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How to Organize a Successful Paddle Raise for Your Nonprofit


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Published April 24, 2023 Reading Time: 4 minutes

Modern donors want to immerse themselves in the giving experience and take actions that mean something to the causes they care about. Enter the paddle raise. 

If you’re thinking, “Wait, what is a paddle raise,” we’ve got you covered. You might know a paddle raise as a “fund-a-need” or direct appeal, but it’s simply an easy fundraising idea that nonprofits can use to drive direct event donations. 

We’ll dive even deeper into what a paddle raise event is below and the Classy team’s best recommendations for making the most of yours.

What Is a Paddle Raise Event?


A paddle raise event is a type of fundraising auction where supporters pledge certain dollar amounts to an organization, typically for a specific purpose or special appeal. 

You can brand a paddle raise event around a specific initiative or keep it generalized to your overarching mission. Either way, it’s a great way to create a moment of excitement that gives your supporters a direct path to contribute to your cause.

What is the purpose of hosting a paddle raise event?

Paddle raise events fuel excitement and comradery among a group of passionate people who come together around a cause. You might use a paddle raise event to tell your story and ignite action at a time of heightened need or engage your event audience with another way to showcase their passion through a fun addition to the agenda. 

How does a paddle raise auction work?

Your paddle raise auction can be a live, virtual, or hybrid event with options for in-person or online attendance, thanks to modern nonprofit event platforms

During a paddle raise, the auctioneer asks for different donations in varying amounts from the crowd for raffle items. Guests raise their paddles or bid numbers to commit to a gift of that size. The gifts you choose and the timing of your paddle raise is up to you.

What are the benefits of hosting a paddle raise?

Your paddle raise can boost energy to avoid lulls during your fundraising event and unite your community around a shared interest. It’s also a way to spark healthy competition. 

You might even consider positioning it as a team event that calls on each paddle raise as a piece to the larger solution your nonprofit creates with the money you raise. 

How do you organize a paddle raise to reach your fundraising goals?

This is where your creativity comes in. We’ll share some of our favorite tips from nonprofits that hosted paddle raise events through Classy Live, but ultimately you want to think about how to leave a lasting impression to garner continued support following the event. 

Every decision you make will impact the way you make people feel at your event and the way they share that feeling with others when it ends. That’s especially valuable after our Why America Gives report found that 71% of donors are most likely to learn about new causes and charitable giving opportunities from friends and family. 

Top Tips to Plan Your Successful Paddle Raise Event


1. Think About the Virtual Experience

Your paddle raise can become virtual to appeal to your audience, wherever they are. 

Classy Live lets you carry a consistent experience for in-person guests and virtual attendees with mobile bidding. You’ll add your paddle raise auction item to the back end of the event platform with preset donation levels, then have admins add commitments made live to the back end to transition smoothly to the attendee’s cart. 

Virtually, you can host your paddle raise items on a public auction or donation page where guests can make commitments digitally on their mobile devices or laptops. From there, a simple self-checkout process guides them to completion. 

2. Make It Easy to Check in Guests

On the note of seamless experiences for attendees, your check-in process matters. When nonprofit teams host an event in Classy Live, whether virtual or in person, they have full access to a single source of truth for attendee records.

They can update attendee information throughout the event easily and allow attendees to add a credit card right at check-in to make any donations or purchases simpler than ever. 

For organizations using an integrated customer relationship management (CRM) tool, the CRM also updates each attendee record to help you stay in touch after the event. This is key to streamlining your donor management processes and initiatives. 

3. Think Through Payment Experiences

Since you don’t want any barriers to interfere with donations, you’ll need to provide various ways for supporters to give. Classy Live’s card reader solution gives nonprofits a quick way to tap a guest’s credit card and store the information on file for paddle raise commitments, fixed-priced items, or participation in a live or silent auction.

We always recommend adding various payment methods in advance, such as PayPal, Venmo, or other trusted digital wallets. When your donation forms and registration websites offer the options donors prefer, you ensure a completed transaction in just a few clicks.

4. Keep It Simple

Events that include raising paddles come with a lot of considerations, especially when tied to a larger fundraising gala or charity auction. 

Your software can help ease the process of tracking bidder numbers, auction items, paddle numbers, and specific paddle raise items. Let your tech handle the fast-paced activity while you focus on engaging your guests. 

Additional tracking details you can take advantage of include:

  • The type of auction item (silent, fixed price, live, or paddle raise)
  • The title of the item
  • A number for the item
  • The category describing the item
  • A picture of the item
  • The description of the item

5. Increase the Ways You Can Raise Money

Finally, pair your paddle raise with other opportunities when attendees access your auction page. Supporters can place bids or purchase silent auction items, paddle raise items, or fixed-price items. The more opportunities you present to passionate donors, the more you can raise on behalf of your mission through a single event.

Experience Paddle Raise Fundraising on Classy Live

If you’re already thinking about how much your event supporters would love to boost engagement with a new element like a paddle raise, we’re here to help you craft a standout event. Classy Live helps the nonprofit community reach the modern donor without the extra work. 


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