Fundraising Dos and Don’ts

Are you leading or assisting with a fundraiser? Here’s a few pointers:


  • Accept your volunteer job with the right attitude. Share your enthusiasm for an organization or cause dear to you; don’t take the job because your ego needs attention.
  • Welcome every volunteer. More people working on an event will generate greater buzz.
  • Encourage personalized auction items. Everyone has one skill or hobby they enjoy sharing like cooking, gardening, photography or party planning. Patrons bid enthusiastically on “special” one-of-a-kind items and experiences they might not otherwise have access to (the chance to run the Zamboni at the local ice rink or sit on the bench with local high school teams, for example).
  • Say “thank you.” Say it often and at the end of every conversation about the event. Send “thank-you” notes. Patronize retail donors and thank them. Acknowledge even the smallest contributions of time or other resources by anyone. If people feel appreciated, they will continue to work toward the event’s success.
  • Attract attention to the live auction with an entertaining (hopefully professional) auctioneer and a good sound system. Focus attention on silent auction items with great displays.


  • Do all the work yourself. An inverse ratio governs fundraisers; the more tasks the chairperson does, the less money the event earns. Delegate, share the opportunity to get involved, compliment your volunteers’ efforts, and your profits will blossom.
  • Ask just your friends to help. Reach out to and learn about volunteers from other social circles. The more community you build, the more money you’ll earn.
  • Use multiple venues or labor-intensive setups. That means skip the needlessly complicated (and expensive) invitations that attempt to accommodate every guest’s dinner preference. Don’t start the party in one location and require guests to drive to a new venue.
  • Make your event difficult to attend. Patrons don’t want to travel far or work hard to come to a party. Hold your event at a location close to home, with plenty of parking, restroom facilities and easy access to food and drink. Avoid formal attire and sit-down dinners that require people to organize a group.
  • Forget to have fun. Your attitude fuels your event. If you enjoy yourself during the planning and party, so will those around you. When volunteers, donors and guests have fun, money flows.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in NorthShore magazine, March 2005.

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