Customer Stories

6 strategies for organizing a fundraiser for your non-profit

Ken Engelman, fundraising developer for The Orchard House, shares his creative strategies for organizing and promoting local fundraisers.

Customer stories with Ken Engelman

Ken Engelman is a fundraising developer for The Orchard House, a non-profit medical adult daycare center in Branford, Connecticut. The Orchard House serves families with older members by providing activities, care, and monitoring during the day. The services provided by The Orchard House allow these older loved ones to live at home rather than in an assisted living facility. 

Usually, nonprofit organizations are underserved and underpromoted due to limited budgets. Ken wanted to give back to the community so a few years ago, he applied his expertise in business development and strategic marketing to helping The Orchard House extend its reach.

As fundraising developer, Ken organizes community events and activities that are attended by local residents. These fundraisers keep the day center running. 

When it comes to marketing, Ken has several surefire strategies that have worked for him. He organizes events regularly and ensures their success through his network of volunteers, newspaper articles, and sponsorships.

Ken’s main advice for people looking to promote their own fundraisers or non-profit events is this: focus on the emotional connection and the value of what you do, not on the event or non-profit itself.

Once people feel a personal, emotional connection to your services, they will immediately want to help.

Here are Ken’s strategies for organizing and promoting his fundraisers:

1. Gather dedicated volunteers

To make sure your fundraiser goes smoothly, you need people to help you organize it. Ken said that the best place to look for volunteers is within your own community. “Our members’ families like to volunteer regularly at our events because they have a personal stake in our success,” Ken said. 

Two to three weeks before an event, Ken invites the families that The Orchard House serves to sign up as volunteers — and to help recruit other volunteers. 

Ken also reaches out to Community Volunteers of America before every event. Started by Ken and a few friends, the organization gathers volunteers who want to help non-profits.

It has a Facebook group, and every time Ken needs volunteers, he posts in the group and asks people to reach out to him.

“There are hundreds of people who participate in that group. We all look out for each other,”

Ken Engelman

2. Secure meaningful sponsorships

Signing up sponsors gives The Orchard House the financial support that it needs to organize well-rounded fundraising events without worrying about funding. Ken said that the most important element of a successful partnership is making sure that it’s a win-win situation for both parties, so he designs sponsorships that benefit the sponsors as much as their support benefits The Orchard House. 

Because The Orchard House is registered as a non-profit, any money a sponsor provides is treated as a donation. “As a result, the sponsor gains a reputation as a business that invests in the community. This drives more foot traffic into their stores and gives them a greater reach online,” Ken said.

The promotional flyers and social media posts that Ken creates in PosterMyWall help generate awareness and attendance, which benefits sponsors as well. 

Ken reaches out to his sponsors through email, social media, phone calls, and in-person networking at other community events. To streamline this process, he maintains a database of potential sponsors.

He also uses the database to keep a record of the sponsors he has worked with in the past so that he can reach out to them again if he needs to.

“It also helps that we have a reputation for creating wonderful, popular events. So when I call a potential sponsor, they’re usually on board because they’ve been to our events before and know what we can do for them,” Ken said. 

3. Focus on the event itself

How you approach the process of organizing an event can make or break its success. Ken uses a simple and straightforward organizational methodology for all of his events:

Step 1: Come up with a unique and interesting theme or activity that’ll bring in crowds

Step 2: Ensure that it’s outdoors and that it’s safe 

Step 3: Choose the right location — it should be easily accessible for attendees

Step 4: Ensure vendors and sponsors are given opportunities to participate in the event

Step 5: Invite the local media to cover the event

Ken said that as long as you follow steps 1, 2, and 3, steps 4 and 5 will fall into place seamlessly. 

This year, Ken and his team organized a fundraising event called The Stony Creek Brewery Duck Race. He assigned a rubber duck to each attendee who signed up. When it was time for the event, attendees gathered at the river. All the ducks were placed in the town river where the tide was going out – pushing the ducks down the river towards the finish line. Everyone cheered as the ducks raced toward the finish line and the owner of the winning duck was awarded a $1000 prize provided by the event sponsor.

Not only was this event a roaring success, its planning adhered to Ken’s process.

  • Ken came up with an interesting idea that appealed to people.
  • He made sure the event was outdoors and therefore safe for the attendees.
  • He chose the perfect location – the river was next to the town’s most popular brewery (which also catered the event).
  • The sponsor was spotlighted both in the event promotion and at the event.
  • The local news also covered the event. 

4. Partner with your local newspaper

Because of the high level of community involvement in Ken’s events, he is able to get newspapers and digital news sources to publish press releases about his events a week before they happen. 

“Normally, I’ll contact the reporters at the paper by phone, give them the details of the event, and ask them to share the information with their readers. The partnership is mutually beneficial because these announcements draw in readers who are looking for these types of community events,” Ken said. 

Here too, Ken maintains a database of local newspapers to help him streamline the process. 

According to Ken, visuals are really important for attracting attention.”I usually ask news sources to send out newspaper announcements that have words along with a visual,” Ken said. He uses PosterMyWall to create his visuals. He starts with a template and finds it incredibly easy to add photos and details to customize the design. 

5. Hand out flyers in your community

Ken and his volunteer team hand out flyers around town a week or two prior to every event. Flyers help them get facetime with potential attendees so that they can answer questions about the event and encourage people to attend. 

Ken’s favorite locations to post flyers include storefront windows, telephone poles, and homeowners’ doorknobs.

“We always take the flyers down the day after the event because we want to keep our community as clean as possible,” Ken said. He uses PosterMyWall to make enticing flyers that draw a ton of attention from the town’s residents. 

When it comes to his flyer design process, Ken says he’s a concept person. “After I have an idea, I type in keywords to get the template options I want. Then I customize it to add emotion, whether it’s through words or pictures — that’s really important for a non-profit. My goal is to make a flyer that inspires a positive response from the people who look at it,” he said. Ken loves how affordable and reliable PosterMyWall is, and so he uses it to make all of his promotions. 

Ken’s flyers also have QR codes, which he adds directly through PosterMyWall. The QR codes allow people to go directly to a third-party site like Eventbrite to purchase tickets. 

6. Leverage Facebook 

Ken uses Facebook regularly to promote his events. He makes sure his posts are creative, unique, and interesting to drive engagement. “I try to stay away from tradition in my Facebook promotions,” he said.

To promote the duck race, his incredible volunteer committee took several rubber ducks on a tour around town — and took photos. Then he photographed the ducks visiting a variety of outdoor and historical locations around Connecticut.

He even gave one a seat at a dinner table in a restaurant. Not only did this unique marketing tactic attract followers on social media, it inspired people to shoot and share their own pictures of the ducks. 

Ken and the Orchard House staff also routinely share photos and videos of members of The Orchard House community engaged in activities. His colleague, Recreation Director Natalia Imperato, organizes promotional campaigns that help people understand what the medical adult day center does. Recently, she posted photos showing members enjoying a typical day at The Orchard House.

“By sharing photos and videos, we educate people about our center. This encourages people to attend our events, and it starts important conversations about caregiving for older family members,” Ken said. 

The posts drive a lot of engagement and make people smile. And that’s something that Ken loves — the ability to bring smiles to the faces of loved ones whose families trust The Orchard House to take care of them.

Ken has big plans for the future. He’s currently working on a number of other fundraisers including an annual cornhole tournament and a lighted boat parade on the local river. He’s also working on a recipe-sharing app to bring families closer together. “I’m always trying to think of different and creative ways to build things our community hasn’t seen before. And I aim to continue to do that,” Ken said. 

New to PosterMyWall? Use our range of templates and design tools to help you promote your non-profit organization easily and in a cost-effective way.