The 10 Worst Fundraising Event Mistakes

Common Fundraising Event Mistakes

It’s party time!

It’s fundraising event season!

And everybody is hard at work with caterers, venues, auctions and you name it.

But what about your guests?

Sometimes in all the hubbub – we forget to worry about our lovely guests who are nice enough to attend! :)

If your guests are NOT enjoying themselves, you just might not see them again.

Then where would you be?

May is Party Month here at Fired-Up Fundraising, and I’m focusing YOUR fabulous fundraising events.

We will be talking about all things related to fundraising events – including auctions, event committees, ROI and financial structure, using social media to promote your events, and most of all – sponsorships.

I’m sharing my own “How to Stage a Highly Profitable Fundraising Event” FREE webinar on Friday April 26, and I hope you can join me. (REGISTER HERE)

AND . . . .

I’ve brought together 5 world-class fundraising experts to share with you their top revenue generating strategies in a new webinar series, just for you and your event team.

Here are some key mistakes I see too often at events:

1.  Fundraising Events With No Clear Objective.

What are the objectives of your event or program at your event?Fundraising Event Mistakes

It’s important to know exactly what you want to accomplish:

  • Fire-up your crowd!
  • Rally the troops.
  • Have some fun.
  • Be entertaining.
  • Touch some hearts.
  • Break some hearts, even.

Without clear objectives, you will probably waste a great opportunity and maybe people’s time.

Your Strategy? Know what you want to accomplish!

2. Fundraising Events With A Dull Endless Program.

grim reaper

The Kiss of Death to an event? A boring program!

The program is wildly important.

That’s when you have your guests’ attention and you can either drive them crazy with boredom or you can inspire them.

Your Strategy?  Create an interesting program!

3. Events With Uncontrollable Speakers.

Everyone’s had the experience of the speaker who would not shut up. Yikes!

Your Strategy? Use an emcee. She/he is in charge of the program, and can control the speakers.

I always authorize my emcees to nicely cut speakers off when they go over time.:)

4. How to Brief Your Speakers Correctly.

My strategy for controlling the program?

I get right in EACH speaker’s face. Right up in front of them. I smile sweetly. And I say with a big smile:  “Cheerful and brief! Yes?”

And they nod and nob.

So what do they do when they get to the podium?

They are usually cheerful and brief. Hurray!

 5. Fundraising Events with Too Large of a Venue.

Fundraising Event Mistakes

If your room is too large, it can make your event seem listless and poorly attended.

Last weekend I attended a huge gala – and unfortunately it was in a vast convention hall (with an awful concrete floor).

The crowd did not fill up the room, and it felt half empty.

If you have a room that is too big, you dissipate any energy of the crowd.

It’s much better to have too many people crowded into a smaller room than too few people to fill up my large room.

Your Strategy? Take a risk with a smaller venue and it will feel like the best party in town!

6. Fundraising Events That Go On Too Late


Don’t let your program put your guests to sleep!

When you go on too late, what happens?

Your guests get tired.

The next day all they remember is how tired they were and how badly they wanted to leave.

Your Strategy:  End the program by 9:30 at the latest.

You will probably see people leaving starting at 9 unless they are having a wonderful time.

7. Unpopular Food Choices at Fundraising Events.

Food can be touchy.

As they become more health-conscious, many affluent  people are more careful about healthy eating. They are also not eating white bread.

I was at an event recently with a friend who didn’t eat red meat – and that’s what they served.

She was stuck and she was NOT happy!
dinner party

Your strategy? Offer choices on the food!

8. Memorials That Turn Into Downers.

Sometimes at events, we have memorials to honor people close to the organization.

Be careful.

Don’t let them turn into sad times that take everyone down.

Be sure to plan something rousing to get everybody happy again.

Your Strategy? Turn the memorial into a clear rallying cry:   “Let’s honor their memory by going out and renewing our commitment!”

9. No Call To Action at Fundraising Events.

EVERY program needs to end with a totally clear call to action.

Not a general one.

Your Strategy? Say something like this:  “We want every single person in this room to go out and do these three things NOW!”

10. Cash Bar at A Plated Dinner.

I am usually fine with cash bars – these are fundraising events anyway.

But what about this:  you pay $100, and sit down for a lovely dinner.

But you have to get up out of your seat, and schlep across the room to buy a $9 glass of wine.

It’s just awkward. Your guests don’t like it.

Your Strategy: Don’t do it.

Bottom Line:

To avoid fundraising event mistakes, consider from your guests’ point of view.

Be a gracious host.

Make it fun for them and they will COME BACK to your next event! : )

Do join me for my free webinar on “How to Create a Highly Profitable Fundraising Event” on Friday April 29. (Register Here)

And also consider joining us for our Highly Profitable Fundraising Events Series coming up in May.

What are YOUR biggest pet peeves with fundraising events?

I bet YOU have some stories to share too! Leave me a comment and tell me about this!