Festival of Trees — How-To Fundraiser, Part 1

Written by on June 15, 2013 in Christmas, Fundraisers, Holidays, Party Occasions, Party Planning with 1 Comment

One fundraising event to be hosted around Thanksgiving is “A Festival of Trees”. I know a lot of communities host an event by this name, but your non-profit or organization can do it as well. Come up with a catchy new name if this one is already taken. This information is divided into two articles — part 1 and part 2. Make sure to visit both articles!

Detailed information, suggestions, drawings and pictures included.

Festival of Trees Part 1

Premise: Get people, corporations, groups and clubs to donate holiday décor. Your non-profit then sells these in a silent auction, keeping all the funds generated.

Who to solicit for donations:

  • Different clubs in the community
    • Altrusa Club
    • Kiwanis
    • Rotary
    • Girl Scout/Boy Scout troops
    • Business and Professional Women’s Assoc.
    • 4-H Club
    • Grandmothers Club
    • Red Hat Society
    • Extension Homemakers Club
    • Local Businesses of any kind
    • Banks
    • Retail Stores
    • Real Estate
    • Restaurants
    • Hotels/Motels
    • Factories
  • Other non-profit organizations
    • YMCA
    • YWCA
    • Boys & Girls Clubs
    • Chamber of Commerce
    • Sororities
    • Fraternal Organizations
    • Police
    • Firefighters
    • American Legion Post
    • VFW Post
    • AmVets Post
    • Eagles Lodge
    • Moose Lodge
    • Elks Lodge
    • Ducks Unlimited
    • Knights of Columbus
  • School Clubs
    • Athletics Boosters
    • Band Boosters
    • Choral Boosters
    • Drama Club
    • French Club
    • Spanish Club
    • Key Club
    • Honor Society
    • FFA Club
  • City Council/Mayor
  • Churches

Basically, anyone can be asked to donate. (Don’t forget members of your organization, customers and private citizen donations!)

What does a Donator receive in return?

1. Name listed in brochure/program and passed out that evening.

Your non-profit or organization will produce a brochure listing all donators. You can get as fancy as allowing an ad space the size of a business card or as simple a list of names. This is completely up to you. The donation is an advertising expense if it “pays” for an ad in your brochure. Use this as a selling point.

Also, if your organization is a 501(c)( 3), you can provide a receipt to the donators for the donation. (Please seek advice from your accountant on the exact procedures.)

2. Their donation will be set up on an auction table with their business/club/organization’s name advertised as the donator.

An easy way to keep donators happy here is to give them the guidelines for their sign (size, shape, allowable information) and let them submit it with their donation. That way you don’t have to make the signs and they get the information they want listed! Win-Win situation!

You can also entice would-be donators by specifying a “Sponsor” program. Sponsors can be all one price or leveled such as Platinum, Gold, Silver, etc… A sponsor should be more than a regular donation,  like a monetary donation or a larger valued item (i.e. sponsors a Holiday Decorating Service to come in and decorate your home or business, usually up to a certain amount of money for the service.)

These “Sponsors” are not necessary to have a successful event but should be taken advantage of and have a plan in place if some business offers.

What can they donate?

For a Festival of Trees event, I suggest asking for holiday décor that anyone can use. Including but not limited to:

  • 4ft tall and under decorated Christmas Trees – Larger trees are almost impossible to transport and most people already have their family tree and ornaments. The purpose of the smaller trees is for other rooms in your home (i.e. family room, kitchen, bathroom, children’s bedrooms, dining rooms, etc…) or your business.
  • Wreaths or Swags – Almost anyone can find a place for a well decorated wreath, home or business.
  • Centerpieces – These can be for a dining room table, kitchen table, kitchen island, conference table at work, etc…
  • Mantel Décor – Garlands, mantel aprons, stocking holders, and anything that can be used on a mantel.
  • Other Holiday Décor items – Door knob hangers, wall décor, chotchkies/knick knacks, welcome rugs,  tree skirts, stockings, yard or room signs, etc…

Obviously, money is an acceptable donation as well!


Suggest a Theme for their Donation.

One of the best things we ever did while running this event was to suggest to the donators that they “theme” their donations. By that I mean use something universal like Angels, Snowmen, Santas, Snowflakes, etc… for the theme of their tree/decor.

Alternatively, they could use a “local” theme for their donation. Below is a list of ideas for this suggestion:

  • Decorate a tree with a sports/school activities theme and top it with the school mascot.


  • If your town/city capitalizes on the fact that it has a famous “Sister City”; use this. For instance London (Big Ben, London Bridge, Royalty), Venice (Canals & Gondolas), Rome (coliseum, churches, art), Hollywood (stars, celebrities, signs), New York (broadway, Times Square, Rockefeller Center) Paris (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame) etc…




  • If you town/city name conjures images, use it! For instance if Metropolis is your city name, decorate a tree with a Superman Theme;   Tigertown can have a tiger themed tree, Flintstone can be decorated after the cartoon, etc…
  • If your town/city plays host to something famous, use that. (University, historical landmark, tourist attraction, etc…


Alternatively, you can have the donating business, club, organization create a tree symbolizing their business, club, organization. Their members and customers may well be the purchasers of such a themed tree or décor.

You may also want to offer a service to organizations that want to donate a tree or other décor but don’t have a volunteer to make it. If they will foot the bill for the supplies, someone on your team could make the actual tree or décor item for them.

I used to have a kitchen that was decorated like a 50’s type diner. Every year I put out my “Coca-Cola” themed tree for decoration.

  • Members of a club like the Red Hat Society would probably purchase a tree decked out to symbolize that club. Tell them to be creative and imaginative with the task!
  • Real Estate Agents might like a tree decorated with mini houses, contracts, for sale signs.
  • Accounting firms would probably like a tree decorated with mini adding machines, numbers, mathematical symbols and more.
  • If your city is known for its’ history, decorate a tree with buildings, pictures, and symbols of that history. Citizens would display it proudly in their homes or places of work.
  • An athletic club could decorate a tree in their sport. Fans would love this!


Suggest “Incentive Gifts” to go along with their Donations.

This old marketing tick ups the perceived value of a donation. It can be for the benefit of both the donating organization and the auction winner.

  • I once got a university Alumni club to donate a tree decorated with symbols for that school (colors, mascot, logo, sports, etc…). To my surprise, the topper on the tree was 2 tickets to one of the university’s basketball games.  The tree ended up off the charts in terms of bids!
  • In the same vein, we decorated a tree with the local high school colors, mascots and activities and got the Athletic Director to donate an “All Sports Pass” for the school year.
  • A local Theater Group was putting on the play “Bus Stop”. They decorated a tree with school busses, signs, yellow colors and the successful bidder also received front row tickets to the play. The winner was a local school teacher that displayed the tree in her classroom and got to see the show!


A business could make a special coupon or give away that goes on their tree or holiday décor item to increase the chances of a sale. It should be one that requires the winner to go to the business in person to collect. This is a great advertising and sales builder tool. Suggestions:

  • One item 40% off coupon. Use qualifiers like: “Must be used within a week of the Festival of Trees event”.
  • Coupon for “Buy One, Get One Free” (or 50% off).
  • Come in to the store within a week of the Festival of Trees to receive your free tree ornament.
  • Free Appetizer or Dessert at a local restaurant.
  • Free Car Wash at a gas station
  • Free sitting fee at a local photographer.
  • Free Manicure with the purchase of a pedicure at a Nail salon.

You get the idea… the sky is the limit for business incentives.

For more info, visit Part 2 of Festival of Trees…


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