12 Tips for Creative Fundraising

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Every fundraiser—ever—is an opportunity to get creative.

Your biggest spenders (supporters) have likely been attending fundraisers for years and have seen the “same old thing”—year after year—which can be fun.

However, creating “new” fun experiences for your faithful supporters brings with it a potential increase in funds raised for your cause/organization and a encourages a return to your annual event next year, as well as serving as something fun for first-time fundraiser attendees.

While certainly not an exhaustive list, here are a few ideas—and some best practices—to explore when planning your next fundraiser event at the Fox Theatre.

Menus – People love food! Share your menu!

  • Create a PDF, image, or graphic of the evening’s menu or menu items to share in your email marketing, social media marketing, on your event’s website, etc.
  • Use your menu to tell a story by building a menu around your event’s theme. Share your menu creativity in your marketing efforts.

Unique Badges – Making name badges special can be an ice-breaker, helping guests to get to know each other, as well as getting each other excited about the auction!

  • Allow Guests to offer their “Nickname” for their badges.
  • Allow guests to pick from a selection of designs, during the registration process.
  • Make badges a “coupon” to use at one of your sponsor’s business.
  • Make badges a folded map to the Fox Theatre: Arcade, Egyptian Ballroom, Grand Salon & Terrace, Auditorium, Landmarks Lounge, Box Office (w/QR Code to information about the spaces and an option to buy tickets to a show or event).

Engage Bidders Throughout Event – Fundraising should be a social event. It’s not necessarily a networking event, so offer some help to get bidders excited about bidding. Get out from behind the auction tables!

  • Celebrity look alikes who encourage bidding
  • Team members from the organization engaging and helping with questions, but not engaging in lengthy conversations.
  • Mimes…they definitely won’t “talk” too long
  • Strategically placed “Did you know?” flip boards sharing information about the cause that’s being supported.

Bidding Sheets – These offer many possibilities!

  • Add a “jump to” line—a color coded line that a bidder can use to jump the lower bids, creating a new starting bid (of course they have to pay, if that bid wins!). This can accelerate bidding.
  • Add a “buy now” line. Bidders who bid this amount have just won (purchased) that auction item!
  • Prominently display the organization’s fundraising goal on the bid sheet.
  • List a “donate now” QR Code allowing bidders to contribute an extra amount to the fundraising goal, independent of bidding.
  • ALWAYS have your logo on bidding sheets!

Signage on Silent Auction Tables – Not everyone grabs a program when they come in and not everyone has read the website before they arrive. Make sure all guests know how much time they have to bid (list closing times on each sign). And remind them to bid frequently!

  • For two-dimensional signs, make them double-sided (unless placed against a wall—but try to make it possible to walk around tables).
  • Use color balloons for rolling closing times of auction tables. Green closes in 10 minutes; Yellow closes 10 minutes later; and Red closes 10 minutes later and concludes the Silent Auction. Communicate frequently during your silent auction what the colors mean.

Theme Your Auction Tables – Visual cues are important…and they motivate! Elevate them so they can be seen from across the room.

  • Use an elegant mannequin for “Jewelry & Fashion.
  • Frame a Map (double-sided) for “Travel”.
  • Use a GIANT stuffed animal for “Children’s Toys”.
  • A full-sized basketball hoop for “Sports”.

Photo Ops – People love seeing themselves in photos—good photos, that is. The possibilities are endless!

  • Use a social media photo booth that auto-populates your event’s hashtag.
  • Use a social wall (moderated, depending on the audience). A social wall can be two stories or two strategically placed Internet-enabled large monitors. Remember to use your event’s hashtag.
  • If emailing digital photos, provide your contact information and hashtags, as well as a link to a donation page.

Show Last Year’s Winners! – Either with signage at the event or in your pre-event marketing, show photos and/or video of the fun last year’s auction winners had! (Get their permission, of course.)

  • Photos with the items they won
  • Photos of them enjoying what they won
  • Testimonials from auction winners

Vary Auction Formats (and perks) – There’s a LOT of approaches to auctions!

  • Live auction!
  • Silent auction.
  • Raffle a prize or do a “50/50 raffle” (buyer gets 50% and charity gets 50%).
  • Showcase auction items online…generate excitement!
  • Pre-event bidding (onlilne).
  • Post-Event Rewards – If any or all of your sponsors offer discounts, offer a post-event “Show Your Ticket for 15% Off”, or similar reward, for attending. Remember to add an expiration date, if needed.

Sell a Signature Cocktail (with a raffle!)

  • Make it irresistible!
  • Each purchase earns a ticket for a drawing!
  • The winner receives a bottle from the beverage sponsor!

Video Marketing – Word-of-Mouth Marketing is King, but video is also strong!

  • Share video from last year’s event.
  • Create and share videos that show what contributions are going toward.
  • Share sponsor videos – “We’re proud to be a sponsor. Thank you for supporting (YOUR EVENT)!
  • Host a video contest to use in marketing efforts!

Sell Tickets! – Ever been to an event and wanted to buy a membership or tickets to an upcoming show or event at that venue? I have.

  • Sell tickets to next year’s event (at a discount).
  • Sell memberships to the hosting venue (a perk for them!).
  • Sell tickets to the hosting venue (a perk for them!).
  • Sell tickets (and provide information) to other events at that venue taking place throughout the year.

If your fundraising event needs a complete overhaul and you can do it, that’s fantastic! If you need a complete overhaul, but it’s not in the budget or available volunteer hours just aren’t there, then make a few high-impact changes. Don’t miss the opportunity to make changes because you don’t think you can…you can!


  • Don’t make the volume so loud that guests can’t engage in conversations. Take breaks away from the microphone.
  • ALWAYS have a post-event follow-up with event staff to discuss what worked and what didn’t—you’ll want these notes to review when you begin planning next year’s event!
  • In addition to thanking your volunteers for their time and other contributions, ask your volunteers for feedback about the event, what they thought worked and didn’t work. They may have seen something you didn’t.
  • Do all your follow-up (thank yous, surveys, emailed images, etc.) in a timely manner. Attendees always appreciate promptness—and it creates positive word-of-mouth!

Remember to have fun! Yes, you’re working…probably working very hard for the cause for which you’re raising funds, but you gotta make it fun. Start planning early and always do something to make this year’s event better than last year’s!

Your AFFAIRS at the FOX consultant would be happy to share some fantastic ideas with you. Call us and let’s start planning your next awesome fundraiser at the Fox Theatre!

Travis S. Taylor

Travis S. Taylor






Director of Communications
Affairs to Remember Caterers

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