Complete Friendraising Event Guidelines & Checklist


In recent years, “Friendraiser” events have become more popular as an alternative to expensive donor events which tend to scare off attendees due to high ticket prices and direct gifting request tactics.  This blog, based upon actual past experience, is meant to be a straightforward and helpful overview with practical guidance on how to pull off a successful Friendraiser event.

Cornerstone Services, Inc. was asked recently to help with both mailings and promotional materials for a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) friend raiser event.  The purpose of the friendraiser was to appeal to potential board members and also to familiarize local VIPs and elected officials with the organization’s purpose.  From the Cornerstone side – that is, pertaining to our role with sourcing data, preparing an invitation design, printing & mailing the invites and creating retractable banners – this was a straight-forward and familiar task.  From prior projects, we have historical details for what these events require, so we pull from our Asana project management archive of past events and review what is probably needed.  

And yet, I never expected I would write a blog on this.  We were asked one additional thing:  did we have anything that looked like a detailed checklist on how to pull off a friendraiser or similar function?  This request came to me and I thought I had one.  Well, I didn’t (or at least couldn’t find it).  So, naturally I went to Google for help.  What I found on Google was this:  a whole-lot-of-nothing.  I found the usual amorphous blog postings that seemingly were AI-written but yet chock full of patently generic content (we call them “bread sandwiches” because there is no blog content meat in the clickbait posting) along with the occasional, and useless, self-promotional junk.  So, no I didn’t have anything, but I did have our project management notes.

Therefore, this blog is for you – the unappreciated volunteer who probably missed a board meeting and got assigned the forlorn responsibility of getting a friendraiser event off the ground with no specific guidance, no 3-ring binder of helpful tips on how past activities were undertaken (e.g. vendors, sponsorship notes, mailing of invitations, volunteer notes, etc.) and, I’m guessing, no co-chair.  Well, we’re going to fix that.  My job is to make you look good.

What is a Friendraiser?

Like the name sounds, a “friendraiser” is similar to a fundraiser, but the difference is usually in raising awareness instead of raising cash.  Awareness, however, is rather broad so moste friendraiser events have some scope.  To help you focus your particular fundraiser scope, we have compiled various ways in which we have seen friend-raiser get-togethers work:

(a) to create general community awareness (“we’re here!”);

(b) to introduce to peripheral organization members of new construction, services or not-for-provide endeavors;

(c) to solicit a soft-appeal for potential board members;

(d) to act as an informal appeal for new members to the organization or association;

(e) to build of a VIP tier of major donors;

(f) to soft-launch a capital campaign, with support from existing major donors, to entice first-level contributors to become VIP members;  and,

(g) to organize a volunteer group of “second lieutenants” who may help spread the “Good Word” about an organization’s mission.

The key with a friendraiser vs. a fundraiser is that friendraisers are not meant to be heavy sell, hard-pitch sessions.  They are more likely to be akin to traditional “lunch and learn” activities that were perhaps most popular in the 1970’s or 1980’s.  Friendraisers are typically not more than 1 hour, with finger food (and without a gala or sit-down style setting).  It helps to have a controlled environment so that people can’t just drift off or come and go as they please. If you keep the formal part of the event to one hour, with a tight plan-of-action (see below), then this will help land the purpose of the activity.

Friend-Raiser Event Setting

They are best done in a setting that underscores the purpose of the organization.  So, for example, if you are attempting to refurbish a community center for senior citizens, then the event would take place at the to-be organizational location, even if the venue is only roughed out.  For a nature preserve, there is no better way to highlight the mission than to be in the center of the preserve.  Therefore, where possible, let your venue assist with the purpose of the friendraiser event. 

If, for practical reasons, you need to have the friend raiser elsewhere, then make it a fun venue.  To keep costs down, which is typical for friend raising hang-outs, here are some event locations that might assist in sparking some creative ideas:

  • Outdoor setting with horseshoes and cornhole
  • Sizable Home of a VIP Donor or Association member
  • Off-hours at a popular bar or brewery (just be sure you don’t lose the ability to hushen the room for before/after remarks)
  • Local Historical Society or Museum
  • Area Fishing & Hunting Club
  • Golf Course or HOA Clubhouse over attractive setting
  • Anything with waterfront

People won’t remember exactly what you said, but they will remember how they felt.  They will remember if they had a good time.  Given this, here’s a prime directive:  it is your job to have attendees need to feel better about themselves, and your mission, when they leave vs. how they felt when they arrived.

They can be an effective way to do outreach into the community and are easily repeated.  Of course there is the opportunity to ask for funds and support the mission-critical needs of the association or organization, but this is usually done in an atmospheric manner instead of direct ask.  When done well, the friendraiser is a fun, informative and non-pressed event to generate specific awareness.  If you have an unusual venue or setting, it helps underscore the mission, provide some novelty to the event while buffering any misgivings attendees may have about becoming a captive audience.

Setting Successful Friendraiser Goals

It helps to work with the goal in mind of what you want to achieve with your friendraiser event.  Get specific with your goals for the event.  Even though the event is meant to raise general awareness, it can also mean that you have reasonable targets to reach.  Here some of the hallmarks that would indicate that you “crushed it”:

  • ______# of people sign-up to volunteer
  • ______# of board member applications filled
  • ______#  matching funds to our arts grant
  • ______# new members of the VIP club
  • ______# 30-day full membership trial at the club
  • ______# new leads for potential donors
  • ______# guest speakers for the next fiscal quarter
  • ______# sign-ups for top tier member services.
  • ______# of people attended
  • ______# board members agreed to do the friendraiser next time!

Sourcing Friendraiser Names

Now comes the less fun hard part.  You need to source names.  Who to invite?  Where to get names?  Cornerstone gets asked about data all the time, and there are lots of options. In the spirit of keeping this simple, here are ideas for you to use or even commingle to come up with a unique invitation list:

  • Ask each board member to provide 5 to 10 names (with addresses, emails & phones);
  • General email inviting members to ask friends to attend (here you need to have specific instructions – you can’t have a friendraiser without confirmed attendees);
  • Data scrape from similar organizations (if you are an animal rescue shelter, you could see who are the listed major donors of similar local organizations such as SPCAs); Cornerstone often asked to do data scraping as the “best list you can buy is one that you can’t buy”;
  • Ask a sister organization to ask its members to attend; not surprisingly, not all organizations are keen on list sharing, but some are;
  • Rent a List for an advance direct mailing. – even though CRST/Cornerstone specializes in direct mail and not-for-profit appeal mailings, we probably would not initially recommend sending out an unsolicited direct mail mailpiece; that said, if you are short on time or unable to garner a significant number of names through other methods, a direct mail outreach may well complement can buttress other efforts.

Cornerstone recommends assembling a list of at least 250ct for potential attendees individuals.  For such a list wherein invitees have direct ties to the organization, a modest return of 10% would seem appropriate (i.e. 25 attendees); for more robust groups, a 20% attendance (usually achieved with secondary efforts) of 50ct of mailing recipients is excellent.  200ct also allows you to reach the minimum threshold for bulk mail, whereby postage at not-for-profit rates could even be as low as approximately 15 per invitation mailed vs. USPS® First-Class Mail Forever Stamps.  Please note that unsolicited results for a targeted and rented list, in our experience, would hover around 1% at best.  In such instances, one might send 5,000ct invitation cards only to return 50ct attendees (on a good day).  It therefore helps to approach individuals who have teethers to the organization if not its purpose and mission.    

Sending Friendraiser Invitations

Email:  you can always send mass email, but we would suggest you also put a sign-up link on your website.  Drive recipients back to the website (helps with your Google ranking too) but have them land, if possible, on a sign-up page for the Friendraiser event.  You could also send limited batches from your organization’s primary email address, but if your emails get marked as “spam” you could unintentionally invite other problems.

Direct Mail:  It’s always an option to go to eBay or Staples and get invitation cards, and, using First-Class Forever stamps from the post office, send out invitations yourself.  There’s no real “tipping point” for what volume makes sense or the DYI (Do-It-Yourself) method.  I wrote this blog in part because we have done this for other organizations.  Once you get to 200ct or 250ct, looking for an outside service provider might make sense.  Cornerstone does send direct mail cards and invites, but you already know that by now.

Another half-way DYI suggestion would be to order 500ct or 1,000ct pre-printed invitations and envelopes, designed and printed by us, and then you could mail them to you for current and future use.  This could be effective in allowing board members or staff members to put hand-written notes into the invitation cards.  This is an approach that would personalize the mailing yet would not be allowable for bulk mailing under USPS® DMM (Direct Mail Manual) regulations regarding “Handwritten and Typewritten Matter” ref: USPS® DMM 243 section 2.4.

Again, this blog was meant to be first and foremost useful.  We want you to know you can do this all yourself.  If you need help, Cornerstone Services, Inc. can also help.  We work with organizations regarding direct mail not-for-profit mailings, graphic design, email template/banner set-up, etc. 

Getting to “Yes” for Friendraiser Attendance

You need to call.  I know this is not the most enjoyable part of volunteering, but after you send an invitation, someone ought to wait about 10 to 14 days and then make calls.  There is no way you can properly prepare for your guests if you don’t have a solid idea on how many guests are coming!  When you call, our suggestion is to start by introducing yourself and then asking the person if he or she received the invitation.  Here’s a possible script for you to use:

Association Pointperson“Hi, Barbara Somebodyorannother?  This is ___________ calling from the museum.”
Barbara“Yes, this is she. How can I help you?”
Association Pointperson“We sent you an invitation in a blue envelope two weeks ago, and I wanted to be sure you got it.”
Barbara“Probably.  I don’t recall off-hand.”
Association Pointperson:  “We’d like to know if you could join us on Thursday the 14th.  Bob Boardmember thought you could go and we’re hoping you can.  It’s only to learn more about the museum.  We have a guest speaker and Bob thought you’d be interested.  It’s not a fundraiser – we’re just building awareness.  Could you join us?”
Barbara“Possibly.  I’m not sure what I’m doing that night.”

Association Pointperson“The Stevens are coming and of course Bob will be there.”

Here, you have to be creative and decide how far you want to push.  One suggestion would be to ask for a tentative “yes” – a pencil-you-in-for-now kind of “yes” – and then follow-up with Barbara to make sure she could really go.  This is a numbers game.  You make calls.  You ask for “yes”.  The answer is “no” unless you ask, but don’t just send out a mailing card or invitation and cross your fingers.  Successful friend raisers do not get pulled off with hope.  Last suggestion:  get over your target number… there will always be people who don’t show up or cancel at the last minute.

The Friendraiser Checklist

Here’s what you’ve been all waiting for:  a sample/draft checklist of what to do!  Feel free to copy and modify in MS Word, MS Excel or a GoogleDocument or GoogleSheet:

Set-up & Break-downPre-Event Staging: Clean the RoomVacuum, clean windows, wipe-down clean… everything. No dirtButchy
Set-up & Break-downPre-Event Staging: Setting Up the RoomThere should be a quick list of what is necessary to stage the event:
☐ tablecloths
☐ brochures
☐ table tents
☐ swag items (gift bags)
☐ chairs
☐ tables
☐ posters? banners?
☐ speaker podium?
☐ food/beverage
☐ name tags?
☐ _________________
☐ _________________
☐ _________________
☐ _________________
☐ _________________
Set-up & Break-downPost-Event Break-DownAll Friend-Raising Specific items could be put into large Home Depot or Lowes Totes and put into a specific closet?Staff
SponsorsGetting Event SponsorsThis should be mild and any business that donates food, beverage or swag should automatically be a sponsor! Sponsorship should be mild in cost.Butchy
Food & BeverageFinger Food Item 1No large meals; perhaps donatedVeronica
Food & BeverageFinger Food Item 2No large meals; perhaps donatedVeronica
Food & BeverageFinger Food Item 3No large meals; perhaps donatedVeronica
Food & BeverageMedium/Small Plates, Cutlery, Cups & NapkinsLocal Grocery StoreVeronica
Food & BeverageBeveragesWhat to bring? Not too cheap looking, eh?Veronica
Gift BagCustom Handmade ItemPrepare & Hand-out 1 lb. of something like custom and locally handmade item for each attendeeBetty
Gift BagGiveaway Item 2In the past we have had things like pens or similar; perhaps there are other such itemsBetty
Gift BagGiveaway Item 2In the past we have had things like sponsor cards or similar; perhaps there are other such itemsBetty
Gift BagOrg Branded Item (Swag)Tumbler? Hat? Mug? Shirt? It would be nice to hand out something that someone could actually use and not end up immediately at the Salvation Army.Betty
StagingRetractable Banner & Banner Stand 1Suggested; Cornerstone, could design, have created and ship:
StagingRetractable Banner & Banner Stand 2Suggested; Cornerstone, could design, have created and ship:
StagingTable TentsFold-over cards that act as mini-info announcements, as seen here: Could be used for expressing mission examples, membership benefits, organization services descriptions, etc.Reggie
Outreach & Follow-upEvent Co-Coordinator: Connect with each Board Member to invite 5 – 10 potential attendees (i.e. names, addresses, email & phone)The goal is to to have at least 25 people show up for the first Friend-RaisersArchie
Outreach & Follow-upEmailing initial invitationsDirect emails to invitees would come from info@; suggestion: there be separate email groups sent for each board member’s supplied list. Mass reminders could come from MailChimp or ConstantContractArchie
Outreach & Follow-upDirect Mailing invitationsContact for helpArchie
Outreach & Follow-upBoard Member – Board Member 1[Board Member name here]Ethel
Outreach & Follow-upBoard Member – Board Member 2[Board Member name here]Ethel
Outreach & Follow-upBoard Member – Board Member 3[Board Member name here]Ethel
Outreach & Follow-upBoard Member – Board Member 4[Board Member name here]Ethel
Outreach & Follow-upBoard Member – Board Member 5[Board Member name here]Ethel
Outreach & Follow-upBoard Member – Board Member 6[Board Member name here]Ethel
Outreach & Follow-upBoard Member – Board Member 7[Board Member name here]Ethel
Outreach & Follow-upBoard Member – Board Member 8[Board Member name here]Ethel
Outreach & Follow-upBoard Member – Board Member 9[Board Member name here]Ethel
Outreach & Follow-upBoard Member – Board Member 10[Board Member name here]Ethel
Outreach & Follow-upOrg Staff Member – President[Org Staff Member name here]Ethel
Outreach & Follow-upOrg Staff Member – Vice President[Org Staff Member name here]Ethel
Outreach & Follow-upAfter-Event Thank You Follow-upPersonalized thank you from Board President or Org President.  Thank you cards send to both Attendees and SponsorsJughead
Outreach & Follow-upAfter-Event Communications Follow-upEach person gets put into your organizations’ CRM system and is tagged for “Gets Email”, “Gets Newsletter” and “Gets Appeal Mailings”Jughead
ProgramWrite 60-Minute Program Event Guide5 Minute increments of how the Friend-Raiser will go
6:00 pm Intro President Remarks / Food & Beverage [1st floor]
6:05 pm [Tour – Josie]
6:10 pm [Tour – Josie]
6:15 pm [Tour – Josie]
6:20 pm [Tour – Josie]
6:25 pm [Tour – Josie]
6:30 pm [Return Comments / Food & Beverage]
6:35 pm [Ops or Sales Manager Comments
6:40 pm [Board Comments: Kevin]
6:45-7:00 pm (Q & A from Laura & Steve / wrap-up by Laura at 7)
Program20 Minute TourWrite & Rehearse what exactly will be said; walk it through; make sure it is kept to only 20 minutes!Moose
ProgramRemarks & Talking Points: Org PresidentWrite & Rehearse Into Remarks, Return of Tour Remarks & Closing RemarksPresident
ProgramRemarks & Talking Points: Board ChairWrite & Rehearse Into Remarks, Return of Tour Remarks & Closing RemarksBoard Chair

Friendraiser Follow-up & Post-Event Review

Now that you’re done with the event, make sure you send thank you notes to everyone as well as have an internal “how’d we do?” Kaizen-style assessment of the day or evening.  The above checklist should help you assign and organize this task.  Further, you need to make sure that you don’t lose track of attendees.  Notice above how post-event protocol is to retain the names of attendees, even invitees, into the organization’s CRM system.  The rule-of-thumb is that if they have “touched you” in any way, or you have “touched them”, then they must stay in your world for as long as possible.  Your success will come from  

Hopefully you have documented your steps so that it will be easier the next time.  You may run friendraisers more than once a year, so having a written playbook will be an essential part of the Board’s or organization’s documents.

If you found this helpful, I’m glad – it took a long time to write this up and post it online! Please reach out to us if we may help with direct mail “anything” from appeal letters, raffle tickets, or gala invitation mailings.  You may reach us at (845) 255-5722 or


Sean Griffin