For Unsuccessful People: 5 Tips for a Successful Fundraiser

Every year my church hosts a fundraiser for Maranatha Children’s Ministries in Port-au-Prince Haiti. This year, I was in charge.  I had no idea what I was getting into but God is good. It was successful in spite of me.

Here are my 5 tips for planning a successful fundraiser:

1. Let Someone Else Do It.


Stephanie, who really planned the event.
Photo by Jon Penner

I have no attention to detail. Zip. Nada. None. You should see my blogs before my mother corrects the grammar and spelling. A non-detailed person should never be in charge of a detailed event.

This is how my brain processes:

“Maranatha needs money.”

“How about a Spaghetti Dinner & Silent Auction.”

“Yeah, why not!?”



That’s it right? Surprisingly, NO!

Thankfully I have an extremely detailed friend, sister, and mother to ask me questions that would obvious to a normal person. In another 20 years society will have a diagnosis for people like me.

“Where are you getting auction items from?” “Who’s making all the food?” “What time does it start?” “Where are you having it?” “Do you have tickets?” Most of these were met with the deer-in-headlights look of fear, followed by a lie. “I got it covered”.

I’ll take all the credit…
but truthfully it was my friend Stephanie or/and Jesus that put the whole thing together.

2. Be Popular.


Mr. Popular.
Photo by Jon Penner

You’ll need a lot of friends to bail you out of your stupidity. I was planning a HUGE auction and I’d never been to one. I don’t even like Spaghetti.

I started something that went way over my head. My capability and experience for planning events extends to my husband’s birthdays. And ask him how many times he’s had a party.


I had a lot of friends that knew I was up a creek and they signed up to make food, clean, MC  etc. They did all the work in running the event and even pretended like I had put the entire thing together.

Remember when you were little and you “helped” your mom cook. In actuality, you did nothing and probably created more work, but then she looked at you and said, “Good job! You worked so hard and look what you made! You’re a big girl!”

I’m a big girl.

3.Have No Shame.


Photo by Jon Penner

I looked up every artist, business owner and friend’s email and spammed the daylights out of their inbox’s. I pleaded for silent auction donations, volunteers, food donations, money, anything I could think of. I used every angle in the book (fun angle, sympathetic, even yes…guilt) and tried to be persuasive as I could. Whatever feeling I could provoke that would convince them to get involved I used and exploited.   There’s no room for ego in fundraisers.

To my terror, I was getting a lot of responses. I ended up with over 100 silent auction donations…and more volunteers than I knew where to place.

4. Be ignorant.


Photo by Jon Penner

The night of the event, one kid barfed in the food line, collecting the money at the end of the auction was a zoo, and we ran out of salad and bread. Thankfully he didn’t barf in the salad – or the money.

Truth is, barf in the money can be hosed off. Hey, this is for orphans!

I had no idea he barfed. It was awesome. I had a blast.

5. Pray a LOT


Photo by Jon Penner

What started out as an event for 100 people hopefully raising $2,000 grew into a monster of my own doing (and probably Jesus’ doing). We had close to 300 people (give or take…I don’t count) and in the end we made over $5,000. Surviving the night would have been a success to me.

If only I could take these 5 principles and somehow work them into my career as a nurse! Picture that.

So  if you want to plan a fundraiser, be a shameless, lazy, delegating, popular idiot that prays a lot.


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