November 9, 2017

The Who, What, When, Why and How of Successful Fundraisers

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The Who, What, When, Why and How of Successful Fundraisers

Successful fundraisers are vital for organizations and schools to fund programs and provide support. However, the idea of putting on a fundraiser can seem daunting if you’ve never done one. Likewise if you want to change how you do them or interject new life into your efforts.

Don’t worry! Here is a look at the who, what, when, why and how of successful fundraisers.


Focus on two groups for the who: your champions and the target audience(s). For champions, successful fundraisers are run by committees with chairpersons connected to the community. The more high-profile people you can get, the better. Note that these folks are usually not the ones involved with the nitty-gritty execution things, but their connections are invaluable. They serve as champions for your cause and get donations rolling in.

For the target audience, you must determine it before setting practically anything about your fundraiser into motion. Examples of target audiences could include parents of high school students, businesspeople or football fans, as long as they have the money to donate.


It seems obvious that you are having a fundraiser. However, it turns out that many fundraisers have goals other than raising money, and sometimes these goals overtake the fundraising. Perhaps your organization is actually seeking publicity more than funds, or maybe it wants to boost a high school’s enrollment numbers.

There’s nothing wrong with having a variety of ideas and goals, but being aware of them lets you balance the various interests and ensure that the fundraising aspect, your what, remains prominent or number one.


A timeline with milestones and deadlines is one of the top areas to pay attention to. However, that isn’t really what “when” means here. Rather, when refers to when people are able to give, and it’s good practice to give them plenty of opportunities.

For example, if the only way you’re raising money is by charging tickets to the fundraising event, you may be unnecessarily limiting yourself. You could also incorporate ideas such as:

  • Soliciting donations for the event from local businesses and philanthropists.
  • Opening a web portal for online contributions.
  • Giving companies the opportunity to sponsor banners.
  • Selling yard signs to individuals and businesses.
  • Holding a silent auction and/or raffle, with prizes donated by businesses.
  • Following up after the event to thank attendees for their support and to build a foundation for future donations.


You must know why you are having a fundraiser before you can decide on your target audience and your champions. The more specific you can get, the better your chances of a successful fundraiser are. Say that your fundraiser is to raise $10,000 for the high school basketball team. That’s too vague. Instead, determine why the team needs that money. How long has it been since players had new uniforms? What kind of condition is the gym in? Does the team have the funds for a great end-of-the-season banquet?

After asking these sorts of questions, you’re able to build a well-defined campaign that sets out specific goals to help with gym renovations, new uniforms and season banquets.


Budgeting. Sales. Marketing. Practice. Event type. There’s a lot that goes into the “how” of a fundraiser, and people who successfully fundraise never lose sight of the fact that the “how” can’t overtake the “why.” It’s easy to forget about details here and there when you plan and for a fundraiser to leave you in about the same financial shape as you were before.

Identify early on how you will measure whether the fundraiser was successful. If the goal for high school basketball team fundraising is $10,000 and expenses should be about $2,000, does that mean you should aim to raise $12,000 altogether?

The bottom line is that there are many ways to have a successful fundraiser. On the other hand, it takes only one lapse in just one area — who, what, when, where, why or how — for a campaign to fail.

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