Fundraising Events: 5 Key Ways to Engage Your Community


Guest article by Kevin Penney

Community engagement is an extremely important part of what smaller nonprofits and local chapters of larger organizations do.

Meaningfully engaging with your community and constituents is essential to your fundraising success, and it’s likely central to your mission! Your donors and volunteers support your work because they believe in the value that you can offer the community.

Use Community Service Projects to Engage

Engaging your stakeholders with community service projects and fundraising events is the perfect way to reinforce your mutually supportive relationships. There are 5 key ways to boost community-wide engagement during your fundraising events:

  1. Conduct unique product fundraising
  2. Raise awareness and offer incentives
  3. Develop comprehensive campaigns
  4. Find partners for your volunteer programs
  5. Host major community-based events

Think of these as the building blocks of effective community engagement. By mixing and matching strategies that suit your nonprofit’s exact goals, you can reach new levels of success in your fundraising and engagement efforts!

Conduct Unique Product Fundraising

Offering well-designed branded products or apparel is the perfect way to get your attendees excited, raise money during your community events, and promote your group’s image.

Not only will your supporters have a way to show their support of your nonprofit’s work, it’s also easy to offer custom event t-shirts in a number of ways. You might offer your event t-shirts as:

  • Products for purchase at merchandise booths
  • Rewards for early or sizable donations
  • Prizes for contests you hold during your event
  • Merchandise through early online campaigns
  • Using a blend of these methods to offer your fundraising products can be very effective. For instance, giving away a few shirts as contest prizes will catch the attention of other attendees who want to buy their own!

Branded apparel promotes your image and creates a stronger sense of community among your supporters. This strengthened feeling of belonging boosts donor engagement and retention over the years as you build lasting relationships across the community.

The bottom line: Branded product fundraising is a reliable choice for any nonprofit organization because it generates a lot of interest and builds a sense of belonging among supporters.

Raise Awareness and Offer Incentives

Even for the smallest local nonprofit organizations, promoting your fundraising event is absolutely essential to cultivating deeper engagement with the community. The best ways to promote your organization? Raise awareness of your work and invite everyone to get involved.

Choose marketing and promotion methods that let you cast a wide net, reaching larger audiences in shorter amounts of time. You might use:

  • An engaging social media campaign that encourages supporters to share your posts
  • An email campaign targeted to your volunteers, past donors, or current members
  • Local media outlets like papers, online forums, or central bulletin boards
  • Your own website and newsletter to provide more details and background on your work
Engage volunteers

Always be on the lookout for other opportunities to boost your organization’s visibility. A nonprofit fundraising press release can go a long way in a smaller community, but so can directly engaging with community members and promoting your work.

Offering special gifts or incentives in person is a great way to catch the attention of your community members. Organize a booth at a local street festival happening in your city or area, then talk to attendees about your work. Invite them to your next event and hand out incentives to those who sign up for your newsletters.

Swag bags are a foolproof donation incentive. Great swag bag ideas will interest attendees and raise awareness of your organization!

The bottom line: Even when you have a very reliable base of support, always consider promotions and incentives for your events. Growing your audience is never a bad idea!

Develop Comprehensive Campaigns

Engaging your community with a comprehensive fundraising campaign around a specific project is a great way to get broader audiences interested and involved.

Integrating both online and live fundraising strategies will yield the best results. Even if your organization has little experience with online fundraising, it’s easy to get started. Here’s an example scenario:

  1. Your nonprofit is involved in a local project to create a park, raise funds for a library, or collect goods for the underprivledged in your community, for example.
  2. First, find the perfect online fundraising platform. Avoid the dominant crowdfunding options, instead opting for nonprofit-specific tools. Or conduct a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign and enlist key volunteers to help.
  3. Promote your online fundraising campaign to the community, maybe using the methods outlined above!
  4. Organize small events throughout the online campaign to keep donors and volunteers engaged. Small community service projects, fairs, and classes can be great options. Add a competitive element to your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to boost motivation.
  5. Lastly, host a grand finale event for your online campaign to celebrate reaching your goal. Hold a ceremony to give the raised funds to the library, for instance. A festival, cookout, or race will interest the whole community.

When centered around the right kind of project, combining online and live fundraising elements is a surefire way to boost community engagement. By reaching wider audiences and creating more ways to get involved, you’ll make a stronger impression on the community!

The bottom line: Combining online and in-person fundraising and engagement techniques can generate more interest in the community. There are plenty of options out there, so get creative!

Find Partners for Your Volunteer Programs

You can easily boost engagement through your already-active volunteer program coats for kids

Smaller nonprofits and local chapter organizations typically rely on their volunteer programs for essential support. Are you using yours to maximize engagement with the broader community with one simple strategy: reach out to local businesses?

There are a number of ways you might put this strategy into action. Consider organizing special employee volunteering programs with local partners. Ask businesses to form teams of volunteers to participate in your next community service or fundraising event.

You might also pursue volunteer grants. Corporate philanthropy programs can be quite generous, so always do your research! Volunteer grants can boost both the impact of your volunteers’ donated time and the feelings of pride and satisfaction they feel from supporting your cause!

There are several main benefits to pursuing relationships with local businesses and their employees:

  • Continued supportive relationships with local businesses and key figures
  • Groundwork for more substantial sponsorships in the future
  • Access to even wider audiences for your work and events
  • Increased donation revenue through volunteer grants and matching gifts

Reaching out to local businesses is a reliably effective strategy for nonprofits of all sizes to grow your network of support and deepen your community ties in the process.

The bottom line: Look to local businesses and employers to help you 1) engage more members of the community, and 2) boost your donation revenue through corporate philanthropy.

Major Community-Based Events

Operation Warm engage your communityYour nonprofit already organizes community service projects and entertaining fundraising events; that’s why you’re researching strategies for taking your community engagement methods even further. However, it’s crucial to remember to incorporate engagement strategies across the entirety of your event planning process!

When planning your next fundraising event, take the time to bring all of the key engagement concepts in this article together.

For instance, let’s say your nonprofit is organizing a 5k and inviting the whole community to get involved. There is an infinite number of ways you can boost engagement all-around! For example:

  • Offer limited-edition 5k race shirts before the big day or let teams design their own.
  • Promote the event through local media outlets and ask volunteers to share their stories.
  • Offer branded merchandise to local running groups to invite them to participate.
  • Conduct a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign leading up to the 5k for individuals and teams to raise pledges.
  • Ask local businesses to organize their own running teams, join your online campaign, or donate refreshments.

A major community-based fundraising event, no matter how big or small your nonprofit, is the perfect opportunity to bring together all your smartest engagement strategies. Get creative and be amazed at the results!

The bottom line: Take a comprehensive view of the event planning process when brainstorming ways to boost community engagement. Combining techniques in new ways is the key!

Community engagement is essential for nonprofits of all sizes, but smaller local organizations particularly rely on a network of support to help pursue their missions.

Keeping your entire community of supporters and constituents interested and involved with your work can be a challenge at times, but incorporating even just a few key engagement concepts into your planning and fundraising strategies can go a long way to help you build deeper relationships.

Interested in providing brand new coats for kids in your community? We would love for you to join us as an Operation Warm Community Partner!

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Ken PenneyKevin Penney is the CMO and co-founder of, a company that’s reinventing how people create, sell and purchase custom apparel. He loves solving difficult problems, working with the Bonfire Product team, and hockey. He has over 10 years experience in digital media, design, and technology.

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