Planning a Successful Fundraiser

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By Cindy Edwards

I recently had the great honor of chairing the Telfair Ball, the largest annual fundraiser of Savannah’s beloved Telfair Museums.  Because the gala is a 34-year-old tradition, it has an established plan that works.  Still, each year there is that push to make it better and, of course, to raise more money for the museum.

Whether your charitable event is new or old, I hope that the following ideas will help you be successful.

1. Seek a worthy cause
This is certainly the most important part.  It must be a great cause, and one about which you are passionate. An enthusiastic leader will easily enlist support from others.

2. Compile the best committee
Work with great people.  While you can always ask your friends (and I do), it is best to gather a committee of people who share your interest in the organization.  Do not take it personally if someone turns you down: You want volunteers that are committed to the cause.
3. Organize
Create a timeline. Create a budget. Delegate goals and tasks to your committee.

4. Keep detailed notes
Keep a notebook with everything that you do and every person that you contact. Not only will this help you plan the event, it will also provide your predecessor with much-needed information of what worked and what did not work. 

5. Find a hook
Add an interesting element to entice your audience.  Because our museum was in the middle of a Spanish exhibit during the time of the gala, I went with a Spanish-themed party. I invited His Excellency Ramón Gil-Casares, the Spanish Ambassador to the United States, to serve as the honorary chair.  He accepted, and then the planning took on a whole new level of excitement.


6. Make your event appealing
You want it to be as beautiful and fun as possible.  Therefore, create a great atmosphere and do everything that you can to make it visually appealing.  Delicious food and interesting people are a must!


7. Plan for unexpected occurrences
Yikes!! Unfortunately, things happen that create “interesting situations.”  Have a rain or snow plan. Anticipate last-minute cancellations. Roll with it!

8. Share your financial goal
Make sure that your audience knows how the organization will use the funds it raises.  During the Telfair Ball, we gave everyone the opportunity to donate either through auction items, a raffle or through a pledge to our education program. 


Throwing large-scale events requires planning, people and a great cause. Build upon the foundation of your organization to bring in more people and more funds.  A successful event is one that is a financial success, but also one that is fun for your committee and your supporters. 

As always, thanks for reading. 

Properly yours,

Photography courtesy of Randy Thompson.

Cindy Edwards embodies everything pretty, perky and proper about the South. She's a wife, mother, volunteer and freelance writer. Cindy volunteers enough hours to exhaust most by serving on the Board of Trustees for the Telfair Museums, the Savannah Book Festival Board of Directors and the University of Georgia Honors Advisory Board. She has also served on the Boards of the March of Dimes and Young Life Savannah. Cindy has been married to her college sweetheart, Dr. Joe Edwards III, for 25 years and is the proud mother of two sons: Joe IV, a senior at the University of Georgia, and Jack, a freshman at Ole Miss. No matter how busy, Cindy always makes time for a competitive game of bridge.
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Reader Comments:


As always you share such pratical and informative information. Thanks Cindy! Linda

By Linda Parton on April 26, 2014


As always, you have written blog that is full of valuable information. Congrats to you on the successful Telfair fundraiser!

By Viki on March 19, 2014


Excellent article with great information!

By Linda Parton on March 17, 2014


Quite a daunting event to chair! Cannot even imagine the amount of time required to put it together. Obviously, the right person was in charge! Thanks for your tips and advice that can be used on any size event. They are a great benefit to anyone planning one. You did a great job, Cindy!

By Sandra Creech on March 17, 2014


Great advice Cindy. I know the gala was an amazing event. I will keep these tips handy for future events. Thanks again for all the great advice.

By Michelle on March 14, 2014


I found this post to be very interesting. The photographs were beautiful! A fundraiser should be fun and enjoyable to be successful and this one was definitely a special event. Including entertainment was a wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing--I enjoyed this post!

By Anne on March 13, 2014

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