Unique Holiday Fundraiser Ideas: Make Money For Your Group With Festival Of The Trees

This article details how to organize and run a Festival of the Trees, a Christmas time fund-raiser.

If you have a large display area, manpower and good organizational ability, a festival-of-the-trees fund-raiser could be for you. They can become an much-anticipated annual event in your community.

The two keys are 1) participation from non-profit groups, who purchase and decorate the trees, and 2) local businesses and offices who bid on the finished trees. Individuals can also bid on the trees, but hopefully the bidding will get so high, only major businesses can afford them! This community-wide cooperation is essential for the overall success of the event.

It's not unusual for a festival-of-the-trees to require a full year of planning and five or six hard-working committees. If you have only a handful of people, another fund-raiser might be more appropriate.

The festival should include at least 30-40 trees total and more if space allows. This type of fund-raiser may start small, but as the years pass it generally grows in popularity. Competition to create the most unique tree, makes the event fun for the decorators.

Local service clubs such as Kiwanis, Lions Club, Altrusa, and Rotary should be approached to donate trees. Their mission is community service and raising funds for charity, making them an obvious choice. Representatives from the festival organizing committee should meet with them in person to explain the fund raiser.

Here's how it works. A local non-profit group such as the Lions Club, for example, agrees to donate an artificial tree of their choice, either small, medium or large. The club pays for the tree and the decorations, at a cost usually not more than $100-$150 total, as some decorations can be hand-made or donated.

Club members use creativity to make the tree something special and distinctive. Some festival organizers select a broad theme, which helps a great deal with decorating choices. Suggested themes might be: A Victorian Christmas, a Country Christmas, or Christmas in Foreign Lands.

During the festival, all the trees are displayed in decorative settings. Secret or open bids are taken on the trees. The highest bidder, perhaps a law office or real estate office, then wins the tree to adorn their business. In our local festival, bids sometimes went as high as $700 for a large tree. Those of us who helped decorate the tree could see it prominently displayed at a local bank.

The festivals are best held in the last week or ten days of November, so the businesses can have their trees for display through the entire month of December. Since they are artificial and all the ornaments are wired on, the trees can be stored and used year after year.

Funds are primarily raised by the bidding process, but also through a small admission can also be charged to view the trees and/or other items. The longer you can display the trees, the more money you can make.

Another way to raise additional funds is through associated activities during the festival. Staging a gala, formal opening for invited guests on the first evening is one good alternative. Officials and local dignities should be invited and refreshments such as wine and cheese served. This group can be encouraged to start the bidding process and some will likely make individual donations.

For the youngsters (4-7 age group), a tea & cookies with Santa is always a popular choice. Other festivals have staged a "Teddy Bear" tea which is a dressy affair parents love to photograph. Set apart from the trees, you could have a gingerbread house display and a room where decorative Christmas wreaths are sold. Depending on space available, selling refreshments is another option. Hot cider, or hot coca are appropriate for the Christmas spirit.

Many other related activities are possible including a Christmas fashion show, luncheon, or brunch, senior day at the festival, etc. The list is only limited by resources and manpower.

Funds are raised by the bidding process, but also through admission to view the trees and/or other items. As with any fund-raiser, getting the word out is an absolute necessity. When you set up a budget, don't skimp on publicity.

© High Speed Ventures 2011