Planning a Fundraiser? What You Need to Know

By January 14, 2016Sylvia's Blog

fundraising goalHow many times have you been to a fundraising event where the speakers drag on and the video presentations, if there are any, seem to continue forever?

I know it’s happened to all of us. I’ve emceed and attended enough charitable events to know when one is a success or a bust. I often get asked to emcee and I’m given scripts to read that are detailed, long and basically thank everyone from the president to the janitors.

Well, maybe not really but my point is the biggest problem with most fundraisers: they are long winded and just plain boring.

As part of my new company I want to help change the way fundraisers are put together. If an organization is spending time and money throwing a special event, shouldn’t it reflect the commitment and effort involved? It should be entertaining and brief and leave your guests feeling they not only got their money’s worth but really enjoyed the event. So what’s a charitable organization to do?

Business sketch
1. For starters, keep the program short. Don’t feel like you have to verbally thank all the sponsors, volunteers and people who helped out. I get that you have some high dollar sponsors you feel obligated to acknowledge. But you can eliminate some of this hassle and boredom with monitors that constantly have a rolling screen with the name of the important contributors.
2. Only allow a small number of speakers. They should include, a good emcee, one good spokesperson from the organization and finally a personal testimonial to convince people why this charity is good and why they should donate. And for goodness sake, don’t let these people talk for too long. If you don’t feel you can trust them to keep it short then don’t allow them to talk. Make sure your testimonial has a gripping story to tell. If that person isn’t a great speaker, have your emcee interview them to pull out all the important details and magnify their purpose.
3. If you are going to do a video, keep it short, no more than 2:30-3:00 max. People have short attention spans. Unless the video is incredibly fascinating people will tune out and you’ll lose your audience and their donations. Put it to music add some pictures to bring home the message. Don’t just have what we in the media call a “talking head.” Give it a little window dressing
4. Finally, if it’s on a weeknight, make sure to get everyone out by a decent time.


836b44b6-6b66-4416-b148-5287447b47abEvent production is something I’m really enjoying getting involved with. It requires the same skills I used as a journalist to tell a good story. The speakers, timing and making a connection with your audience is key. It can be the difference between giving your organization’s event a great reputation or filling your potential donors with dread.

Bottom line, you need to raise money. But keep in mind, most of your guests have already spent good money on the tickets, are looking forward to a night out with their friends and prefer to be entertained. So give the people what they want.  Short, entertaining and engaging and you’ll have them looking forward to coming back year after year and maybe even a little more willing to open up their pocketbooks.

What was the best fundraising event you’ve been to in the past year? What was the worst? Let me know.

Sylvia Perez

About Sylvia Perez

Sylvia Perez is an Emmy Award winning broadcast journalist, news and health reporter, and major market anchor. Her expertise in revealing the personal side of headline stories and drawing their impact into “news you can use” viewership is now the foundation of Sylvia Perez Productions, a multi-faceted company specializing in video production and event planning for non-profits.


  • Arley Rodriguez-Harriman says:

    One of the best fund raisers I’ve attended is “Books and Brunch” by the Assistance League Chicagoland West in Hinsdale.

  • Susan Noble says:

    This is so helpful because I plan my own Fundraisers and its a lot of work and I have had both good and bad experiences but am learning. Your points are spot on and I am so glad that you did a post on this Sylvia. My first one in Chicago back in 2013 I did what you said not to do my speakers went on and on that was a lesson learned. I had no idea this was a service you offered would love to speak more about it for next years event. Thanks Sylvia

    • Sylvia Perez Sylvia Perez says:

      Susan, at least you are aware it was wrong. Which means you are unlikely to do it again. You work too hard on putting this event together and it is hard work. So as a result, you want to make sure it is the best it can be and like I said, people will look forward to coming back next year. Good luck. And yes, it’s a service I offer

Web Designer for Sylvia Perez