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.