The holidays are a time when many of us give back by volunteering at local organizations or donating to charities. If you’re looking to spread even more holiday cheer, why not consider throwing a holiday-themed fundraiser? After all, making a positive impact on the lives of others can make you feel just as rich and fulfilled as your paycheck.
We spoke with Katie Petrillo, Marketing Manager at Punchbowl, one of the world’s leading party-planning and celebration sites. She told us how to plan a holiday fundraiser that isn’t just a great party, but also a successful fundraising effort.

Benefit Planning: The Basics

The first step to planning your event is deciding what charity or cause you’d like to support. If you’re not sure where to start, our recent post on holiday volunteer opportunities offers some ideas.

Your next consideration is where to hold the event. While hosting the party at your home is always an option, you may want the extra space a venue can afford. Petrillo points out that renting space doesn’t have to be costly.

“Find sponsors for your event,” Petrillo says. “If you’re set on hosting an event at a venue, call the venue and see if they want to donate the space as a sponsor.” Petrillo suggests seeking sponsorship from venues and vendors that you frequent regularly. “Maybe your local florist or caterer would be willing to provide floral centerpieces or some buffet items for your fundraiser,” says Petrillo. “Or maybe your neighborhood bar is willing to give you the back room at no charge.”

Once you have worked out the basics, it’s time to send out invitations. The sooner the better.

“Everyone’s calendars book up quickly,” says Petrillo,”It’s important to get on people’s calendars early.”

Petrillo recommends using digital invitations instead of paper ones. Not only are they easily customizable and cost effective, but many “evites” also provide a forum for posting updates as the event approaches. Some sites that provide digital invitations also include a “Contributions” feature for guests who can’t attend the event but would still like to donate to the charity.

It may seem obvious, but be sure to identify which charity you’re supporting. Petrillo suggests including the charity’s logo and link to its website on your invitations and reminders.

Hitting Your Financial Goal

Setting goals is an important part of any financial plan — and holiday benefit parties are no different. The goal you set will help establish the cost of admission and other activities that bring in money.

“The admissions price should depend on the overall fundraising goal for the event,” Petrillo says. “The higher the goal, the higher the ticket price. Also, be clear what that cost includes, such as dinner, cocktails, raffle tickets and entertainment. Guests will be more willing to spend money knowing that they are receiving something in exchange.”

You may also consider a few activities at the event that bring in additional money.

“Fundraisers typically involve some activity that raises money for the charity, such as a silent auction or raffle,” says Petrillo. Reaching out to your personal network can be a smart way to find auction items or raffle prizes with less stress and maybe even at a reduced cost. If you know someone who makes art or jewelry, for example, you might consider asking that person to donate some work for the cause.

Make Your Event Memorable

Don’t forget — this is a party. It’s important to make sure it’s enjoyable for the guests who are contributing. “Whether you have a live band in mind, or want to hire a DJ, the entertainment is something that guests value because it impacts their experience at the party,” says Petrillo.

You can make the party extra memorable by hiring a professional to take candid photographs, or by setting up a photo-booth where guests use props to take their own.

Asking friends and family to help out at the event is another way to make your party unique. It’s an especially attractive opportunity for people who want to help but don’t have the money to contribute.

“You’ll need people to hand out raffle tickets, stand at the charity table and manage the auction,” she explains. “Extra hands will never go unneeded.”

Are you throwing a holiday benefit party this year? What’s one tip you’d share for a successful fundraiser?