Don’t Forget to Add a Dessert to Your Fundraising Dinner

Get out your finest threads, spend a few extra minutes in front of the mirror and most importantly, don’t forget the checkbook.

Many nonprofits choose to host fundraising dinners to generate income, recognize important contributors to their organization and build goodwill with the community. Generally, the attendees dine on a nice catered meal while paying per chair or table to celebrate the charity’s accomplishments.

Just like the meal, your fundraising should not stop at the main course. Adding a secondary money-raising aspect to the event, the equivalent of a fundraising dessert, will make it more successful and raise more money for your nonprofit.

There are many choices on what type of additional elements you can add to the event. Let’s explore the options.

Silent Auction

This is the old standby. This option takes a lot of legwork and planning ahead of time. The planning committee will need to scour the community for donations of physical items that you’ll auction off during the evening. Try to get a good variety of items (both in type and price)  so something will appeal to every attendee. Also, the more items you have, the more money you’ll raise and the more engaged your attendees will feel. Fundraising Authority provides a great overview on how to run a successful silent auction.

But the auctions don’t always have to be silent. In fact, for some of the bigger ticket items (vacation packages, sport tickets, cars) it could be fun for a live auction to add some drama and suspense to the evening. The key is to recruit a good auctioneer. Sometimes it can be worth it to pay for a professional rather than just having the fast-talker in your office step up.

Service Donation

This is the cousin of the silent auction. It is similar in outcome, but the items aren’t physical items. Instead, they’re services and goods that are performed by volunteers. For example, a person would wash someone’s car once a month for a year. Or someone could offer a free night of babysitting. The possibilities are as vast as the talents as skills of the people involved with your organization. While this doesn’t require as much advance work as a silent auction, it requires more follow-though. It’s easy to say you’ll offer dog walking for a week, but life happens and distractions arise. Another option is to combine these two options into a super auction.

Value Donation

Instead of worrying about collecting items or signing people up to do tasks, you could go take the more straight-forward approach and ask people for another donation. While some might balk at this ideas since they are already paying a good sum to be at the event, if you do it right, you’ll get more donations. You could place an envelope on their tables or give them the chance to text and donate.

For example, include donation levels and the impact each will have on your organization. For example, tell the attendees that $50 will provide a program that will reach 10 more children. The more concrete and levels you can provide the more likely that people will provide another donation. The great part about this route is that all of the money goes to help your bottom line. You don’t have to pay for any goods or services and it can all go to operations and programming.

Tailor it To Your NPO

Auctions and donations are great, but there’s more impact if the secondary giving options are tied to your programming. Perhaps you could auction off pictures painted by children involved with your program. If the program is customized to your mission and programming, then you’ll have more success. The takeaway items (and feelings) will mean more to the attendees of your event and they’ll be more likely to come back and keep giving your nonprofit that cherry on top of the oh-so-delicious donation dessert.


Lincoln Arneal

Lincoln Arneal was a Senior Editor at Nonprofit Hub who brought loads of real-world nonprofit experience to the team. He was the past executive director of a nonprofit that provided leadership development to junior high and high school students. He looked to bring the insights from his time forming, developing, and running a nonprofit to help others in their quest to do good. Lincoln also had a legal background and had written for various newspapers (covering high school sports) for the past 15 years. He could be followed on Twitter at @NPLNK.

June 23, 2015

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