Advocacy campaigns are often months, if not years, long endeavors, and ensuring you have the funds to keep your campaign going will require running numerous fundraisers. To attract more attention to your cause and raise funds, many nonprofits will host a variety of fundraising events to fund their advocacy campaign.
However, the right fundraising event for one nonprofit may not fit your organization’s unique goals. From choosing a venue and recruiting volunteers, to setting up an event page and creating marketing materials, hosting an event can take a significant amount of time and dedication, so be sure that your nonprofit is hosting the right event before getting too far into planning.
To help your nonprofit brainstorm potential events, this article will explore five popular event types and provide tips for ensuring each is successful. The events we’ll dive into include:
- 5K Races
- Speeches and Lectures
- Community Gatherings
Some of the tips in this guide will be specific to the event type, while others will apply to multiple types of events, such as being sure to research your audience ahead of time or adding a peer-to-peer component to your event to help drive attendance. As you consider these tips, take your nonprofit’s resources and campaign goals into account to craft an event strategy that fits your organization. Let’s get started.
1. 5K Races
When choosing what event to run, first take your target audience into account. For nonprofits with communities interested in staying fit, a 5K fundraising event has the potential to raise funds, spread awareness, and promote exercise in your community.
There are several ways to monetize your 5K. For instance, participants can pay a registration fee to enter, or your nonprofit can turn the event into a pledge fundraiser, where participants encourage their friends and family to donate based on their performance in the 5K. Additionally, here are a few other ways to raise funds at your event:
- Sell merchandise. At your event, set up a merchandise table and sell various branded items such as baseball caps, water bottles, t-shirts, and anything else that would be useful for participants or spectators to have.
- Add a peer-to-peer component. As mentioned, adding a peer-to-peer component to your event can help drive attendance beforehand. In the months leading up to your 5K, recruit volunteers to help fundraise and promote your event on your nonprofit’s behalf. These volunteers will set up personal campaign pages where they can tell their story about what your cause means to them and give their friends and family the choice to donate through their loved one’s giving page.
- Leverage volunteer grants. Your 5K will likely need several volunteers to help out, and your nonprofit can benefit even more from their generous support by leveraging volunteer grants. Volunteer grants are donations made by your volunteers’ employers after they have worked a certain number of hours at your organization. After your event, help your volunteers look up their eligibility for a volunteer grant.
Whichever monetization strategy you choose, ensure that your event registration page is clear about what participants will need to pay for when they first sign up. For example, if your nonprofit chooses to charge a registration fee for entering, make sure the payment process is as streamlined as possible.
Auctions are often more complicated fundraisers, as the teams running them will need to procure a variety of valuable items for guests to bid on. However, they also have a high potential return on investment, encourage your nonprofit to leverage and forge relationships with sponsors, and provide strong marketing opportunities.
For instance, when your procurement team obtains a high-value item, you’ll be able to generate excitement for your auction more easily than other fundraisers by sharing photos of the item and promising other similar prizes. While your supporters believe in and want to help your campaign, the additional incentive of earning a prize can significantly increase your fundraiser’s earnings and even attract new attendees outside your usual community of support who are primarily interested in winning an auction item.
You can streamline your auction’s bidding process and make your event more flexible for virtual participants by taking it online. Doing so will require investing in auction software, but can allow you to run virtual and hybrid auctions that last several days, providing guests with more time to wrack up bids on high-value items.
3. Speeches and Lectures
If your nonprofit is interested in hosting a fundraiser that will also help educate supporters about your campaign’s key issues, consider launching a series of speeches and lectures. Before choosing this type of event, ensure you have several strong, informed speakers who would be willing to host a presentation on your nonprofit’s behalf. After all, a trained presenter can make your lectures memorable and engaging opportunities while a more lackluster one may make attending your event feel more like a chore than something to look forward to.
Additionally, consider what format you will use for your lectures. For instance, an in-person workshop can give supporters the chance to talk one-on-one with subject matter experts on key issues related to your campaign, while a virtual or hybrid event may not provide as much interaction but can open your event up to a much wider audience.
For each lecture, with your presenter’s agreement, your nonprofit can record the speech and later use it as an educational resource. This can create another fundraising opportunity as your nonprofit creates a video library of presentations, which you can then sell supporters access to later on.
Galas can range wildly in their scale, fundraising potential, and formality, making them a flexible event type for nonprofit advocacy campaigns. On one end of the spectrum, your nonprofit can host a highly formal gala with plates costing upward of hundreds of dollars per guest, while on the other, you can also host a casual event that’s open to everyone in your community.
One of the benefits of galas is that they give your team the opportunity to socialize one-on-one with attendees. This means your nonprofit’s staff can build face-to-face connections with attendees from important major donors to general supporters interested in potentially taking action on your advocacy campaign’s behalf.
To drive registrations, use a multi-channel marketing approach by promoting your gala on social media and by email in addition to sending out physical invitations in the mail. This approach can build up brand recognition across multiple platforms, while also leveraging direct mail’s ability to make your gala feel more special and formal by sending physical personalized invitations.
Galas also have a high potential for conversions after the event’s end. Reach out to all attendees after the gala to thank them for attending, share highlights of the event, and provide more information about the importance of your campaign. For major supporters, be sure to reach out personally after the event to solidify the relationship your gala helped to kickstart.
5. Community Gatherings
To get the word out to your entire community about your campaign, try hosting a community gathering that will appeal to local supporters and leverage opportunities in your location. For instance, a rural or suburban community might have great success with a field day, while a nonprofit located in a more urban area may have better luck hosting a series of games that can be played in an indoor gymnasium.
Here are a few popular community gathering events that most nonprofits, regardless of location, will likely be able to leverage:
- Restaurant partnerships. Some restaurants have sponsorship programs where they partner with a nonprofit to help raise funds. Essentially, the restaurant will choose a day where a portion of all proceeds will be donated to your nonprofit, and your nonprofit will agree to encourage your supporters to eat out at the restaurant on that day.
- Community days. Work with your community’s event organizers to sign your nonprofit up to participate in annual community days. As these events will likely already have an established audience in your community, they can be a great way to introduce your campaign to many members of your community. Be sure to prepare pamphlets, fliers, and other physical promotional materials to hand out to community members so they can connect with your nonprofit later when they return home.
- Rallies. While all events raise awareness, if you’re interested in compelling your community to take action along with their donations, consider hosting a rally. Rallies will need large spaces, an active group of volunteers to help manage the event, and a series of leaders at your nonprofit who are ready to speak to your community about your campaign.
As your local community will likely be your core group of supporters, especially if you are running a locally based community advocacy campaign, consider hosting multiple community events throughout your campaign to keep local support strong.
Fundraising events bring your community together to help you raise funds, while also having a few hours of fun in celebration of your cause. Leverage these opportunities to encourage supporters to engage with your advocacy efforts, while also earning needed funding to help your campaign find success.