It’s FESTIVAL Season! Tips for Planning Your School & Church Fundraiser

school church festival fundraiser tips

Fundraising is the lifeblood of a nonprofit, and is a necessity for an organization’s success. But it can be a tough task. The charitable giving landscape has never been more saturated; today’s inflationary economic environment has helped donor fatigue reach an all-time high (nearly 9 in 10 respondents to a 2023 nonprofit survey named it their #1 challenge); and more people — and things — than ever are vying for every person’s engagement. Taken cumulatively, these realities make getting (and retaining) a donor’s attention ever more difficult.

But not every fundraising initiative has to feel like pulling teeth.  Festivals are a perfect way to:

  • Gather your constituents in the same place at the same time, with the same goal in mind
  • Give your attendees an opportunity to meet each other for the first time…or re-connect longtime friends
  • Combine support of your cause with FUN! — with something for everyone

No official statistics speak to how many schools and churches nationwide hold Festivals (at least we can’t find them). However, a cursory look around just our metropolitan area shows that many institutions of education and religious worship aren’t leveraging this fundamental fundraising tool.  Here, we’ll educate you on the benefits of Festivals, what to expect when you plan and run one, and some best practices we’ve learned from more than a decade of partnering with schools and churches on their Festivals.


School and church festivals offer benefits aligned with event fundraising: strengthening fellowship, furthering engagement with current supporters with an additional in-person touchpoint, and engaging new constituents.  Festivals give your cause an event stacked with as many fun-filled activities as your attendees can enjoy and you can pull off (GAMES!  FOOD!  MUSIC!  ATTRACTIONS!  RIDES!), all while permitting them a vital chance to rally around the common goal of funding your operations or a critical program.   

Many educational and religious institutions’ Festivals serve as their signature fundraisers for the year, and typically run for entire weekends. Proceeds from the event fund a significant percentage of schools’ and churches’ operational expenses.

School Church Festival Fundraiser Tips


Some Festival offerings are pretty standard, considering that your attendees will (hopefully) spend hours there with family and friends. A varied menu that satisfies different palates is wise; just make sure that the items you choose are economical to purchase, easy to prepare on-site, and have decent holding times without sacrificing quality and taste. Do you plan on having a beer/alcohol tent? If so, check with your local municipality to secure the appropriate licenses, put the necessary security in place, and meet any other requirements you’ll need to have.  Finally, don’t underestimate the power of foodies; a Festival whose theme centers around food (examples: international foods, food trucks, pancake breakfasts, chili cook-offs, or even cooking classes) might be worth discussing if it resonates with your audience.

Music is one of the most unifying entities, and casts a wide net in terms of garnering attention. Go for a local act either within your organization or in your region that your audience knows well. Above all, remember that people attend Festivals (and any other event) because they want a positive and memorable experience with people they care about. If you can ensure the experience will be great, you’ve taken care of the most crucial element.


Have a strategy for planning the logistics of your school or church Festival. Think thoroughly through the locale and timing of your event. Ideally, your school/church grounds make the most sense (saving you the hassle of details such as permits, additional insurance, fees, etc.). However, consider whether your space is conducive to everything you have planned. Do you have enough space for all the attractions you plan on having?  Is there sufficient electrical? Are there adequate restroom facilities; if not can you easily bring in portable options? Is there enough onsite parking for attendees; if not are there nearby lots you can use in conjunction with a shuttle service?  Do you have an indoor option in the event of inclement weather?  As with any fundraising event, take yourself through every Festival wearing your ‘attendee hat’ to see things from your audience’s perspective. You will likely find some nuances you hadn’t previously thought of. 

When settling on the timing of your Festival, get ahold of the most comprehensive events calendar you can find in your region. Don’t just look at other school and church Festivals; the wider the range, the better.  There’s nothing worse than finding out much too late about that once-in-a-lifetime major concert stop or a key sporting contest that’s occurring THE VERY SAME DAY AS YOUR EVENT. Try to time your Festival when there’s a gap between other heavily-attended happenings. That way, you won’t step on anyone else’s toes, and won’t have to fight other events for a captive audience.

Another piece of advice: don’t run something as complex as a school or church Festival in a vacuum.  Seek out the people in your organization who may have experience planning and running large-scale events — and consult those outside your organization, such as local community leaders. Leveraging the best counsel will help prevent missteps and ensure that every facet of your Festival is a home run.

school church festival fundraiser tips


What two things do you need for a successful school and church Festival (besides a lot of planning and little luck)?  Donations from generous contributors, and volunteers to make sure everything goes smoothly. Since 2010, DonorPoint has worked with local K-8 Ss. Robert & William Catholic School on its annual Family Festival — a multi-day celebration with a wide variety of events, food, games and attractions — where we handle every fundraising and volunteering aspect of the Festival. All volunteering opportunities, from ticket-sellers to food/beer tents and game/attraction operators, are facilitated and tracked by our automated solution. DonorPoint’s donor engagement software posts and fills volunteer slots, pushes notifications when opportunities are close to being/have been filled….and even emails volunteer times, duties and other pertinent details to the enlistees.

As a showcase of the event, Ss. Robert & William hosts its annual Festival Raffle (with $10,000 Grand, $3,000 Second Place and $2,000 Third Place prizes) online through DonorPoint’s solution, where tickets can be purchased — and paid for — online, then automatically receipted and downloaded for the purchaser. Additionally, any necessary communications are emailed automatically to the Raffle ticket holder. And, of course, an online component makes it easy to push marketing messages (and real-time Festival updates) via email and social media, exponentially expanding the Raffle’s reach.

The idea? To take all of the logistics that had historically been done manually online, so schools and churches can focus on making their Festival on-site experience the best it can be.

school church festival fundraising tips games


Your event was a smashing success.  Cleanup is finished, everything rented has been returned, and donations have been tabulated. 

It’s time to put your feet up and take a week off, right?  

Not just yet.

Now is the time to take care of all post-Festival communications: notifying and announcing Raffle/Auction winners, proclaiming the total donations raised, thanking all donors and volunteers, etc.  Now is the time to shout about your successful event, and celebrate anyone and everyone who made your Festival phenomenal.  Here is information on a thorough checklist that you can use to guide your Festival planning, execution, and post-mortem follow-up.

Get in touch to discuss how we can help you create the best Festival you’ve ever seen!