13 Ways to Maximize Giving at Your Charitable Event

employees with champagne

From galas to auctions to fun runs, there’s no shortage of ways to raise a few dollars for a good cause. But there are also plenty of ways fundraisers can leave money on the table. Here are thirteen brilliant ideas for maximizing the impact of your next charitable event.

champagne glasses heart

Free Champagne

Most charitable gala entrances have an uncanny similarity: trays of flutes, filled with bubbling champagne. The gesture is multi-layered. Guests are greeted with immediate hospitality while burdens are melted from their shoulders and their willingness to, let’s face it, spend more at your silent auction is boosted.

treats on display

Cake Run

Most fundraising dinners offer a multi-course meal in exchange for the price of admission. But dessert? Here lies another opportunity for giving. A “cake run” features a display of various desserts retrieved from one table at a time. A document is placed on each table with spaces for each guest to contribute a dollar amount of their choice, thereby advancing their table’s position in the dessert retrieval process. The table with the most “dessert run” funds gets first to pick, and so on.

blocks spelling sold

Silent Auction

At the center of the Venn diagram of company sponsorships and individual donation lies the silent auction. Brands donate items and guests bid on the chance to take them home. Creative silent auction packages could include a dinner party thrown at a donor’s home, or use of a donor’s boat for a set number of hours.

man holding wine

Wall of Wine

For those looking for a simple way to contribute to your cause, consider a “wall of wine.” Donated bottles are wrapped in gift bags and labeled with playing cards. For a set amount (often $25) guests get to pick a card from a matching deck, then retrieve their corresponding gift bag of wine. No bidding necessary.

roll of tickets


Here’s a riddle: what allows a nonprofit to raise more money than an item is worth, while giving it to the buyer for less than it’s worth? A raffle! Selling tickets for a fraction of the price of a big ticket item will allow another set of would-be donors get in the game at a lower price point.

dollars on gavel

Live Auction

The concept of a live auction is obvious, but maximizing its earnings is more of an art than a science. Among experts’ best advice: don’t talk about “deals,” or you’ll risk getting bidders in the mindset of saving rather than giving. And make sure you have multiple “bid spotters” scattered around the room to spot waving arms. A talented auctioneer’s fees can easily pay for themselves with the expertise they’ll bring to the table. When everyone’s having fun, spending for a good cause gets a little bit easier.

spilled bingo markers

Live Auction Raffle

Here’s a wild twist on the longstanding auction concept. Sell a set of high priced raffle tickets (around $100-$150) in exchange for a shot at winning their choice of any live auction item. If your top dollar item is worth $5,000, selling 100 raffle tickets will net you double its value and open the live auction fun to the masses.

man popping balloon

Balloon Pop

Fill a side room with colorful (but not transparent) balloons. Fill a select few with gift certificates, then sell “pops” to your guests. Perhaps $20 gets you one pop, and $50 gets you three. The endeavor can earn more than the value of the certificates, and infuse your evening with a hearty helping of play.

phone saying sponsor


Amidst everything up for grabs at a fundraising event is something intangible yet highly valuable: the eyes of your guests. Brands will pay top dollar for the attention of high net worth individuals. Sell sponsorships of each aspect of the night. That tray of champagne can be accompanied by a small, logo-printed tent card. And your wall of wine can be presented by a retail brand. “Impressions” are valuable. Don’t let it yours go to waste.

man flipping penny

Heads or Tails

Another live auction twist, “Heads or Tails” is a game that guests must purchase participation in. Wooden nickels are sold for an extra donation. At a designated time in the live action, your auctioneer will ask all participants to stand, after which all participants will flip their coins. Anyone who gets “tails” will sit, round after round, until just one person remains. Their reward? One fabulous prize.

man spelling VIP

VIP Tickets

It’s important that ticket prices open your event to a wide range of attendees. But some guests are perfectly willing to donate more if given the option. With those people in mind, create a special tier of tickets at triple the price of the others. Perhaps they’re treated to a private meet-and-greet with the evening’s keynote speaker or get special parking. You don’t necessarily have to spend more to add value to their evening.

wedding reception decorFund a Need

For some, charitable events can feel odd. Well-heeled people gather in fancy attire in response to the needs of others. As such, some of your guests won’t feel comfortable spending on themselves on a night dedicated to helping others. A “fund a need” wall provides guests will an opportunity to give to a specific cause, like purchasing winter coats for kids or funding a well in a third-world country. Sometimes, raising money for a good cause is as simple as raising money for a good cause.

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