Learn the truth behind 6 fundraising events debunked.

6 Myths About Fundraising Events Debunked


There are dozens of myths floating around, all across the internet, about fundraising events.

For the most part, there’s not an ounce of truth to any of them. They persist simply because it’s intimidating to venture forth and host a fundraising event.

It takes guts. But if you’re a nonprofit professional, you likely already have gumption to boot.

All of that is just to say that, yes, there may be myths about fundraising events. But we’re here to bust those myths!

Here are the top 6 fundraising event myths laid out:

#1. Crowdfunding is Only for Fun Runs and 5Ks.
#2. Product Fundraising Costs More Than It Makes.
#3. You Already Know Enough About Your Donors.
#4. Mobile Giving Only Works for Large Nonprofits.
#5. You Have to Stick to What’s Worked Before.
#6. You Can “Just Wing” a Fundraising Event.

Rest assured, we’re about to debunk all of them thoroughly!

The first myth about fundraising events is that crowdfunding is only for fun runs and 5Ks.

#1. Crowdfunding is Only for Fun Runs and 5Ks.

If you’ve been around the block at least once, you’ve probably heard about crowdfunding. It’s also often called “peer-to-peer fundraising.”

In essence, crowdfunding involves soliciting donations from an array of supporters. Typically, those supporters are asked by their friends, families, and acquaintances to give via an online donation portal.

You may also have heard that crowdfunding is primarily reserved for 5Ks and fun runs.

The reason that myth is so pervasive is because peer-to-peer fundraising began with events like 5Ks because they were simple and familiar.

But the advent of the internet has opened up hundreds of thousands of doors. These doors have allowed fundraisers of all shapes and sizes to walk through:

  • Development professionals,
  • Weekend fundraisers,
  • Avid advocates,
  • And more.

Through crowdfunding sites, these pros and amateurs alike have the ability to raise money from a wide variety of donors.

They can fund their dreams, and those dreams don’t necessarily have to be tied to a fun run or a 5K.

The truth is: Crowdfunding platforms can be used to raise money for any cause at any time— regardless of whether the event is a 5K or not.

Need help finding a great crowdfunding site? Check out Double the Donation’s 12 Event Fundraising Tools for Nonprofit Fundraising.

The second myth about fundraising events is that sell products costs more money than it makes.

#2. Product Fundraising Costs More Than It Makes.

For some reason, there’s a commonly held belief that product fundraising (i.e. selling T-shirts or other items to raise money and awareness for a cause) costs more money than it makes.

Okay, this myth probably comes from a very logical place. There are, no doubt, fundraising professionals out there who have preemptively ordered far too many T-shirts (or ice scrapers, or keychain calculators, or whatever they’re hoping to sell).

They’ve been forced to scramble and try to sell as many as they can after the fundraising event is over.

When no one is willing to take home those final few shirts, the fundraisers give up and use them to clean their cars — knowing full-well that their organization has lost money on these products.

But with the proper planning and use of resources like Fundly’s The Ultimate Fundraising Event Checklist: 17 Actionable Steps, it doesn’t have to be like that.

There are product fundraising companies out there that allow your nonprofit to set up a simple crowdfunding page, one that:

  • Lets donors order on an individual basis,
  • Eliminates the need to pre-order or keep inventory,
  • And allows your nonprofit to track progress easily.

Often, you can also set up a way for your supporters to give directly to the campaign in lieu of purchasing whatever product you’re selling for your fundraising event.

When your supporters are able to order exactly what they want ahead of time, everyone wins.

No more excess T-shirts. No more pounds of beef jerky left over. Crowdfunding is the way to go.

The truth is: If you’re savvy, you never have to lose money on a product fundraiser for your fundraising event ever again.

For more ways to raise money during your event, check out Fundly’s list of top tools for nonprofits.

The third myth about fundraising events is that you already know enough about your donors.

#3. You Already Know Enough About Your Donors.

You may or may not have heard the often-touted nonprofit adage, “80% of all donations come from only 20% of donors.”

There are variations on this same theme. Some say the split is 90-10. Others insist that it’s 88-12.

Whatever the case, unlike the rest of the items on this list: it’s not a myth.

It’s true that the majority of your funding probably comes from the wealthy and willing minority of your supporters.

But how would you ever know who those beneficent angels are?

The secret to major gift fundraising success is to learn as much as possible about your event attendees and donors. An exciting benefit of events is that they tend to increase and diversify your donor pool, but that also means you’ll have more prospect data to sort through.

For example, take auction events. With a built-in return-on-donation in the form of an auction item, you’re bound to encourage participation from new donors. And, most auctions account for a variety of giving levels, accommodating a multitude of donor types.

An organization handling follow ups after a big gala and auction is primed to have plenty of new names and donor details to sort through. It would be in that organization’s best interest to sift through the donor data and pluck out the best future giving prospects.

And of course, one of the best ways to glean this kind of information is to conduct prospect research.

You’ll want to look into:

  • Wealth markers, such as:
    • Real estate holdings,
    • Business affiliations,
    • And political giving.
  • Philanthropic indicators, such as:
    • Past giving to your nonprofit,
    • Donations to other organizations,
    • And any other nonprofit involvement.

There are several ways to go about conducting prospect research.

You can take the DIY approach and try to find all of that useful info on your own. Alternatively, you can enlist the help of a professional prospect researcher.

If neither of those options appeals to you, you can also use a screening company to help conduct the research on your event attendees.

The end goal in each case is to find out as much as you can about each of your event attendees, ultimately to see if there are any major gift donors among them.

Long story short: you probably don’t know as much about your supporters as you think you do.

The truth is: You may be surprised to find that your one-time $20 contributor is actually capable (and willing) to give $2,000.

The fourth myth for fundraising events is that mobile fundraising only works for large nonprofits.

#4. Mobile Giving Only Works for Large Nonprofits.

This myth has been around for almost as long as mobile fundraising itself. Again, the origins of this tall tale make perfect sense.

Once upon a time, there were limited options when it came to running a mobile fundraising campaign.

Your nonprofit could go with one of just a couple of providers, and those providers had some pretty stringent standards.

And more often than not, those standards excluded smaller, newer nonprofits.

Luckily, some next-generation mobile fundraising providers came along and changed the game.

Now, regardless of the size of your nonprofit, you can take advantage of mobile giving to raise money for your cause at all of your events.

Text giving has become even more accessible for organizations of all sizes because of its affordable price and quick turnaround for receiving funds.

Back when text-to-give was just starting, organizations had to wait an upwards of 90 days before receiving money. This was often the case because text donations were added to the donor’s cell phone bill and then given to the organization.

Luckily, standards have changed, and now text-to-give platforms allow nonprofits to access funds within a couple of business days. That way, small and large organizations can start putting their valuable donations to good use right away.

Additionally, text-to-give platforms have even more features to make data tracking and stewardship more effective for organizations through capabilities like:

  • CRM integrations.
  • Automated follow-up text messages.
  • Unique shortcodes.

Whether you have a small or large team, these features will make their jobs easier to manage so that they can get back to what matters most: developing long-lasting relationships with supporters.

In addition to text-to-give and mobile donation forms, organizations—big and small—can use a from of mobile giving during charity auctions. Most auction software includes features that allow event guests to bid directly on their phones in a process called mobile bidding.

Mobile bidding can help your organization save time because you won’t have to organize and maintain bid sheets, your charity auction software will keep track of all the bids and make sure the right items (or experiences) go home with the correct donors.

For donors, mobile bidding offers more convenience with capabilities like automatic bidding to a set amount and notifications when they’ve have been outbid. By giving your donors in-the-moment notifications about the status of an item, you can drive up bids to maximize your fundraising potential.

Not only do these industry-leading providers offer the chance to raise a great deal of donations, but they also guarantee the kind of security that has been unprecedented.

Modern mobile giving software keeps donor data at organizations of all sizes safe and secure by authenticating your donor’s identity using two-factor authentication.

Simply put, authentication involves donors providing at least two forms of identification (i.e. a phone number and a subsequent email address) to prove that they’re who they say they are and that they’re not robots or scammers.

Suffice it to say that mobile giving is a secure option all-around—and one that your nonprofit can look into, regardless of your size.

The truth is: Mobile fundraising used to be extremely difficult for smaller nonprofits to break into. But times have changed, and now just about any nonprofit organization can use mobile giving to raise funds at their events.

The fifth myth about fundraising events is to stick with what has worked before.

#5. You Have to Stick to What’s Worked Before.

This myth has gained traction among nonprofit professionals simply because switching things up can be scary.

We assume that once something has worked for us, we should continue to repeat the past for fear that changing one small thing could have disastrous implications.

But just as FDR so wisely pointed out, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

It’s the fear that holds us back from creating something truly extraordinary.

How do you spice up a classic fundraiser, though?

There are really 5 main ways to make any event significantly better:

  • Try crowdfunding in conjunction with your event. The extra boost that a crowdfunding page adds to your campaign and to your individual events is definitely worth looking into.
  • Put two events together in the same space. They say that two heads are better than one. The same is true of events. Try hosting a raffle at your charity auction! Or plan a golf-tournament and sell T-shirts at the same time!
  • Add a theme to make it a little more festive. Who doesn’t love a good theme? You can stick to favorites like “Under the Sea,” or you can come up with your own off-the-wall theme to keep donors engaged.
  • Make it a viral hit with an internet-worthy stunt. Okay, it doesn’t necessarily have to “go viral.” But your fundraising event should have some sort of focal point — something that would draw attention and make it unique, like a flashmob!
  • Use social media before, during, and afterward. Registering an #EventHashtag is a great way to spruce up any event. Get people talking about your event on social media before it happens, then again as it’s going on, and you’ll be able to see the glowing response afterward and track that engagement.

The truth is: Switching things up from time to time can actually be rejuvenating. Breathe some new life into your fundraising events with the five tips listed above.

Interested in a couple more great fundraising event tips? Take a look at OneCause’s creative ideas for a new twist on an old favorite.

The last myth about fundraising events is that you can just wing your event.

#6. You Can “Just Wing” Fundraising Events.

A fundraising event isn’t like a term paper. You can’t sit down and knock it out the night before it’s due (or, rather, the night before donors are expected to show up!).

It just doesn’t work that way.

First of all, there are issues of fundraising compliance that you have to concern yourself with as a professional fundraiser.

You’ll have to figure out how to register your event, when to register it, and how and where to renew your charitable solicitation license (if it’s applicable). It’s a lot to keep up with. (Fortunately, there are ways to make the stress of compliance manageable.)

But as far as everything else is concerned, there are definitely concrete steps your organization will have to take in order to pull off a (successful) fundraising event.

Take this article’s advice:

“Proper event planning is important, and having your event planned out and finalized long before the big day will help significantly to reduce the stress and headaches as you approach judgement day. Remember: something will always go wrong, and you will need to fix it. However, by simply planning appropriately before the event, you minimize problem-variables and will have a much simpler (and more importantly, calmer) time dealing with any troubles as they happen, rather than allowing your problems to become overwhelming under deadline.”

True, you can host an event without much planning, but it won’t be nearly as successful or effective as it could have been.

The best fundraising event planners start their planning period at least six to eight months ahead of time. They also quite often enlist the help of an event checklist or guide. Check out Neon’s Fundraising Event Planning: The Step By Step Guide for help!

You can cross things off of that list as you go. It’s just one more way to keep yourself organized — and to prevent the “just winging it” phenomenon.

In addition to using a checklist, your nonprofit can use event software to stay organized while planning your event. Let’s say you want to host a charity auction. Auctions require items to auction off, a venue, and volunteers to assist guests—all components that need to be accomplished before the event.

With nonprofit software, you can manage and organize these many elements to help you orchestrate a successful event. You can also use event software to help your organization:

  • Manage RSVPs and ticketing.
  • Plan seating and table assignments.
  • Promote your event.

If you plan out these details, your event will encounter fewer challenges on the big day, thus creating a much more enjoyable experience for guests. When everything is in order, you can focus on more important things during the event, such as engaging with supporters. For more information about how tools can help plan your event, check out OneCause’s event fundraising software.

However you choose to juggle all of the intricate moving pieces that comprise a fundraising event, it’s important to recognize that no one can pull it all together without a little elbow grease and a lot of planning.

If anyone tells you differently, they’re not telling you the truth.

The truth is: Fundraising events take careful planning if you want them to be successful. Allot at least six months ahead of time to get all of your ducks in a row.

It’s easy to see why all of these myths popped up — and why they’ve stuck around for so long.

But after reading this article, you should be able to walk confidently forward with the knowledge that you can plan and pull off the fundraising event of your dreams, no matter what the naysayers try to throw at you!

Additional Resources

Check out our ultimate fundraising event checklist.

The Ultimate Fundraising Event Checklist: 17 Actionable Steps

Need some guidelines for planning your next fundraising event?

We’ll walk you through forming your committees, making a schedule, and more!

Click below to view our ultimate fundraising event checklist!

Take a look at our list of 127 fundraising ideas.

127 Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits and Individuals

Tired of repeating the same, boring fundraisers?

Don’t worry, we’re hear to help! With 127 exciting fundraising ideas from shoe drives to viral video fundraisers to text giving, you’re bound to find something you love!

Check out our ideas for some inspiration!

Check out why your nonprofit shouldn't use Square.

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Square can’t be customized and requires too many steps. Why not simplify the donating process?

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