Strategic Fundraising Event Layouts

The invites have been sent; the guests are registered; the auction packages are set; and volunteers are in place, but what might be the most important task of all?

How you will layout your event!

There so many considerations when it comes to your event layout:

  • Should the check-in line be right in the front to create a buzz?
  • Should it be off to the side to make things more open?
  • Should the silent auction be near the bar?
  • Should it be stand-alone?
  • Should there be a space dedicated to the cause?

I am here to help with tips I’ve learned from planning and supporting hundreds of nonprofit events.

I’ve been to my share of fundraising events across the country, and they all have layouts that identify what type of event they will be. These shared commonalities are what help make fundraising events successful. Registration areas, silent auction displays, large room, and stage areas all contribute to the final result of a successful event.


TIP: With Greater Giving’s Go Time, you can download Go Time to your tablet and use the Mobile Card Readers to help with Check in.

The key to a smooth event is getting your event attendees checked in and handed their programs and paddles. My personal favorite registration table is cocktail height with my computer placed on top. I can look my donor’s right in the eye and more easily hear names when looking them up. It’s also beneficial to have enough stations to accommodate the crowds. I’d recommend one station for every 75 to 100 guests.

These tables should be grouped close enough together so they can be seen as an important stop which are noticeable for incoming guests. They should also have plenty of room for stations to separate themselves so the guests can clearly be heard by the registration volunteer.

Some venues have spaces that limit the ability to provide lots of space for your check-in area. If the weather is nice, consider having your tables outside if you have access to power. I’ve also seen successful events with an area to check in and another area to pick up bidder packets. Take a few staff members to scope out the area and set up some tables and stations to test what the flow of check-in will be like.

Silent Auction

TIP: With Online Bidding, you can keep your silent auction open until your program starts with a push of a button.

Most fundraising events include a silent auction of some kind, and depending on your program, can dictate how your venue space will flow. The most common setup includes a foyer where silent auction tables can be presented during a cocktail hour before the large room is open for the rest of the program. It’s also very common for the silent auction tables to flank each side of the open room so individuals have to walk the whole room to mingle and see all the options for bidding.

Thought should be put into how guests move about the space to see the silent auction and when they have access to it. I recommend keeping your auction open at least until the program starts, allowing guests to place bids while idly waiting for their attention to be drawn to the stage.

The Main Room

This one is fairly simple, if the bidder can’t see the auctioneer, the auctioneer can’t see them! Tables should be evenly distributed throughout an open area where guests can easily see the stage. It’s also important to easily space the bar to where a bidder can easily access without traversing the room. Even better if more than one can be placed to alleviate long lines that bottleneck access to the silent auction area.

gala-1060382_960_720The Stage

Try to place your stage along the long wall in your room. This will make it easier to see the auctioneer and give those in the back of the room a more intimate experience. If you have screens or televisions, be sure they are angled and lit correctly so that they can be seen all the way in the back of the room. If you have spotters for the live auction and paddle raise for donations, be sure to place one at each corner so the bid

What are your thoughts on event layouts? Do you have any unique venue challenges that you’d like to share?

2 Responses to “Strategic Fundraising Event Layouts”

  1. Hi Joshua! I just wanted to say hi because we so enjoyed meeting you at the BGC conference in St. Louis. Remember? Me and Darren the super fun folks! You also we super fun which made us kinda life long friends right from the get go. At any rate, wanted to say thanks for the tips. Our events are going great and our guests seemed to like the new format of online bidding. It is a retraining so to speak, as we are the first organization to use this at a large fundraiser (always a trendsetter, yes we are at the Boys & Girls Club). So, I am just saying HI since you had a place to leave a comment. Hope all is good for you. I didnt know you played softball and enjoyed the theater. So do I! Take care! Karen

    • Joshua Allen

      This is crazy but I had literally just asked about you two last week! I am glad to hear your events are going well, and our blog is a great place to get new ideas and learn how our software fits in to the details. I hope to see you at this years Boys & Girls Club conference in Pittsburgh in October!


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