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7 Top Tips for Throwing a Highly Successful Fundraiser

ballroom setup with lighting and projection screen

Fundraising galas are more popular than ever as a cornerstone money raising activity for nonprofits. With this popularity comes a need to stand out from the frey, and offer your guest something unique and compelling to get them to part with their dollars. Our team at Avista has helped produce hundreds of fundraiser, bringing high qualiy audio visual production to these events throughout Caifornia. In working extensively with clients and from our eyewitness perch at the back of the room, we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Herein we gather our collective wisdom on what we've seen work really well:

1. Make it wine-focused

Wine themed fundraisers are all the rage these days, and for good reason: they are perfect silent and live auction items, covering a range of price points, and wineries are eager to get their latest pinot noir in front of the right audiences. If your audience demographic is the right match, have someone contact local wineries directly, or work with a wine auction consultant. Wine focused fundraisers are great in that give you a great theme, and it ties the entire evening together, from the silent auction, to the live auction, to the dinner and, of course, wine being served.

2. Have a wide range of things people can bid for

Everyone has the desire to contribute, but not everyone has the same sized wallet. So it’s key to have items that will peak everyone’s interest.  This can vary from giftcards to fancy restaurants to getaways to various vacation spots. 

3. Make silent auction items visible

(example of a nice auction table setup - not an event we worked on, just one we like!)

Having actual items on display in the silent auction area definitely drives more bidding than simply showing placards with a printed description of the auction item. If there are signed or game worn jerseys or other sports items it makes the buyer feel instant gratification once they bid because they know they will be able to walk out of the auction with their desired item.  Gift baskets are perfect for this because they are large items with many goodies inside. If you’re lucky enough to get a local dealer to contribute a car, figure out how to get that sucker into the silent auction room and let people sit in it!

4. Have a well-produced video

No matter what cause you are raising money for, the main thing you want to do is establish an emotional connection between the guest and your cause. Nothing does that better than a professionally produced video (well, one thing is better, and we cover that next). Show how money is spent and how it directly impacts people’s lives. The combination of a dark room, swelling music and real people on the big screen (not to mention the fact that your guests is now well-fed and full of wine) is the perfect prelude to the live auction or fund-a-need parts of the evening. Just don't make it too long: from our experience, 4-5 minutes is the perfect length.

5. Have a guest speaker

The best advocate for your cause is a person that directly benefits from the moneys raised by the audience. What we see work very effectively is to have a beneficiary profiled in the video, then be brought to the stage immediately after the video ends. If this beneficiary can be a “surprise” to the audience, all the better. Make sure the beneficiary is well-rehearsed, since they may have never spoken in front of a large audience before. Ideally they get a chance to rehearse with your AV team before the event, so they know how to speak into the microphone and are more comfortable with the stage. Consider using confidence monitors or teleprompters for these and your other speakers.

6. Be innovative, but not too much!

Most fundraisers we produce follow a tried and true schedule: It works for the most part, but don’t be afraid to try some innovations. Online auction catalogs available weeks before your event are a great idea (check out, as well as bidding services like and auction services like For the fund-a-need part of the evening, we’ve seen and like something called the "last man standing", which reverses the start high, end low approach to the general call for funds: everyone is invited to first stand for a starting, low dollar amount, then as the dollar amount increases, those still standing are holding out to become the biggest contributors. This ends up being a great way to give more recognition to those giving the most, and even causes some competition amongst guests, raising even more money for the cause.

7. Let them dance!

No matter who’s in your audience, there is always a hardcore contingent that will want to take off their shoes off and do some dancing afterwards. What else are your guests going to do at 10:30 or 11 pm on a Saturday night, hit the clubs downtown? Give them a chance to dance off that big dinner and glow from contributing to your cause. Just make sure to start the music the second the MC is done speaking for the evening, or you will lose people to their phones, kids and car keys.


Avista has deep experience working with nonprofit organizations to produce the perfect fundraiser. Beyond projection, sound systems and lighting, we’re your partner every step of the way. No matter your budget or size of your guest list, we can help. Check out more about our work with nonprofits at You can also check out of photo gallery for examples of work we’ve done at

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Thank you for visiting our website! Our team at Avista has worked long and hard to understand what's important to you, our customer, which is distilled into our 4 Value Principles: 1) Being transparent with our pricing, 2) Being prompt and friendly in all our communications with you, 3) Delivering the right AV solution for your event at the best price, and 4) Exceeding your expectations with the high caliber of our crew and gear. We're very proud that these principals have driven strong growth since our founding in 2005, to where we are now one of the premier providers of AV rentals and AV production services on the West Coast. Customers have the choice of picking up and returning AV gear to any of our offices, or having our team of highly skilled audio and video technicians deliver and run the AV aspects of your meeting or event.

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