Sunday Market street taken in Frome, Somerset, UK on 6 July 2014

5 Must-Haves to Host Your Next Festival Fundraiser

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The summer and fall are pivotal seasons for in-person fundraising for nonprofits. The warmer weather gets supporters excited to engage with organizations through face-to-face gatherings, like a festival. Plus, many nonprofits prefer to take advantage of the opportunity to host large gatherings at outdoor settings, where they can accommodate hundreds of people. As you plan out the rest of your fundraising events this summer and fall, consider planning a festival fundraiser with the GiveSignup | RunSignup all-in-one platform.  

A festival fundraiser is a way to raise more money and increase brand recognition for your nonprofit, all while allowing a way for your supporters to learn about your mission, donate and fundraise for your organization, and have loads of fun in the process. What distinguishes festivals from other types of fundraising events is their versatility. In one single event, you can host multiple fun games and activities, engaging participants in a variety of ways, and you can manage it all from our all-in-one solution.     

As an example, check out the Chicago Craft Beer Festival. The name already speaks for itself. And besides, who doesn’t love sampling a variety of craft beers on a beautiful day? This particular event is held during a span of three days, with multiple time slots available for each day, giving people more flexibility in when to participate and driving more people to come out for the festivities. In addition to offering several tastings of beer, other activities included the opportunity to listen to live music and enjoy a meal at a local restaurant. 

By now, you might be intrigued and want to host your own festival fundraiser. However, you might be curious to what hosting one entails. We’ve got you covered. Our purpose-built platform provides you with all of the solutions you need to put on the most successful festival your nonprofit has ever had! Although our technology will get you most of the way there, read on to learn the five critical elements of this unique, and growing, type of fundraiser.  

1. A Comfortable Venue

Festival fundraisers usually have a large number of attendees, so you will have to find a venue to accommodate your intended headcount — including attendees, staff and vendors. With the appropriate venue, a festival fundraiser can bring in thousands of people. Keep your options open, and make sure you find a venue that will not only appeal to your attendees, but one that they will be comfortable in. The last thing you want is for your attendees to feel confined into a small space, especially after the pandemic when social distancing was such a critical factor. 

For instance, if you’re hosting a beer festival like the one mentioned above, you’ll likely want to find an outdoor venue to accommodate the number of people you’re looking to have. Plus, the event should be hosted in the summer or fall timeframe while the weather is still warm and enjoyable. 

2. An Attention-Grabbing Theme

What first attracts people to a festival fundraiser is its theme. You’ve probably seen them all: harvest festivals, food festivals, beer festivals, music festivals, craft festivals, you name it. In order to pull off a successful festival, you need to grab people’s attention, and it’s easy to do so with a festival because you have the ability to get super creative with the event. When planning your festival fundraiser, look at the data that you have on hand about your supporters. And then ask yourself: Who are my supporters, and what are their interests? 

One of the greatest perks of a festival is that you can create its theme to reflect anything — time of the year, holidays, important events, fun activities, etc. So, learn what your supporters and their networks are interested in based on their previous engagement, and then have your theme reflect that. That way, it’s an easy draw for your existing supporters to sign up for the event. Plus, if the event is enticing enough, they’ll invite their family and friends to join as well. 

3. Fun Activities

Festivals give your supporters a sense of community and camaraderie, and the activities that your event offers will drive attendees to engage with fellow attendees, as well as with your organization and its sponsors (e.g., selling branded merchandise, encouraging attendees to share photos, etc.). So, once you establish your festival’s theme, you should then brainstorm fun activities to pair with it. And when you conceptualize what types of activities your supporters enjoy — another area where data can be extremely helpful — weave that into your overall event plan. 

Using the example above, when you think of an outdoor beer festival, what other activities would people enjoy? You guessed it: good food and live music. Be intentional and strategic about your festival theme and the activities you include with it. Your attendees will be thankful for your added effort.

4. A Variety of Tickets

Hosting a festival fundraiser and selling tickets goes hand in hand. One can’t function without the other. In order for people to get admission to your exciting event, they need to purchase tickets. And this is where you can get creative with the ticket levels you offer. The Lisa Martz Charity Golf Classic embraced the GSU | RSU platform by offering multiple ticket level types.

Like our customer, the Chicago Craft Beer Festival, you can sell tickets by date and time. Another idea to do is to offer different tickets priced at different values. For example, a $20 ticket gets you admission, a drink and a t-shirt; a $40 ticket gets you admission, two drinks, a t-shirt and a branded beer glass; and a $60 ticket gets you admission, four drinks, a t-shirt, a branded beer glass and a branded tote bag. Plus, once people check into your event, you can also sell additional tickets at a designated booth for other activities (e.g., drinks, food, games, raffles, auctions). 

To ease and quicken the check-in process for your staff and attendees, we highly recommend taking advantage of mobile check-in. GSU | RSU’s Ticket CheckIn App makes it simple and convenient for volunteers to check attendees in. And the app also allows volunteers to manage different ticket types. 

According to our data, more than 26% of attendees bought tickets the week of the event in 2020, which we expect to continue into the future. GSU | RSU makes it easy to keep registration for your festival fundraiser open from the time registration first goes live all the way to event day, especially if you still have available tickets to sell. At your event, post a sign with a QR code that takes attendees to your ticket purchase path, enabling them to buy tickets on their own phones to keep your event touchless and safe. 

5. Sponsors

For any type of event you decide you host, there’ll be a hefty price tag attached to it — especially for festival fundraisers, where you’re bringing hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people together. In order to offset these costs and still bring in much-needed fundraising revenue, many nonprofits look to acquire high-value sponsors for their events. 

A good rule of thumb for attracting sponsors is by putting together a sponsorship proposal and including all of the sponsorship packages that you’re offering. Your event will bring significant value to potential sponsors — marketing materials, recognition in the community and face time with valued customers — to make their experience worthwhile, so don’t just reach out to the easiest prospects. As a nonprofit, you should think about sponsors on a strategic level, making sure their goals and values align with your own. The last thing you want is to partner with a business that has a bad rep, which could smear your organization and event. This ensures a beneficial partnership for both parties and the opportunity for the partnership to last for years to come.  

Because sponsors play such an important role, driving significant revenue for your event fundraiser, GSU | RSU offers tools to organize, invoice and communicate with sponsors. Plus our tools demonstrate value to sponsors through increased visibility and the ability to track impressions across mediums. 

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