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Which Type of Fundraising Event Is Best for Your Nonprofit?

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Published December 29, 2022 Reading Time: 6 minutes

A wide variety of nonprofits host fundraising events such as galas, golf tournaments, and competitive races to secure contributions and raise awareness for various causes. On the Classy platform, events are the highest-converting campaign type.

Fundraising events can generate significant revenue from new donors for social impact organizations. They often require time to plan and market, so we gathered various types of fundraising ideas to help you create your next event.

Types of Fundraising Events

1. Fun run/walk

Fun runs and walks do not include marathons, half-marathons, 5Ks, or other high-profile races. Fun runs do not require special permits or road closures. For example, this could be an event that uses a community hiking trail. Fun runs and walks are the easiest fundraising campaign events to plan and deliver a high return on investment for organizations of all sizes.

StacheStrong doubled its donation goal for the year with a hybrid 5K walk/run event by pairing a donor-focused fundraising experience and personal stories of impact to remind people why the event was vital to the organization’s mission.

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2. A-thon events

Community events such as walk-a-thons have become an increasingly effective fundraising strategy in the nonprofit community. Whether a nonprofit is hosting a walk-a-thon, golf-a-thon, or a hike-a-thon, these events are a perfect way to:

• Raise awareness of your mission

• Build support within your community

• Increase fundraising

Dollar for dollar, a-thon events incur the fewest costs, which makes them a good option for many nonprofits with small budgets looking to get the most bang for their buck. Large and mid-size nonprofit organizations also see a good return on investment, seeing results that yield low costs per dollar raised.

3. Competition (non-sport)

Instill a sense of competitiveness among your supporters by organizing a competition such as eating, singing, or dancing. Members of the public pay to participate in voting or in the competition itself to raise funds for your cause. Local laws can sometimes hinder a competition, so make sure your competition is cleared before you spend time planning it.

A non-sports competition is another type of fundraising event that incurs fewer costs for nonprofit organizations of all sizes. Non-sports competitions are another easy fundraising event type to plan with the greatest return on investment.

Competitions can be a great way to bring peer-to-peer fundraising to your event. You can have donors share their personalized online fundraising pages with peers to help cover their registration costs and contribute additional donations for your organization.

Did you know? Events with a peer-to-peer element have the highest conversion rate of all Classy campaigns.

4. Fashion Show

Show off new styles in a fashion show fundraiser that gets everyone involved. Not only do people love to walk in fashion shows, but organizations like local boutiques love to see their creations featured in this way. For each model, there’s a passionate family and friend group waiting to see them in action.

Runway for Recovery recently ran a hybrid fundraising fashion show with the help of Classy Live and reached over 1,300 real-time audience members from 13 countries. The organization raised $375,000 during a 2022 runway show to surpass its goal and spread awareness to honor breast cancer patients.

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5. Auction

Auctions are one of the most effective ways to bolster the scope of your event, attract more potential donors, and provide incentives for supporters to spend more money. An auction fundraising event not only gives your guests a reason to open their wallets but also gives them something to do while socializing. Discussing items to be auctioned off gives organizations an easy tie-in to the fundraising component of the event without having to ask for a direct donation in person.

​​You can ask board members for support to gather high-worth auction items from community members or their connections. Mobile bidding functionality can also help enhance the experience for in-person guests. You can easily track bids and motivate attendees to give more through a simplified payment process.

6. Art Exhibit

A charity art show is an opportunity for members of your community to display their talents for a great cause. There are several ways to host an art exhibit. One way is to hold the exhibit as a contest, where local artists showcase their work for a small entry fee in order to be professionally judged, with donated prizes for winners in various categories. Another way is to find artists who are willing to show their work in the interest of selling it for your benefit, giving a percentage of the sale to your organization.

Art exhibits are relatively easy to plan and showcase an opportunity to get your local artist community involved in a good cause.

7. Gala

A nonprofit gala is a large-scale fundraising event that usually includes dinner, dancing, entertainment, and silent auctions or raffles to benefit a cause. It’s a great opportunity to pair with a local restaurant. Because this is typically the biggest event a nonprofit will hold, it requires many resources to pull together. While ticket sales go toward fundraising efforts, most galas sell sponsorships or corporate tables. Others hold a silent auction where you can have a much higher profit if most of the items are donated.

Consider hosting your gala online through a virtual event platform to eliminate the cost of food and beverage (including caterers, waiters, and bartenders), rental fees for the location of the event, transportation, security, parking, and hotel fees for V.I.P. guests.

The average cost per dollar raised by galas is also much higher than other event types such as an a-thon or art exhibition.

African Community Education (ACE) held its annual gala in a hybrid setting for the first time in 2021 and saw about 200% growth year-over-year in the fundraising revenue it brought in. They kept production costs low while reaching more attendees who gave generously to support the cause.

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8. Concert

Benefit concerts aren’t just the celebrity performer-packed events you see on television. Concerts can also be smaller scale, featuring local talent. The benefit is that these performers are more accessible and likely to bring their family and circle of friends to the event. With fundraising software, you can also ask bands to set up team pages and fundraise in the weeks leading up to the show. This way, even their out-of-town supporters who cannot attend will have the opportunity to give.

Concerts can be some of the most fun events to host once everything comes together. Still, they have a very high cost per dollar and substantial upfront costs, making them more suitable for large nonprofits with big budgets and experienced staff. This type of event works best when you can secure entertainment and charge a higher entrance fee.

9. Sporting Event

Many sports teams work with nonprofits to assist with nontraditional fundraising at sporting events. Hot dogs, french fries, soda, and peanuts are arguably the four essentials of every sporting event. You can be a promoter of all four of these treats, plus get donations for your organization by working concession stands at a few of your local teams’ football, baseball, and basketball games.

You can even pair up with local businesses to provide more items like custom t-shirts for guests to purchase. Your organization gets a percentage of what you sell during the day. Sporting events encourage teamwork and allow nonprofits to gain funds in an adrenaline-packed atmosphere.

3 Bonus Fundraising Event Ideas

We have 77 fundraising event ideas to inspire you after you make your way through this list, but here are a few more great ones to dig into:

  1. Host an event centered around raffle tickets to raise money
  2. Bring a real-time fundraising thermometer as a fun way to entice gifts
  3. Turn your charity race into a full series 

Tracking Event Data

No matter what type of event you decide to host, you should always track your data. The numbers will help you gauge the success of the event, improve attendance, and determine how to cut costs for future events. Some metrics that provide important event insights include the total amount of contributions raised, expenses, social media interactions and engagement, registration sources, and the number of attendees for each event.

For larger events with many moving parts, or for recurring events that an organization aims to improve year over year, performance analysis is best managed through a fundraising platform. The reporting tools and dashboards make it less stressful for nonprofits to analyze the performance of their event donation page against their fundraising goal.  It also reduces the number of hours spent doing administrative work.

Simply put, the larger the event and the more staff and volunteers needed to manage it, the more software simplifies the process to ensure the event goes well

Make a Splash at Your Next Fundraising Event

Choose your favorite fundraising event type to reach your goal. Whether you’re hosting a gala, an art exhibit, or a bake sale, there are a few things you can do to increase donations with your fundraising event idea on the day of the event and for years to come:

  • Use fundraising and event software to reduce staff workload by automating common tasks and aggregating data
  • Host your event with an engaging online component to reach attendees you might not have before
  • Plan inspiring events, ensuring attendees leave with an understanding of your organization’s mission and what they can do to help
  • Create a natural follow-up with donors to become part of your recurring giving program and contribute small donations each month leading up to the next event
  • Provide a link to a crowdfunding campaign to collect online donations in your post-event communications
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