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14 Tricks or Treats to Make Your Fundraising Event Amazing

Posted by Ashley Shaw on 10/27/16 7:00 AM


Planning a fundraising event can be scary. Things pop up unexpectedly. You never know what is around the corner. Voices are always in your head playing on your deepest insecurities. Monsters and zombies won’t leave you alone.

Wait? Did I say planning a fundraiser? I meant Halloween. Halloween can be scary. Though looking back, everything I said, with the possible exception of monsters and zombies, is true for planning a fundraising event too.

Whether you are planning for Halloween or for a fundraising event, you shouldn’t let your fears overwhelm you. There are ways to get through this time safely, without having a heart attack, and while still making sure everyone has a good time while raising funds for your amazing nonprofit.

7 Fundraising Event Tricks and Tips You Should Be Following

Even if you no longer go trick or treating yourself, you probably remember the safety rules that are shared with kids year after year. But did you realize that many of those rules are things you should still be following today?

But now, instead of hoping to get some candy, you should be using these special tricks to best ensure your fundraiser is reaching its donation targets.

To prove my theory, here are eight Halloween safety tips you probably already know, along with a little trick for how you can use them to throw the best fundraising event possible:

1.    Know Which Houses Have the Best Candy: Be Prepared.

When I used to go trick or treating, I knew which houses were the most generous versus which ones were going to give me fruit (which is fine the rest of the year, but let’s be honest, it’s not what I was looking for on Halloween.) And you can bet that any good trick or treater does this. Otherwise, they’ll just be left with the junk no one else wants. This, of course, meant that we had to do some serious preparation before we even left the house.

If you want your fundraising event to be a success, then you need to be just as prepared.

  • Figure out where the donors most likely to give big are hanging out, and communicate to them about your event through the channels they are most likely to hear.
  • Make sure you plan everything out – don’t forget important details. Use guides and checklists to help ensure your preparation level.
  • Have sounding boards and teams. When you act in a silo, you lose out on everyone else’s ideas and insights. You might forget something that someone else would have remembered. When a team is involved, you are less likely to miss anything big.

2.    Have the Coolest Costume: Follow Event Planners.


Safety experts will tell you that the most important part of your costume is how well it can be seen. But all the cool kids will tell you that the most important part is how awesome and unique it is.

If you want to hang with the “cool kids,” then you want your event to be unique and incredible. And to do that, look to the other “cool kids” for inspiration and ideas. Professional event planners may not know as much as you about fundraising, but they know how to host an event that people want to attend.

Follow them on social media or keep up with their blogs for event planning lessons that you can adapt to your fundraising event.

For starters, here are some big names in the event planning industry.

3.    Don’t Eat Unwrapped Candy: Do Your Research.

If you know nothing else about trick or treating safety, then you probably know you should never eat unwrapped candy. That’s safety tip 101. You should throw it away because you don’t know enough about it – did someone do something to it? Is it safe? How old is it? Etc.

When you are planning your fundraising event, the same rule applies. If you don’t know enough about it, then you should probably pass. This means things like vendors, volunteers, planners, venues, technology, auctioneers, or any other outside source you may be using.

Maybe a venue looks great, but the owners have a history of double booking or losing reservations. Maybe the nice auctioneer you hired is just as likely to show up drunk as he is to miss the event entirely.

Don’t take chances because you failed to do a little easy research:

  • Do background checks.
  • Read reviews.
  • Ask people you know who have used them.
  • Look at industry publications for good recommendations.
  • Make personal connections with your third party help.

4.    Always Go Out With a Group: Socialize Your Fundraising Event.


This one is easy: if you want to have more fun and stay safe on Halloween, you never trick or treat alone.

When you are planning your fundraising event, stick to that same lesson: socialize your event. Create a hashtag, advertise your event on your preferred social media platforms, and encourage your employees, volunteers, third parties, donors, guests, friends, family, etc., to spread the word too.

5.    Remember the Frights Aren’t Real: Expect the Unexpected.

If a witch were to pop up out of nowhere on March 25, you’d likely be frightened. However, the same thing can happen on October 31, and it just doesn’t get you the same way. That is because it’s the time of year when you actually expect to be accosted by ghosts and goblins.

If you expect the unexpected at your fundraising event, then you won’t be surprised when it happens. Prepare for the worst, and you are much more likely to get the best. But if the worst does happen, it isn’t all that scary because you were expecting it and know how to handle it.

6.    Stay in Well-Lit Areas: Use Technology to Your Benefit.

Lights and phones make it possible for kids to safely wander from house to house without being kidnapped or run over. That’s why we should all be thankful for technology.

Technology isn’t just for Halloween, though, obviously. And planning a fundraising event is yet another place it is super useful.

Think about all the places fundraising technology can help you with your event:

  • It opens up bidding early and to remote places so that more people can be a part of your fundraising auction.
  • It gives you real time insight into how close you are to your target donation goals.
  • It makes communicating your event a lot simpler.

Now clearly, you are reading this right now on a website owned by a company selling you nonprofit tech, so you could say we are a little biased. However, that doesn’t change the truth: technology is a necessary part of making your fundraiser a success.

7.    Don’t Talk to Strangers: Communication and Networking Are Key.


Don’t talk to strangers: a lesson that doesn’t go away just because it is Halloween. It’s dangerous to go to strangers, and so it must be avoided.

While it is not dangerous per se for you to go to strangers when you are hosting a fundraising event, it still isn’t always that smart.

People who know you and what you are about are much more likely to want to give money. So you should make sure you get your name out there:

Network and communicate the goals and mission of your nonprofit. Make sure you know your intended supporters and, more importantly, that they know you. Then, they are much more likely to take out their wallets.  

7 Event Planning Lessons That Will Make Your Event a Real Treat for Your Guests

Even if you and your kids are no longer trick or treating yourselves, there is a good chance you have kids coming to your door. I don’t know about you, but to me, there is a small thrill every time I make these kids happy.

In order to be the house people want to trick or treat at, though, there are a lot of things you have to do to be welcoming. The same can be said of your fundraising event.

So here are eight lessons I’ve learned about becoming the go-to Halloween destination and how you can use those lessons to give your guests a treat that makes them want to keep coming back year-after-year (and hopefully make a lot of donations):

1.    Don’t Give Out Toothbrushes: Make Your Event Fun.


I mentioned this already, but Halloween isn’t the time I want to find fruit or toothbrushes in my candy bag. There is, of course, a time and place for those too – just not on Halloween.

If you want to really wow the guests at your fundraising event, then make sure you aren’t giving out toothbrushes when they are expecting sweets. A good fundraising event isn’t a dry, conference (unless that’s what your potential donors enjoy.) It’s fun, while also educating attendees about a meaningful charity they should want to support.

  • Pick a unique and fun theme.
  • Auction off items or experiences that people want.
  • When making speeches or creating collateral for the fundraising event, make sure you put in facts and figures that are likely to have people pulling out their checkbooks, while not overwhelming them with the ones that they care less about.

2.    Chocolate Is King: People Love a Good Goodie Bag.

Everybody knows that you can’t go wrong with chocolate, so if you want to please, just grab a bag of snickers.

The same can be said about gift bags or party favors: offering a small token thank you gift for the people that attended your event is never a bad idea. It doesn’t need to be expensive – but try to make it fit your theme.

If you can’t think of anything on your own, there are a lot of good ideas on the web.

3.    Know Who’s Likely to Knock on Your Door: Plan Your Event with Your Guests in Mind.

Know Who Is Attending

If you were to look up what candy is the most popular, you’d see that the answer depends on location. Your fundraising event is the same – what is going to work for you will depend on your potential donors. If the people who most support your cause like fancy galas and black tie events, then you probably don’t want to host a rodeo. Similarly, if your main supporters hate dressing up like the plague but love to hit the golf course, then you’d probably do better with a charity golf tournament than a fancy ball.

4.    Don’t Just Leave Out a Bucket of Candy: Be Involved.

Everybody knows that if you just leave a bucket of candy beside your door, then the first few kids will take it all, leaving nothing left for the later arrivals. The best way to ensure you are the house to trick or treat at is to actually take the time to hand out candy yourself.

If you want your fundraising event to be the fundraiser to donate to, then you need to be involved.

  • Go to the event.
  • Network.
  • Show people why they should support your charity.
  • Maybe even bid on items if appropriate.

5.    Leave on the Porch Light: Make Things Easy.

Porch Light

Kids are taught to only go to the houses that have lights on – this is not just a safety thing. They assume that if you don’t have your light on, you aren’t interested in their visit. So if you want to make it easy for kids to come to you, just flip on the switch.

At your fundraising event, you also want to make things as easy as possible for your guests.

  • If you are using technology, make sure you have people showing guests how to use it.
  • If you are having an auction, make sure they know when and where to bid.
  • If you are having a charity contest, make sure they know how to vote.

The easier it is, the more likely they are to show up and participate.

6.    Make Sure You Know the Day and Time: Schedule Your Event for When Works Best for Your Guests.

In some places, Halloween – well, trick or treating – isn’t always done on October 31. If the holiday falls on a school night, a lot of communities will schedule trick or treating for the weekend before or after. Similarly, they will set the hours for the kids. This makes sure the most amount of kids are able to attend at a more appropriate hour for them.

When you are picking a time and date for your event, make sure you also know what is best for your guests.

What is your most likely donor group like? If they are big sports enthusiasts who love TV, then you probably don’t want to schedule an event on Super Bowl Sunday. If they tend to have young kids, then you might want to skip a school night when they are trying to get the kids situated for the night.

7.    Wear a Costume: Don’t Forget to Have Fun Too!


This one might just be the most important thing you’ll read today: don’t forget to have fun! You worked hard, and you should enjoy your success – if only just a little. Besides, when the kids knock on the door and see the candy giver is also dressed up, it only makes it more fun for everyone. At your fundraising event, you want your guests to see you having fun. That will increase their enjoyment as well.

Key Takeaway

Halloween doesn’t have to be all spooks and scares. It can also be about seeing adorable children safely dress up and get candy. And even though planning your fundraising event can seem stressful and overwhelming at times, it doesn’t have to be.

Just use my Halloween lessons to make sure that at the end of the night, you aren’t scared of your results. Instead, you can focus on the great people who dressed up and gave money to your nonprofit.

Do you have an upcoming fundraising event that can benefit from online bidding software? GiveSmart can get you up and running in as little as 12 hours. Call us at 855.322.4483 or schedule a demo now!

Topics: Uncategorized, Tips and How To's

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