Fundraising Ideas That Work

How to raise $500 to $5000 quickly for your school, church, sports, or public service charity.


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Fundraising booths: dos and don’ts

Philip Copitch, Ph.D.


The following article has been excerpted with permission of the publisher for use here. It is from my book: Chutzpah Marketing. This excerpt is copyrighted.

First, what is chutzpah? It is boldness coupled with supreme self-confidence. An old Yiddish joke illustrates the power of chutzpah:

A man murders his mother and father. Then he throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.

Now that’s chutzpah!

Chutzpah marketing is business boldness coupled with supreme self-confidence. It is the art of doing something right, fairly, and with value. The same attitude must be used when “selling” your charitable cause.

Fundraising booth design

Below is a photograph of a typical booth that you might see at a local trade show or health fair:

Typical booth presentation

This booth has all the basics. Sign of product, product literature, and examples of product. Behind the table you have 3 nice people, willing to assist any and all.

This is a basic booth, but it is basically uninviting. You need to grab the passersby’s eyes and get their attention. I do not know anything about the Mystery Writers of America, and at first glance I would assume I know all I need to know about the subject. Are they selling books? Are they encouraging me to become a mystery writer? Can I meet a real live mystery writer at this booth? This basic booth makes the passerby work too hard to figure out what the booth is all about and invite themselves in.

Booth space tends to be rented in allotments of 10’ x 10’. Corner booths and high traffic area booths are prized, and demand a much steeper fee.

For the purpose of this section, we will assume you will rent a 10’ x 10’ booth space at an indoor health fair.

10’ x 10’ x 10”

Your booth space is three dimensional so as you think about how to use it, you need to picture it in three dimensions. When you are standing in front of your booth, you notice the booth is 10 feet wide. It is also 10 feet deep. And it is ten feet tall. (Some fairs limit you to 8 feet tall.)

Front view of trade show booth


When you stand in front of the booth area it may seem large, because it is 10 feet wide after all. But this size is deceiving. In actuality, the viewable space of your booth is more likely only 2 feet tall by ten feet wide. Please let me explain. When the event is going, lots of people will be milling around. As people walk by your booth, others just feet away will have their view of your booth blocked by moving people traffic. Because of this, your chutzpah attention getting, eye grabbing, all controlling “hook” needs to be above the human traffic. This hook needs to be about your potential customer.


Blocked view of booth


Your chutzpah hook needs to grab the attention of attendees. Your hook line should be the first of at least 4 steps:

All chutzpah booths have four major components.


1. Chutzpah headline

2. Chutzpah supporting information

3. Chutzpah supporting secondary benefits

 ------Name and address

4. Chutzpah call to action


Plus a 5th, if possible– save/stick/pass-ability.


As someone moves towards your booth, from any direction, your chutzpah headline should capture their interest. As they get closer, through the pedestrian traffic, more of your message should help pull them in. Your supporting information should be legible from at least 6 feet away (10 feet is better). The overall colors of your backdrop should be inviting, and informative words. Graphics should encourage the passerby to stop and allow eye contact with your booth personnel.


Capturing the public’s attention

In addition to interference from pedestrian traffic, you and your staff, and your display table are occupying the 10’ by 10’ space. More on booth design later in this chapter.


Using your space carefully


Types of booth signage

Due to the explosion of digital printing, it is possible to get fantastic, eye candy, color banners at reasonable prices. 2’ by 10’ full color custom banners can be ordered for around $100.

I have found my local digital sign store very competitive.

Rectangular vinyl banners tend to be up to four feet high and as long as you would like. They are usually offered in 13 ounce (economy) weight or 15 ounce (heavy) weight. Banners can be printed on one or both sides. A 3’ x 10’, custom designed, full color banner can dress up the back of your booth.

This next photo shows a powerful backdrop banner that was eye catching even in this large area.


Large area banner


If you look carefully at this banner you can see that the four sides are hemmed and that the grommets are placed every two feet. The hemming and grommets are important, allowing you to hang and re-hang your banner. Most reputable banner printers incorporate the cost of the hemming and grommets into the banner’s basic cost, if your printer does not, I advise you to look for a different printer. Grommets or hemming should not be an additional fee.

Another consideration should be floor banners and signs. Banners have been used for centuries to bring participants to the correct area. The following example shows a banner dating back to the 14th century. It is the rallying banner of the Corporation of the United Boot and Shoe Makers of Issoudun.

14th century banner (from Project Gutenberg EBook of Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period, by Paul Lacroix


In modern times we still use the banner to garner attention and to direct groups. Below you will find a basic welcome floor banner.

This type of banner can add a lot of color and professionalism to your booth. It is inexpensive, costing about $200 for a double sided sign and stand. Most sign companies have a selection of pre-made general purpose banners, or you can custom make your own. I recommend you custom make your banner. Your area is small, and it is best to control every quarter inch with your message.

Below is an excellent example of how Rutgers University customized a floor banner. This banner is a nice example of general self promotion. If you look at the bottom of the banner you will notice that this is a spring loaded pull-up banner. It is like an upside down window blind that is pulled upward for display. This type of banner housing is a little pricier, $300 plus, but it makes for easy transport and safe storage of your banner between uses.

A custom banner


For about $1000.00 you can get very fancy with a hanging scrolling banner as shown next. This is really three banners in one. The banner slowly scrolls revealing each banner. This eye catching signage will get people to stop and look.

Hanging scrolling banner


At a recent trade show I found a free standing scrolling banner placed strategically 5 feet across from the bottom of an escalator. The descending escalator riders were a captured audience for all three of the scrolling posters. That was chutzpah placement.

Next we see a floor sign ($100 - $300 depending on size.) These vinyl signs stick to the floor and slow pedestrians down as they read them.


Floor signage

A homemade version of this type of sign was done by a pre-school and Head Start program. They took hundreds of black silhouettes of little feet and had them tracking the floor to their display.

The footprints directed folks from all directions to the center of the booth where there was a kiddie pool filled with sand and seashore toys. The theme of the booth was Summer Enrichment and Fun.

Tear drop banners are becoming very popular. They are an eye catching change from the standard rectangular banner.

Tear drop banners


Tear drop banners are usually 3 to 16 feet high and are easy to install, usually by poking them into the ground or placing them into a weighted stand. They are made to quiver in a breeze adding to their eye catching appeal. The collapsible spine makes them easy to transport and store. (Over the last few months I have had a few friends despair that their tear drop banners have been pilfered. One friend said, “I last saw it waving from the back of a pickup as it sped off.” My friend is the manager of a Sprint cellphone store and for the life of him couldn’t imagine that he needed to guard a large yellow sign that boldly read “Sprint”. I assume it became a rally banner for the “hoodlum” element of a local high school track team.)

The overall look of your booth

Earlier in this chapter we looked at the typical local booth. Now let’s get a little bit picky and look at how, with a little bit of chutzpah, and a tiny budget, your booth can stand out.

Compare and contrast a typical booth

Most booths at a local event will look like the one above. The vantage point of the camera is where your booth visitor will be standing. Take a second, and study this picture. What is this booth all about? What message or tone catches your attention? The three smiling people seem nice, but are they inviting you to ask questions? If so, questions about what? People do not like to feel even a little stupid. People avoid feeling even the tiniest bit stupid. Often, if your message is not clear and easily understandable, people will simply walk on by, avoiding the minor discomfort.

Helping the passerby into the role of visitor to your booth is very important. This is where your Chutzpah Headline comes in. Your headline starts the conversation from a calm, non threatening place. Your booth headline needs to get the passerby contemplating their needs.

Let’s play for a second. What would you suggest the mystery writers’ booth chutzpah headling.

My suggestion:


Any unsolved, questionable

or lascivious secrets...

you would like to tell a mystery writer?


From the vantage point of the passerby, the pictures on the backdrop are too small to be useful. Your goal should be large, colorful, and powerful graphics that capture the passerby’s eye.

Moving our attention to the people in the picture, we see three nice individuals. Many trade shows give badges to the participants making it easy for them to come and go through the exhibit doors. These tags are not enough identification for your booth worker. Booth workers need to present as professional members of your team. Professionally made name tags, and/or silk screened shirts, go a long way to making your workers look the part.

At one health fair I attended, the Herbalife independent dealer had all her people wearing the following button on their green tee-shirts.These three inch buttons were nice ice breakers.

We will talk more about ice breakers later.

The table stand-ups (see, Compare and contrast a typical booth, above) are there to help keep the initial conversation going. Once the pedestrian has stopped at your booth, you want to focus them towards your offerings. Again, signage is important, you do not want to make the visitor have to figure out the correct next step. If the visitor is supposed to touch, let them know.

I use this sign when I exhibit my books.

When you put out brochures it is a good idea to put out a small sign, “Free information” or “Please take one” or “Please take two”.

If you are doing a raffle, this is the area that the capture bowl goes. Have it well labeled, “Raffle tickets go here!”. Have the rules of the raffle printed large and easy to find. You do not want to wear out your booth staff by having them say, “Please put your raffle ticket in the bowl,” eighteen-hundred times. (The sign will help them say it only 600 times.)

You ingratiate and welcome visitors with clear mid-level signs.

The tabletop is where you present your chutzpah call to action, and if possible– save/stick/pass-ability.

Your chutzpah call to action and if possible—save/stick/pass-ability

In reality, a fundraising booth is a one trick pony. If you try to do too much, you’re going to lose your impact. The hard truth is that you get one call to action, one suitable to your booth. Most professionals do not believe this truth. These people are greedy and do not understand that capturing the public’s attention is hard and fleeting.

When you plan your booth, have a single purpose, a singular goal that you want to achieve. Such as:

• Get the name and address of a potential contributor. A raffle will do this well.

• Get name recognition for your organization or group. Giveaways will do this well: pens, magnets, scratch pads, calendars, balloons, or a free, or very low cost, mini service.

• Sell books. Show discount will help.

• Sell services. Show discount will help.

If, for example, you want to do all four of the above, I am afraid you will be disappointed. By not focusing on a single goal, your presentation will be scattered. Your booth staff will be overworked trying to figure out which goal to promote with which visitor. You will lose your audience. Multitasking does not work well.

Table bunting

Table bunting is the colorful curtain that covers the front and sides of your table. As with a clean coat of paint in an old kitchen, bunting hides many a secret. Bunting allows you to “hide” the mess that inevitably ends up under the booth table.

Many events offer bunting as part of the event’s overall coordinated look. If not, you will need to provide your own. Customized bunting is an extravagant expense, and since it will mostly be blocked by visitors’ legs and baby strollers, an expense that is easily skipped.

If you opt for a large table cloth or blanket, make sure your table cover is secured to the table. Inevitably some little tyke will grab it and run, accidentally pulling your display onto the ground.

Dealing with the great outdoors

Many valuable and low cost booth opportunities will be outdoors. A health fair at a local hospital has become a fun and healthful community event, transacted in the hospital’s parking lot.

All the rules we have already discussed concerning booth presentation count for indoor as well as outdoor booths, but outdoor booths have some added considerations.

You will have to prepare for weather conditions. It is best not to plan for the perfect day. Plan for hot or cold. Plan for too much sun or drizzle. Plan for wind. Encourage your staff to dress in layers and bring clothing of differing weights. Demand shade hats and sun screen. Discourage sun glasses because eye contact counts, even on sunny days. Provide lots of iced drinks or hot drinks. I bring my own, it costs a fortune to buy food and drinks at most events.

Because of wind, you will need extra weights to hold down signs and brochures.

I advise you to invest in a booth canopy of some sort. Protection from the sun or occasional drizzle has to be planned for. Also, a canopy defines your space.

Outdoors your 10’ x 10’ booth will look smaller. With the expanse of sky above your booth, signage doesn’t show up as well as it does indoors.

One way to combat the shrinking booth phenomenon is to think tall. Helium filled balloons are an inexpensive way to float a second story over your booth. By adding a few colorful paper streamers to each balloon, the wave of color will get you noticed.

Sixteen foot tear drop banners at the corners of your outdoor booth will help get your real estate noticed.

As you can imagine, it can get very expensive to doll up a booth. So it is important to stay focused on the message you are teaching the public, much more so than the expensive esthetics of the booth.

Educate your booth staff

Events are usually at least a day (8-12 hours) or longer. Some can last over a week. Working with the public, answering similar questions all day long tends to wear booth workers out. Workers will be drained after events.

It is imperative that booth workers be well trained. This means lots of 9-second speeches. The focus of the 9-second speech is to “talk-up” the major goal of the booth.

During the event, supervision is important. You want to make sure your people are staying on message. A friend of mine, a veteran of trade shows, told me of a problem he had with an overly enthusiastic booth worker. “Carl was so excited about helping people that he made our 15% Fair Discount on future services 50%. I couldn’t really get mad at him when he told me, ‘They seemed so happy to be getting 50% off.’” It is important to supervise even the enthusiastic worker.

Chutzpah tricks for garnering attention (ice breakers)

If people do not stop at your booth, you have wasted your time and effort attending the event. In this section we will look at chutzpah tricks to get people to stop and look, interact and learn about your offerings.


By offering wrapped candy in a bowl, people will stop to graze. Many other booths will be offering candy, so you will have to up your offerings. Wrapped hard candies are passé, the mini “fun size” candy bars are the entry level sugar bribe of choice. Use a deep glass/plastic bowl that is always kept partially full. Have the visitor reach deep into the bowl, leaving the impression that lots of visitors have already gotten candy.

One high school counseling department wanted to hand out community health information to parents. They were aware that their information was important, but boring. The community health fair was over Father’s Day weekend. They asked the cheerleading squad for help in livening up their dull, no frills booth.

At the back of their relatively drab booth they put up a blanket wall with a sign, “Happy Fathers Day! Free kisses from a cheerleader.”

The bubbly cheerleaders asked “dads” as they approached the table, “Do you want a kiss?” Then one of them would drag the dad behind the curtain, give him a Hershey’s kiss and say, “Please tell everyone that you have never been kissed like this before,” and she gave him a sticker that read, “Kissed by a cheerleader.” On the way out of the kissing booth a high school counselor gave each dad a plastic bag of information. The “dads” played along with the whole thing. Some swooning and gasping as they left the kissing booth. Throughout the day, hundreds of men wore “Kissed by a cheerleader” stickers. The drab, low cost booth got a lot of buzz.

As the day went on, the counselors fielded lots of questions concerning the information in the bags. It seemed that after being kissed, lots of moms and dads were encouraged to look into the information bag.

Smile and make eye contact

As people approach your booth, a smile is very important. It may not seem like much, but a smile is inviting.

It is best to have your booth staff verbalize an invite. “Welcome, look around… let me know if you have any questions.” It is important to ingratiate.

Being upbeat is hard to do for the duration of an event, so it is best to look for naturally upbeat and hyperactive individuals to help out at your booth.

Police your booth

It is good policy to constantly police your booth, keeping it neat and tidy. A trade show or fair is an active, noisy and messy event. Keeping your area as nice as when you started the day, will calm your visitors and offer a few minutes of solace in a very chaotic day. A charity that was teaching seniors to to use computers, put up a large TV connected to a computer. Seniors were shown how to use Photo Booth, a free Apple computer program that lets you take a photo and manipulate it in just a few clicks. It was very funny and drew a crowd of happy visitors. The noisy crowd got attention and others came from around the large room to see what all the happy noise was all about.

Think tactile

Whenever possible, offer tactile things for your booth visitors to touch and interact with. People feel more trustworthy of things they can touch. Offer items to hold such as display books, or examples of your charity’s equipment.

One religious organization displayed a photo album of their staff’s commitment to the Think Pink Walk in their area. The album was full of about 100 photos of happy people doing good things for the community.

A youth group showed a computer slide presentation of the young people landscaping for Habitat for Humanity. Again, lots of happy faces doing nice things for others.

Avoid being a bump on a log

Don’t just sit behind your booth table. Events are long, so sitting is a must, but use tall chairs, allowing for easier and more natural eye contact. Feel free to mingle in front of your booth. Schmooze or lose. Interact with the other exhibitors

Make sure you meet every other exhibitor on your breaks from your booth. These people tend to be active people in your community. Interact with them. Teach them about your organization.

When I work a charity booth, my chutzpah goal is to get a donation from every booth owner. Some write a check, while others give products. It is not unusual on the last day of a show, for another exhibitor to donate their exhibit to my charity, lock stock and barrel. What charity doesn’t need extra chairs, tables, lights and 3000 pens that say, Wells Fargo or Apple? The charity gets the donation, while the company gets the write off, and a great thank you letter. For years we did not need Post-it notes, because we had 10 cases that read, “Ford.”


Dancing Chewbacca

I once participated in a 14 day booth event at the Santa Clara County Fair. KLOK radio donated the booth and thousands of KLOK tee-shirts to be given away as prizes. The booth was a simple coin toss, anyone who tossed a quarter into a glass on the table six feet away, won a tee-shirt. The radio station wanted everyone to win a tee shirt, and my charity got all the tossed quarters. The on air radio personalities helped out throughout the 14 days and signed autographs. The bulk of the volunteer power came from the Fremont Optimist club, an energetic group of caring people.

KLOK radio gave us lots of free radio time for weeks before and straight through the county fair.

Steve Goldstein, then president of the Optimist Club of Fremont, came up with the idea of having Chewbacca, of Star Wars fame, stand out in front of our booth and greet people. What an idea! The county fair was huge, and it was easy for a booth to get lost in all the excitement. Having Chewbacca dancing around, hugging, and posing for pictures generated a lot of energy and buzz. By the third day, Chewbacca was making hourly appearances on the grandstand, getting lots of cheers from the crowd, while the announcer spoke highly of our charity and directing everyone towards our booth.

The rental of a Chewbacca costume was a lot of fun and a lot of work. The suit is made for tall people, but over the course of the county fair, lots of volunteers wore the outfit. We had baby Chewy one afternoon when a 4’9” woman took her turn.

During the afternoons, the suit was hot. So I made a rule that no one could wear the costume for more than an hour. Being Chewy was so much fun, I had to force volunteers to stop dancing and greeting and to get re-hydrated.

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