4 Friendraising Events to Plan for 2023

Did you know that you can throw an event for your nonprofit that has NOTHING to do with asking for money…but everything to do with creating a space for your guests to align more deeply with your mission?


Its true!


Not all events are fundraising events. In fact, it’s very difficult to combine something that is both educational and inspirational capturing the attention of new eyes and ears about what your organization does with the powerful space needed to activate the generosity needed to expand that mission of yours.


There is a great opportunity to plan events that are solely created with the idea of making total strangers or friends of those who already support you want to learn more about your impact and set the table for them to be superfans in the future.


I lovingly call them: Friendraisers.


A Friendraising event is one that really focuses on building excitement, sharing stories of success and impact, and inspiring those in attendance to ask the question “how can I help?”


But, what sort of events are these? What do they look like? How to you implement them in an already packed schedule of things to do at your nonprofit?


Great questions!


Before we get into the list of ways you can create an event that attracts new individuals a couple of caveats.


1. Make sure you have a purpose in planning an event. You and your leadership team need to be on the same page on your “why.” Needing additional names of those who you are connected to in the community, or to showcase what your organization does to influencers, leaders or business owners is a great reason. Checking a box because you think you need to fill your calendar sure isn’t a good one.


2. Planning an event just to have an event (or God forbid because “everyone else is doing it”) is not at all a good use of your time. No matter what that board member who was invited to a thing a few year’s back, but can’t remember who it was that invited them or what it was for says – using resources to plan an event isn’t really a great idea to only keep up with the Jones’s.


3. Create a follow up plan for all these super cool people you meet. Putting effort into a wonderful event that attracts awesome people who are curious about what you do will go to waste without meaningful connections after they take time out of their day to spend it with you and your nonprofit. Prepare for a series of gratitude notes and way to evaluate who you need to chat with further about what your organization does, and how they can get more information, help with your future needs, or give you names of other folks who would be interested in learning more!


4. If you don’t have the time to plan an event. Don’t force it. Your employees and volunteers will be stretched to the limit and cause burnout galore.


5. If you NEED to make time for it – well, a great time management tool might be right up your alley. Good thing we know someone who wrote a book (and other great resources!) to help with that very problem!


OK! On to inspiring you with a few Ideas for Friendraising events you can use to attract more supporters, donors and cheerleaders for your nonprofit!


1. Behind-the-Scenes Tour


One of the great mysteries that donors have, is “how the hell does that nonprofit work?” and sometimes more revealing is after SEEING how your organization functions – and where – they often say “I can’t believe you can do all this good from this place.”


Now, it’s not like we as nonprofits are working in Chinese iPhone factory-esque conditions, but it’s rare to have a small nonprofit working in a luxury office building. Most likely you’re running programming, administration, fundraising and marketing from the same space – and one of the best ways to have your potential supporters understand the intricate and chaotic world of your services and impact is to pull back the curtain on your operations


And a behind the scenes tour is just the fix.


Having leadership involved in presenting what you do, what impact you make and perhaps opening up the event to a bit of Q&A, there is a real transparency that helps make what you do a little less confusing to those who might be interested in supporting your work. It’s a great non-technical way to present your story, with an up close and personal look at the boots on the ground programming and getting an opportunity to build excitement for what you do to those who might not know!


Logistically? Snacks, drinks and handouts to those in attendance. A quick agenda, and the importance of collecting additional information from your guests so you can follow up with them and ask how they liked the experience, answer any additional questions, and start building rapport with new potential cheerleaders for you mission.


2. Program Speed Dating


Similar to the Open House and Behind the scenes tour is to really dive into the WHAT your organization does with WHO helps make it happen.


A great way to do accomplish this creatively is by planning a Program Speed Dating event – where potential supporters or community members get to quickly meet those who are on the front lines of your nonprofit every day to learn form those leading programs and what impact they make, needs they have, and stories of success and challenges.


No, it’s not like the Bachelor in Paradise (though, if you’re creative enough, I bet this theme could be really hilariously done!) where you are recruiting single adults to be matched with others.


BUT, it’s a great way to match volunteers, potential donors and leaders in the community with the exact program that aligns with their own values and wants to make a difference.


For organizations who do a LOT of things, this is a great way to pace quickly the introductions of staff members putting in a ton of work, recognize those who get their hands dirty on your programs every day but don’t get the spotlight enough, and involve your board, leadership team and other individuals who make your nonprofit run well.


Logistics? A CLEAR agenda, enough time for explanations, a few refreshments, and your call to action being a list ways each attendee can connect after the event to learn more about specific things that interest them.


This way, you know so much more about the potential new supporters as they have already self identified the kind of things they like about your organization so your follow up is so easy and personal…without the hard work of investigating right out of the gate!


3. Animal De-Stress Day


Ever had a bad time snuggling an animal?


Yeah me neither.


In fact, never trust anyone who says petting a puppy doesn’t do anything for them. That’s a sure sign of someone you want nothing to do with.


However, for those majority of humans out there that are looking to find a unique experience with an awesome organization, try an Animal De-Stress Day event!


Animal de-stress days give your supporters an unforgettable, cuddly experience, while also partnering with local rescue or advocacy organizations to promote adoptions and forever homes for our furry friends in the community.


In a world where there are a LOT of options to attend a LOT of things, having an opportunity to attend something different and unique is where you can turn heads in a crowded space of special events.


Now, as much as this is wonderful for the partners you bring in to help facilitate adoptions and awareness for other groups, your goal here is to set the mood from potential supporters of a relaxed atmosphere to talk to them about how you too make the community better.


The object is attention to get them in, but your goal is to have them leave with a better understanding of what you do. All while being VERY obvious you know how to have fun.


Logistics? Partnerships with your local animal shelter, trainers and volunteers on staff and strict instructions on how to pet, play and involve a group of folks with animals, and a short agenda for the very short attention span folks will have when seeing adorable animals.


Another option? Try an organized pet play date for potential supporters at a local dog park or indoor facility…or a complimentary educational training program as part of your strategy to get super cool humans in a room together!


4. Online or In Person Classes


It seems like everyone is a lifelong learner now.


And instead of recommending your community the newest business fad of scaling a business, or reaching back to the old school but somehow new school gross-guru courses of teaching your dad things a rich dad suggests they do, try creating an in person or online course…on what YOUR organization does!


This is a great way to have a live – or pre-recorded and evergreen – course to teach more about what impact you have on the community, and how complicated or in depth your reach is to those you serve. It might be a poverty simulation, a class on how to detect self harm thoughts from your friends and family, or on ways to stretch a budget and find affordable housing.


Whatever you do, teaching others about it in a course or class takes on a level of education that goes above an beyond the neatly designed flyer you produce to give away. It’s personal, it involves your leadership team and staff, and as a bonus, what a great way to reuse the content to on board NEW volunteers or employees as part of their onboarding process!


There are countless FREE sites that can host your course or class, as well as awesome opportunities to collect data and personal information of potential supporters too as they register!


Promote online, invite to a webinar, and educate that public!


Logistics include creating an agenda, syllabus, certificate of completion, and actions that those attending can take with their new knowledge. And what a great way to show off what you do in a familiar, but marketed different way completely.


There are countless other events you could throw – family board game or karaoke nights, community carnivals, yoga classes, those sip & paint events, and anything else that’s a good excuse to grab a glass of wine, or coffee and show up for a good time. But know that fundraising in a situation like these is a bit of a challenge.


But not making friends.


You can do that for sure.


And friends want to learn more about what their new friends do. And this opens the door to conversations galore about what they can do to get involved, help promote and eventually donate to a cause they really like…because they experienced it in a fun, different and VERY purposeful kinda way.


What are YOUR favorite events to throw to get folks interested in what you do?!


I’d LOVE to hear them!


-Patrick