There are endless ways for an organization to raise money, but the two broadest categories are selling products, or hosting an event.
In an event-based fundraiser, the stakes are a little higher. A product-based fundraiser can go one for weeks or months, so if you have a slow day, you can make it up later.
An event-based fundraiser is typically based on a single event, such as a festival or a performance. More often than not, that event is scheduled way ahead of time for one day.
If that one day doesn't work out well, then there's no making it up. If you schedule an outdoor festival extravaganza, and then there's an enormous thunderstorm on that day, you're in trouble.
Even if you have the option of using the same venue for a “rain date”, once the initial day has passed, your attendance on the follow-up day is probably not going to be as great. The momentum has passed.
Nonetheless, a fundraising event can be very successful, and can raise a significant amount of money if done right and approached correctly.
Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Realizing that a single-day event can “wash out” in the event of rain, natural disaster, or some other event to draw interest away, plan ahead for this possibility. Is your event dependent on people spending money at the event? Or are you selling tickets ahead of time?
If you're banking your success on a carnival, for example, where everybody spends money to play games, and you're planning on selling game tickets at the door, then you still have a chance of losing out.
You can, however, change your strategy. Sell books of game tickets ahead of the day of the event. By all means, plan on selling them on the day of the event as well, because you will still get some last-minute attendees, and you'll also have a chance to sell additional tickets to people who have already bought some.
But, if you orchestrate a strong campaign to sell them ahead of time, you'll still have some revenue, even if events outside of your control diminish attendance.
The One – Two Punch
Your fundraising event doesn't have to limit itself to deriving revenue from tickets only. You can combine your special event with a products fundraiser. At your carnival, festival, performance, or coffeehouse, besides charging for attendance, you can also take the opportunity of having lots of supporters in one place, and offer a fundraising product for sale as well.
People there are all in support of your group, and they're all in the mood to spend money. Strike while the iron is hot, and bring out the candy bars.
You can also take a lesson from the county fair. Everybody loves going to the county fair, and everybody pays an admission price. But once you walk into the gates, you know very well that you'll be taking out your wallet several times afterwards. There is cotton candy to buy, games to play, rides to ride, and funny hats to wear.
Regardless of your event, you can still create tables and booths in your venue to expand your fundraising scope. Your main revenue may still come in from ticket sales, but you can still make a secondary stream of revenue from sales of drinks and food (although you must check with your local health department first to see about any licensing requirements).
If the health department does not permit you to sell things like dinners and other cooked items, you can at least sell pre-packaged products and canned drinks without the health department's interference.
Building Up to the Main Event
Most of your money however, will still come from the single event, whatever it may be, and so much of your publicity will revolve around promoting that event and selling advance tickets to it.
Try to get as much publicity as possible, in the form of fliers, announcements, newspaper listings and free radio time.
And if at all possible, try to arrange for a weather-proof event. This isn't always doable, but if you can find a venue that has both indoor and outdoor facilities, that's all the better for you, and if it starts to rain, the show can still go on.