Myths about fundraising events

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 them!

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!

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

Myth #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.

#2. Product Fundraising Costs More Than It Makes.

Myth #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 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.

Curious about the best kinds of products to sell at your next fundraising event? Check out Booster’s product fundraising ideas.

#3. You Already Know Enough About Your Donors.

Myth #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.

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.

#4. Mobile Giving Only Works for Large Nonprofits.

Myth #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.

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.

Certain measures also serve to protect organizations (large and small) from fraudulent donors. They do so by authenticating IDs with something called “2-factor authentication.”

Simply put, authentication involves a donor 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.

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

Fundraising myth #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 BidPal’s creative ideas for a new twist on an old favorite.

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

Fundraising myth #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.

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.

An event checklist is a great solution for keeping everything together in one place. 

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.

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!