While it may seem daunting to host a fundraising event, remember that your event doesn’t have to be over the top or perfect to have an impact. Fundraising events are an important part of growing your nonprofit organization. Events help build relationships with your current donors as well as raise awareness of your cause and grow your donor base. Events can be as simple or elaborate as your time and budget allow. When they are tailored to your nonprofit, they prove to be a vital component to increasing donor engagement.
What does a successful event look like? Let’s take a look at the folks at Creative Care for Reaching Independence (CCRI) and how they plan their TableScapes event. We’ll see what we can learn from them to create a successful and unique fundraising event.
Development and Communications Director Anna Larson says, “Tablescapes is our annual fundraiser that you could equate to our gala. We are not super fancy, so we don't like to call it a gala, but it really is our gala.” TableScapes is an event where local designers create unique table designs. The event features a meal, silent auction, raffle, and more. CCRI has held Tablescapes since 2014 and has grown from 9 to 31 tables since its start.
CCRI serves a diverse group of people with diverse backgrounds and needs. With a mission to enhance and enrich the lives and learning of people with disabilities, they provide care and support for people with a variety of abilities. Their TableScapes event shows the beauty of that diversity. Volunteers sign up to decorate a table for the event. It isn’t fancy and they don’t expect anyone to be skilled at design. They want their volunteers to put their own touches on the table.
The tables don’t need to be perfect to be beautiful—just like the people CCRI serves.
It is just the perfect metaphor for the people we support because the people we support all have different needs and need different services or different types of support. And that is exactly why we love that event so much. because it just perfectly match what we do.
-Anna Larson, CCRI
By focusing on what makes CCRI unique at their Tablescapes event, donors can experience the value of CCRI’s mission. They see directly the beauty of the individual and what loving effort can accomplish.
They also showed their mission in how they adapted during Covid. During Covid CCRI opted to have a virtual gala, where they introduced a silent auction to the event. The following year they had a hybrid gala, and they realized that keeping the online silent auction improved accessibility to those who were unable to physically attend the event. They were able to be included and participate, which hits right to the heart of CCRI’s mission!
Brainstorm what makes your organization unique. It can be easy to think about the specific projects or services you provide, but it’s important to ask:
These foundational pieces that make your nonprofit who they are offer value in planning events.
Now, think about how you can show those unique aspects of your nonprofit within the context of an event. If your organization serves children, then maybe you add more elements of whimsy or theme your event around a children’s game. Perhaps your organization focuses on the accessibility of music education. What are ways you could incorporate access to or even include experiences centered around music within your event?
Events provide opportunities to involve donors in your community and increase their buy-in. The Tablescapes event serves as a way to get more community participation. It isn’t just asking donors to give more of their money but provides a point of connection and deepens relationships. But also, it’s fun and creative. It lets volunteers showcase a bit of their personality and feel involved in your nonprofit.
Brainstorm a fun creative way that you can include volunteers in your event. Is there a way donors can contribute, see the direct fruit of their labor, and also show off a talent they have?
How can you show your donors that they matter, and add value to your nonprofit?
Once your event takes place, remember to show volunteers and those served within the community on your social media pages. It’s a great way to say thank you and show your appreciation.
First, each Tablescapes event centers on a major fundraising project. Participants and donors get to see the direct impact their donations will have on the community.
TableScapes 2022 focused on raising funds to build a house for Buck, David, Joel, and Gary. These four men have lived together for years and are like family to one another. Due to changing needs and safety concerns, they needed a new house specifically designed to serve their unique needs. CCRI did a wonderful job of showing donors the impact that their donations will have on these four men.
Second, CCRI uses pictures from their events on their social media pages. Events also provide an opportunity to get great photos to share on social media. You’re able to humanize your nonprofit and show the faces putting in the work to change your community, as well as those who are being served.
Third, CCRI makes time to write thank yous to their donors. Handwritten, personalized thank yous allow you to tell donors the impact that they specifically are having on your organization. You’re able to show your genuine appreciation, and it is another way to show donor impact.
Anna Larson from CCRI shared how this is a priority for their nonprofit after Tablescapes. They have a team of four who on top of their other responsibilities also manage the fundraising efforts. Each person prioritizes time to write thank you cards for each donor. They also invite board members to join in the efforts by writing personalized thank yous to donors they know personally.
Brainstorm ways that you can show the impact your donors will have on their community by giving to your event.
Remember that events don’t have to be over the top to make a difference. They are a great way to grow relationships with your donors. They let you to connect in a way that can show off your nonprofit’s mission and grow excitement in your community. By using them as a touchpoint your donors are reminded of how their donations are being used to change their community.
Ready to grow your donor engagement with an event? DonorDock helps you do simple event management. If you're looking for a more robust option, OneCause has features like Online auctions, table settings, and more. And, OneCause natively integrates with DonorDock!