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  • Writer's pictureAmFund

25 Lessons Learned in 25 Years of Fundraising

As we enter the new year, we reflect on the invaluable lessons we've learned over two decades of fundraising. Here are 25 insights that have shaped our approach to successful fundraising events:


  1. Optimal Silent Auction Duration: Aim for a 60-90 minute silent auction.

  2. Live Auction Item Count: Keep the number of items in a live auction between 5-7.

  3. Controlled Access: Keep the doors to the ballroom closed during cocktail hour to maintain an intimate atmosphere.

  4. Seating Strategy: Avoid placing chairs around cocktail tables to encourage movement and interaction.

  5. Guest-to-Item Ratio: For every four buying units, offer one silent auction item to stimulate bidding competition.

  6. Emotional Journey: Start your event program with a heartfelt story, followed by the live auction and fund-a-need.

  7. Strategic Announcements: Save major donation announcements until after the fund-a-need segment.

  8. Proactive Sponsor Engagement: Contact sponsors three weeks before the event to confirm their table attendees.

  9. Timing Considerations: Be aware of wedding season, as February marks the beginning of venue searches for many brides.

  10. Efficient Fundraising: Aim to complete all fundraising activities by 9 pm.

  11. Climactic Finale: Reserve your most valuable live auction item for the final bidding.

  12. Efficient Dining Service: Pre-set tables with salads and desserts to streamline meal service.

  13. Timely Live Auction Start: After the last dinner plate has been served, begin the live auction.

  14. Engaging Emcee: Utilize an emcee to interact with guests during the cocktail hour.

  15. Thoughtful Thank-Yous: Focus on meaningful acknowledgments for donors rather than trinkets.

  16. Pricing Perception: Consider pricing psychology by setting ticket prices ending in round numbers, such as $200 instead of $195.

  17. Optimizing Auction Items: Bundle smaller silent auction items or use them for raffles and door prizes.

  18. Technical Soundness: Ensure your sound system is thoroughly checked and tested for clear audio throughout the venue.

  19. Efficient Registration: Keep registration lines short and moving swiftly.

  20. Coat Check Convenience: Offer coat checks during registration to prevent additional queues.

  21. Balanced Bar Service: Provide substantial appetizers during cocktail hour for guests enjoying an open bar.

  22. Educational Opportunity: Use your event to inform and inspire your audience about your organization's impact.

  23. Feedback Collection: Gather feedback from attendees to improve future events.

  24. Future Planning: To maintain momentum, Announce the date of next year's gala at the end of the current event.

  25. Self-Care for Success: Remember to take breaks and celebrate your achievements—fundraising professionals need time to recharge too!


As we look ahead to another year of impactful fundraising, we carry these lessons with us, knowing that each has contributed to our growth and success. Here's to continued learning and progress in the year ahead!

The national headquarters of AmFund is located in Maitland, Florida, and is dedicated to empowering worthy nonprofits by providing much-needed unrestricted funds. Its Educational Foundation is a Federally recognized 501(c)3 and offers professional training for Development Directors, Executive Directors, Board Members, and others, leveraging over two decades of fundraising experience.


We invite nonprofit organizations interested in being considered for our unrestricted funding programs to apply for support by clicking the button below.


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