to empower local leaders with education and water filters, who are then in charge of delivering these water filter kits throughout their communities.
There are 800 million people in the world that live without access to clean drinking water.
Providing a water filter can help solve this problem.
Each One ATTA Time water filter removes 100 percent of the harmful contaminants (such as bacteria, protozoa, and cysts) that cause water-borne illnesses.
The filters last 30-40 years and produce 1 million gallons of water in a lifetime.
This means that just one purification system from One ATTA Time provides an entire generation within a community with continuous access to clean water!
It started with one child.
Following an eye-opening trip in August of 2013 to visit Bryan, his sponsored child in El Salvador, Sean Kappauf felt inspired to do more.
As he spent time with Bryan and his mother, he learned that it was common for children in Bryan’s community to have intestinal worms due to unsanitary drinking water.
After his visit, Sean returned home motivated to enact positive change.
In February of 2014, he brought back a team to El Salvador to train young local leaders on how to maintain and distribute 50 water filtration devices to homes in need.
The trip was successful: The children’s health improved and entire communities thrived.
Sean then decided that his leadership training and providing water filters to areas in need could have a lasting impact worldwide, sparking the birth of One ATTA Time in 2014.
The California-based non-profit now travels the globe, distributing water filter kits to families residing in places like Mexico, Costa Rica, and Kenya.”
We work in Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Vietnam, Uganda, and do disaster relief work in the United States.
1. Clean Water for Small Villages at Pennies a Day
One ATTA Time outfits communities with made-in-the-USA, EPA-tested and approved Sawyer water filters, which provide the fastest, easiest, and most cost-efficient way to produce pure potable water at the highest filtration rates.
Just one filtration system supplies small villages with clean water for only a few cents a day.
ATTA kits include everything needed to transform any sanitary, plastic bucket or container into a filtration system. You don’t have to dig wells, use sand filters, or rely on purification chemicals.
No need for batteries or plugging into an outlet; gravity is the only external force required.
Long-lasting and self-sustainable, easy maintenance also extends the life expectancy of filters. Kits come with a syringe that flushes and unclogs the system when needed.
2. Natural Disaster Relief That’s Better for the Environment
One ATTA Time’s efforts empower global communities lacking clean water sources but also reduces the need to ship bottled water to areas affected by natural catastrophes.
One ATTA Time’s latest partnership provides the residents of Paradise, California with safe, decontaminated water sources following the aftermath of the state’s deadliest wildfire.
The non-profit has also provided access to clean water in response to:
Hurricane Harvey in Texas
Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico
Flooded, rural parts of Kauai, Hawaii’s North Shore
In addition to providing a continuous supply of purified water for drinking, the bucket system also generates water for:
Plus many other everyday tasks.
It might be difficult to believe, but one of the most preventable and easily treatable diseases, diarrhea, is also one of the leading causes of death nationwide.
One ATTA Time has ongoing projects in seven locations to decrease this threat and hopes to meet the following goals for 2019:
El Salvador: provide 500 filters to rural and coastal communities affected by the 90 percent of contaminated surface water bodies that cover the country, which helps fight.
Uganda: provide 1,000 filters to locals in South Uganda to reduce sickness related to the 75 percent of diseases linked to unclean waters and unsanitary living conditions.
Colombia: provide 1,500 filters to areas in the northern and southeast parts of the country; nearly one in four people do not have clean water to drink in these rural areas.
Vietnam: provide 2,000 filters to more people living in rural communities, who face one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in East Asia.
To date, One ATTA Time has distributed 10,000 water filters across 7 countries.
Safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, and proper hygiene play a significant role in averting preventable diseases (and subsequent issues like dehydration, high infant- and child mortality rates, and intestinal parasites) from occurring in the first place.
Your donation contribution through Giving Assistant to One ATTA Time helps provides communities in need with access to one of life’s basic necessities: clean water.
Scenario: Last year, Middletown Animal Rescue joined Classy, enabling them to power individual, peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising campaigns for the first time.
That holiday giving season, around a dozen of their local community volunteers launched personal, online fundraising campaigns to benefit the animal rescue.
Over the next few weeks, they shared their campaigns with their friends and family, ultimately raising an average of $250 per volunteer by year’s end.
But it was Sarah, a high school student, who broke the record.
By sharing her campaign and asking her social network to shop online through Giving Assistant, in addition to making direct donations towards her P2P campaign, this animal-lover raised over $300. That’s an extra $50 over the average amount raised per participant that would go to purchase food, shelter, and loving families for more of Middletown’s displaced pet population.
Sarah’s secret to her big fundraising win? Microdonations: individual donations that average less than $10 each. (If you were thinking her secret was Giving Assistant, you’re still a little bit right!)
The 3 Superpowers of Microdonations
Microdonations are small, good things that “add up” (as is our mantra here) in big, meaningful ways.
Not only do they provide nonprofits a viable (often significant) long-term financial boost, but they also empower communities, making it possible for more people to give and inspiring them to give together.
Superpower #1: Accessibility
While not everyone can make big, direct donations, almost anyone can “give small,” which enables, encourages, and empowers more people to give. Leading to…
Superpower #2: Engagement
One of the top reasons people say they don’t donate to nonprofits is because they feel like they can’t give enough for the donation to actually matter.
This perspective changes, however, when donors believe that others are making small donations along with them.
Countless Giving Assistant user interviews have shown us that these nonprofit supporters are more inspired to give when they know others are giving along with them, because they’re more confident those small donations they’re able to afford will, in fact, add up to something meaningful.
Superpower #3: Awareness
And what do you get when micro-givers believe that giving collectively is the key ingredient in making microdonations meaningful?
Sharing. Conversations. Communication. Increased awareness of your cause. Nonprofits’ giving communities—and their action communities—grow, as more people feel empowered by their giving, regardless of the size of those gifts.
And when it comes to microdonations, the more the merrier.
Putting it Together: P2P Fundraising, Classy, and Giving Assistant
Giving Assistant is just one tool you have in your arsenal that makes it easier for your P2P campaigners to capture those microdonations and boost their fundraising, engagement, and awareness efforts for you.
Even more importantly, while your nonprofit’s bottom line undoubtedly benefits from the fundraising boost these microdonations provide, it’s also empowering for your campaigners. The more they raise, the more proud and confident they feel. And the more confident they feel, the more they’re inspired to help lead your mission within their communities.
Once set up, your campaigners can invite their friends and family to contribute to their fundraiser by joining Giving Assistant, shopping, and making their cash back microdonations, in addition to continuing to make their direct donations—an incredibly easy ask for your campaigners.
On average, P2P fundraisers see as much as a 20% boost in donations when they invite their communities to use Giving Assistant, in addition to contributing their normal, direct donations.