6 types of events to elevate your fundraising

A fundraiser can be a great way for your nonprofit to raise money and expand your reach. But if you haven’t thrown one before, where do you begin?

It can be tempting to start by brainstorming a theme for an evening event and calling it a gala. But our experience at The Cause Collaborative tells us that there are many different kinds of events that can engage the people you want to reach, raise money for your programs, and tell your story so more people care. The only limit is creativity, and we have plenty of that.

Here are six ideas to get you started:

1. Cooking/Baking Challenge

A delicious way to raise some money! Bring a few chefs together under one roof and give them a cooking challenge, then let guests sample and vote on their favorite. The Greater Rochester Region is home to many talented executive chefs and pastry chefs, and an event like this can tap into the markets they reach, therefore expanding your own reach and growing your audience. You could go smaller and feature amateur chefs, or bigger and secure celebrity chefs for this experience. Either way, everyone loves an opportunity to try new food!

2. Professional Networking Series

Be the source of connections your potential donors are looking for. Develop a series of networking events that are open to professionals in the area and offer a discounted rate for the full series. Make the events worth the price of admission by bringing in local experts to speak on a topic, offer tabling opportunities to their companies/organizations, or share data or information with them (like the contact list of attendees for post-event conversations). Partnering with another organization might be a good opportunity to build your relationship while reaching more people!

3. Wine Walk or Pub Crawl

An untapped opportunity in the Rochester area (no pun intended). The craft beverage scene has been booming for a while now. Consumers are demanding more and the industry is giving it to them. So why not jump on that train and develop a fundraising event out of it? Coordinate an evening with a few local restaurants/bars with craft cocktails, or wineries or breweries that are in close proximity to each other to develop specials for registrants. Registrants will pay one price to get a sample at each location — no need for cash exchange during the event. You can also order fun hats, lanyards, or wristbands to help the group stay identified to event leads and venues. An alternative to that would be developing a passport for guests to get “stamped” at each location.

4. Art Opening or Auction

The Neighborhood of the Arts isn’t the only spot in Rochester with artistic talents. Coordinate with one or multiple local art exhibits to have your organization be the benefactor of opening night. For a small donation to your organization, people can be a part of the debut of beautiful works of art. A percentage of any art sold that night can go to supporting your programs. Another opportunity would be to host an art exhibit at a non-traditional venue. Find a popular location that doesn’t typically sell artwork to be the venue of your art show. This would bring in different markets and connect you with a new audience.

5. Corporate Craving Club

A twist on the traditional corporate dress-down day. Find a corporate partner that is interested in supporting your organization and work with them to develop a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly food-driven incentive club. For a low cash investment, an employee can pay to take part in “Bagel Club” (or a different type food) at the office. The company would be responsible for securing the food every week or month and collecting dues from each employee. Once the company reserves the amount that they will need to cover the cost of food, they write a check to your organization for the remaining funds as a donation. Everyone loves it when there’s breakfast in the office!

6. Obstacle Course/Fitness Challenge

Fitness challenges are all the rage, so why not host one to benefit your organization? Whether your challenge includes mud or not, there are two routes you can take: 1) Partner with an established company that hosts a challenge and see if your organization can be a benefactor; or 2) Get in the trenches yourself and make your own competition. There are pros and cons to both options, but either is sure to increase your exposure!

Put Your Mission First

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking outside the box for your nonprofit’s next fundraising event. But one thing to always keep in your mind is to make your event matter. Make sure your event is unmistakably yours and speaks to the importance of your organization. Your event isn’t just a chance to raise funds — it’s an opportunity to tell your story to a new audience.

Wanna brainstorm some other non-traditional event concepts? Email Meg at meg@thecausecollab.org and let’s put our heads together!

Meg LindsayEvent Experiences