Free Fundraising Ideas: The Best Tips and Tools to Plan, Promote, and Manage Your Fundraising Event

Transforming a single idea into a successful fundraiser with great attendance is already a feat to be proud of. Doing so with little to no funding, though, is an epic undertaking. Whether it’s a matter of personal pride or a shoestring budget that has you searching for free fundraising tools and methods, the more you know, the better. Check out our comprehensive list of tips and tricks below.

Organization and inspiration

Regardless of your budget, one of the first questions you should ask yourself when organizing a fundraiser is, “Who’s with me?” Even if you think your cause is too niche to rally the support of local companies, it’s very unlikely that you’re the only one in your area who cares.  

Identify potential partners, create a simple but polished pitch, and bring them into your circle. You can even make a professional pitch using free presentation templates with Google Slides.

Once your group text is constantly buzzing with alerts from your partners and volunteers, you can break out the shared calendar (Google or one of a million other free apps) to get everyone set on a timetable. This will minimize miscommunications and runaround when organizing the event.

Hopefully, by this step in the planning process, you already have an idea for the fundraiser itself. You can use ticketing software (like Ticketleap!) to open the registration window. Once you have that established, the marketing and promotion fun begins. 

Marketing and promotion

One of the most common pitfalls among fundraiser organizers involves failing to conduct proper market research before structuring and promoting an event. Yes, fundraisers are focused on charitable giving, but it’s still transactional--people still expect something in return (perhaps a delicious meal, or simply a great time). If nobody in your audience likes tacos (somehow), then the five taco vendors at your event are not going to bring in a lot of revenue. To sell a lot of tickets and maximize revenue on the day of the event, you’ll need to study your audience just like a sales professional would.

So how does someone thrust into the role of event planner conduct market research, especially if they’ve never done it before? Don’t be intimidated, it’s not that mysterious. Just hang out where your audience hangs out on social media and forums. Learn about what they like and dislike. Bounce ideas off of them and start conversations focused around the cause you’re supporting. You can also collect demographic information from your event registration and ticket purchasing forms.

Once you have a more acute sense of your audience, you can target them more effectively in your promotional social media posts leading up to the event. Wherever your audience hangs out, post about your event early and often, and always include a link to the event page you created with your ticketing platform. (When you need to keep things short and sweet, use a free URL shortener like Bitly.)

If you’d like to build an even tighter circle of supporters that you can also access after the event (to promote other events), use the email blast feature offered by your ticketing platform.

Event Management

After months of preparation, the big day is finally here. Sometimes, amidst the stress of inevitable delays and complications that occur on the big day, it can be tempting to solve your problems by draining the rest of your budget or even dipping into personal funds. For the savvy and prepared, however, this is usually avoidable.

First and foremost, you can prevent any crises by heading to the venue well ahead of time with your team. Take this opportunity to: 

Check equipment

Assign space for vendors and other participants

Inspect the grounds and parking area

Ensure all proper signage is accounted for (or put it up yourself)

Your list might look a bit different from the one above, but the takeaway here is that anything that can be double checked should be double checked.

When people arrive, you can save on a photographer by appointing that snap-happy friend or volunteer--everyone has one--and running their pictures through free editing software like Pixlr to give them a professional look.

One last helpful tool for event day management: a good old fashioned binder. Before the event, fill it with any important document you could possibly need: instructions for your team, contracts with your venue or caterer, wifi credentials, a printed attendee list, and anything else you’d want to have at your fingertips. Pick a secure but easily accessible spot to stash your binder, and you’ll be ready for anything.

After the event

Phew! After the exhaustion of a successful fundraiser, you deserve to treat yourself, but remember: it’s not over. You still have plenty to do, like cleaning up, following up with and thanking participants, and putting your proceeds to work for your cause.

When it comes to something as physical as taking down a stage, folding up massive tents and picking up wrappers, there’s only one free “tool” that will help you: volunteer muscle. We love our volunteers--make sure that they stick around after the festivities and reward them to thank them for their hard work. The choice is yours: pizza, beer, or whatever they most enjoy.

The email blast feature on your ticketing platform is awesome for following up with participants. You can prepare post-event emails months ahead of time, and you can update them with statistics from the event before sending. This is also a great opportunity to reward top donors and promote future events.

Setting up a fundraiser on a shoestring budget isn’t as hard as it first sounds if you take advantage of the proper tools and techniques. Keep these close, research some of your own, and take every dollar saved as a victory for your cause.

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