Tips for Planning a Special Event Fundraiser with a Honorary Guest

Tips for Planning a Special Event Fundraiser with a Honorary Guest

A  special event with a honorary guest is a great way to recognize those who go above and beyond in helping a non profit achieve its mission.    Every organization has donors and employees who always go that extra mile. Many of those people have been a part of the organization for years and have developed strong relationships with staff, board and community members.   By holding a dinner dance, luncheon or brunch to honor them,  the community  will be able to show their gratitude towards the honorary guest and the non profit can fundraise at the same time.


Key Points to consider

Fundraising Fox asked community volunteer, Alissa Maizes,  what is her secret to success in hosting a Special Event with a honorary guest.  Ms. Maizes says forming the right committee is essential to making a great event.  Below are key points to keep in mind:

The first consideration is the size of the committee. The bigger the better. Having a big committee helps in:

  • Encouraging people to come to event
  • Soliciting raffle items
  • Procuring vendors for the event


Getting the right people on the committee is a key point.   In the world we live in today, Maizes does not place much importance on coming to every committee meeting.   The two most important questions to ask committee members is:

  • Can you come to the event?
  • Can you get people to come?


The committee needs to fill seats in order to raise money and recognize the guest of honor properly.  One of the main jobs for being on the committee should be to committing to going to the event and asking as many people as possible to join you.  You want to make your event the hottest ticket in town. If people see their friends going to the event, they are more likely to come as well. Thus, with a large committee you can get started on the guest list right away!

Virtual Tribute Book vs Tribute Book

Always have options for people, even those unable to attend the event, to recognize the honorary guest.  Maizes suggests, a Virtual Tribute Book.  A Virtual Tribute Book is a paperless and cost effective way for guests to send thankful messages to the guest of honor.  The Virtual Tribute book can play on a screen during the event and is given to the guest of honor as a memorabilia  at the end. People can purchase anywhere from a full screen to one line congratulatory note. 

If you have more time and resources, AJ Steinberg of Queen Bee Fundraising suggest making  a Tribute Book for the event. A well-produced tribute book highlights your honorees, outlines the event’s schedule, promotes your organization, and creates a revenue stream through tributes and ad sales.   To learn how to make a Tribute Book, watch this Free webinar How To Master Your Tribute Book  Layout

Whichever book you choose, the goal is to give everyone who wants to recognize the guest of honor an opportunity to do so, whether they are at the event or not.


Sell Raffle Tickets at the event


Running a raffle during the event is always fun for the guests and a great way to raise additional money. There are a variety of raffles to choose from so be sure to select a raffle which your audience will like.    Once you decide on a raffle, it is time to get items.   With a  large committee, you will have more people to reach out to the community to find raffle items.  Encourage each committee member to get at least one item.  Once a member sees how easy it is to get one, it motives them to get more.  

Some volunteers may think it is hard to solicit raffle items.  They feel like they maybe “bothering”  vendors. It is important for the chairman to support their committee so volunteers will be confident in asking.   Lead by example, tell volunteers how you have had success securing items. Valeri Bishop, a Auction Chairman for over 5 years, suggest places to start with are where volunteers dine or frequent most.  If you are a good customer, many establishments are happy to help. When businesses donate, the committee should always recognize them before, during and after the event for their generosity. Depending on what is donated, recognition could be a shout out on social media to a formal recognition at the event.  Fundraising for nonprofits cannot be successful without community members support so always be sure to thank them.



Negotiate with Vendors 


In planning events, non profits should always try to keep cost down so they can raise as much money as possible.  Committee members and the chairman should never be afraid to ask for donated services such as photographer, DJ, and decorations.  The greater flexibility you have in the time and day of the event the higher chance a vendor maybe able to negotiate a better price for you.  


Vendors who do donate their services to your event should be promoted through recognition on flyers, emails, social media and call out at the event.   Remember to thank your vendors publicly and spread the word of their generosity personally if you feel they have done a great job!

Do you have any more great ideas to a successful Special Event for a Honorary Guest?  Send them in to

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