Why Managing Your Guest List is Vital for Hosting a Successful Nonprofit Fundraiser (And How to Create a Great Guest List)

Why Managing Your Guest List is Vital for Hosting a Successful Nonprofit Fundraiser (And How to Create a Great Guest List)

When planning a fundraiser, most nonprofits and charities focus on the activities they want to offer, the venues they need to rent, or the online platforms they need to invest in if they want to host a virtual fundraising event.

But there’s an even more important part of fundraising planning — and incredibly, it’s a step that’s regularly overlooked by event planners.

It’s called managing your event guest list.

Without guests, your fundraising campaigns aren’t going to get very far. An excellent guest list will provide you with plenty of supporters eager to donate to your cause, participate in your event, and spread the word about your organization to their network. Guest lists are vital for building the community of sponsors, donors, and supporters who could become regular attendees at your fundraising events.

Unfortunately, many event planners don’t spend that much time organizing and managing their guest lists. This can lead to major headaches down the line — and not just with poor attendance. A good guest list is your primary source of vital information about your attendees, and without one, your volunteers and management team will be at a severe disadvantage when your event begins.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of an excellent guest list and the problems that can arise when you don’t take the time to take care of yours. We’ll also show how excellent online tools like the PayBee system make it easier for you to build and manage your guest list, ensuring your fundraising events attract plenty of new supporters who will donate to your cause for the long term.  

Benefits of a Guest List

At first glance, a guest list’s purpose seems obvious. You want to know how many people are coming to your fundraiser in order to know how many guests to prepare for. A large guest list also suggests you’ll have more potential donors meaning your fundraiser will be more profitable.

However, a well-managed guest list provides many more benefits than a simple list of names. Here’s the type of information your guest list should offer — and how you can use this to your advantage:

Placement of your guests

When people buy tickets for a fundraiser, they have the option of purchasing individual tickets, tickets for couples, or an entire table. This is true even when you offer your tickets for free.

Offering a group ticket option is great since your guests can potentially invite a lot of other people from their networks and fill up your fundraising event with more attendees. Having all this information on your guest list also shows you where every guest should be seated at your venue (if you’re offering a traditional in-person fundraiser). This is vital for your ushers and other volunteers who need to direct guests to their tables.

Meal choices

Fundraisers that offer lunches or dinners don’t just need to have enough food prepared for their guests — they need to know about any dietary restrictions their guests might have. In this age of gluten allergies and vegan diets, it’s imperative that you know exactly what each guest can and can’t consume in order to give them a good experience.

Fortunately, online event tickets today make it very easy to offer vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free options along with your other menu choices. Guests can easily check off their preferences and this information can be added to your guest list, making it simple for your chefs and caterers to prepare appropriate meals for everyone.

Individual information

Attendees of fundraising events like to feel acknowledged by the staff. While it’s simple to create blanket “Thank You” banners for all of your guests, a good guest list can help make every individual guest feel acknowledged.

Use the names on your guest list and the table placement information to create name tags for each attendee. If you’re holding a live auction, provide each guest with a bidding paddle with a number linked to their name. You can even ask guests for their favorite color when they fill out their ticket information and make sure the name tags and paddles are color coded with their preferences. Such small touches lead to better appreciation from your guests — and more generous donations.

Vaccination information

With the COVID-19 pandemic still very much a reality, it’s important to know if your guests have been properly vaccinated. Your online tickets can require that guests fill out their current vaccination status. This information is then added to the guest list where it’s used to determine the safety guidelines of your event.

Follow-up information

Event planners know that successful fundraisers don’t end when the event closes. You also need to follow up with guests — often with a simple thank you card or email for attending, but also with reminders to finalize their donations or make arrangements to pick up the items they won at auctions or raffles. All of this becomes much simpler to manage when your guest lists contain your attendees’ contact information.

What’s more, having your guests’ emails and phone numbers makes it easier to include them in your community of donors and supporters. Newcomers who donated generously or enjoyed your event should definitely be put on the list for your next event — and having their information handy will make it much easier to invite them.

Common Problems From a Mismanaged Guest List

A good guest list forms the backbone of not only one fundraising event but also your ability to host multiple successful fundraisers with generous donors and supporters.

Unfortunately, it’s actually very common for many nonprofits and charities not to have a structured system in place for collecting and sharing guest information with their event planners and staff. Here are just some of the issues that can arise from a mismanaged guest list:

Seating issues

A well-managed guest list gives hosts and ushers a complete rundown of who’s coming to an event and where everyone should be seated. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a structured system in place for collecting all of this information, placing all of your guests can become a logistical nightmare.

Some fundraiser attendees have been known to buy group tickets and then informally invite friends, family, and co-workers over the phone. These new guests arrive at the fundraiser only for the hosts to not know what table to put them at since the “table captains” never informed the event planners about their guests. This leads to uncomfortable delays as the hosts get the matter sorted out.  

Low turnout

Having many people buy group tickets might look like a good thing — but that’s only true if they manage to fill in all of their seats. It’s not uncommon for a “table captain” to purchase all the seats at a large table and then forget to invite enough people before your fundraising event. This not only hurts your event but also discourages guests from buying group tickets in the future since they’ll feel like they’re wasting their money. 

Poor experiences

Fundraisers strive to give every guest a good experience, but this can’t happen when you don’t know enough about your guests’ individual needs. This can range from not knowing their dietary restrictions or having information about their vaccination status. Without a proper system set up to collect this information, both the guests and the hosts will have a difficult time making sure everyone is properly taken care of. This often has a very negative effect on the donations your fundraiser will collect and the participation in your activities.    

How to Manage Your Guest List

Okay, so how should you create a structured ticketing process that allows you to create a well-managed guest list? It all starts with investing in a reliable automated ticketing system like the one on PayBee’s online platform. With the proper online tools, collecting and organizing your guest information will be much more convenient for both you and your guests.

When choosing an online platform, get one that makes it easy to create a ticketing campaign that offers individual, couple, and group tickets. These campaigns should be able to be created for both free and paid tickets.

When a person purchases a group ticket through a platform like the PayBee system, they’ll also receive a confirmation email with a link that sends them back to the ticketing page. From here, they’ll be directed to fill out all their pertinent information. You decide what type of information they should provide (name, email, dinner choice, vaccination status etc.) while building your ticketing campaigns.

The ticketing page also provides the person who purchased the group ticket to send out email invites to people they’d like to come to the fundraiser. Each invitee receives their invite in an email. If the invitee confirms the invitation, they’re sent to a page where they must fill out all pertinent information. All the fields they need to fill out are required — meaning they can’t confirm their invitation without providing all relevant information for your guest list.

Since all of this information is entered into the PayBee system, as each table’s guest list fills up, your event planning team can view the complete list by entering the system. This keeps all of your hosts and staff properly informed as you prepare for the event.

If a planner sees that a table still has seats open as the event nears, they can send a reminder email to the table captain informing them they still have seats to fill. This provides the captains with enough time to invite more people and fill up your guest list. Not only does this provide you with more potential donors and supporters, it also makes your table captains feel they’re getting their money’s worth for buying those group tickets.

The beauty of this system is that it places the responsibility for inviting people with the table captains. This frees up your staff to spend less time on organizing a guest list and more time using the information to prepare for their event. Since all of this information is readily collected and easily available, it’s simpler to share it with the right people — from event planners to chefs to hosts to volunteers — and make sure they know exactly how many meals, bidding paddles, tables, and party favors they need to prepare.   

A More Successful Fundraiser

Nonprofit and charity fundraisers that manage their guest lists can move forward with greater precision, giving guests a better experience and lowering the stress levels of your event planners. While putting together a guest list might seem like a simple exercise, expert event planners know you need to start organizing your guest list from the beginning and be diligent about updating it with any new information.

In order to do all of this, you need a structured ticketing system that makes it easy to collect and organize guest information. Fortunately, online tools like the PayBee system provide a customizable way to obtain all the information you need from your attendees. By automating much of the process and transferring the responsibility of inviting guests to the table captains, your event planners will feel much more empowered when managing their fundraising events.

If you’re ready to move forward and discover the best online platforms to manage your fundraisers, you can start by signing up for a free demonstration of the PayBee system. These sessions let you experience firsthand how participating in a live auction feels from the PayBee online platform. You’ll also get a chance to chat with many of our experts and learn how our ticketing system helps ease your management headaches. With all the challenges of managing a successful fundraising event for your nonprofit or charity, you’ll need all the help you can get, so sign up for a free demo and learn how PayBee can make your job easier.    


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Nonprofit Fundraising
Nonprofit Tips
Online Fundraising
Michael Jung