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How to Plan a Pumpkin Carving Fundraiser

Pumpkin carving events are a great way to foster community connection and fundraise for your organization. If you’re looking for a starting point, there are a few key steps to planning a successful pumpkin carving event.

Choose a location.

The first step to any event is choosing the right venue.

Pumpkin carving and decorating can get messy, so it’s best to find a venue that can handle lots of pumpkin pulp, paint, and glitter glue. For the best outcome, you’ll want to find a location outside like a field, large park, or pumpkin patch. While not ideal, you can also host inside if you’re willing to put in some extra effort to keep the space clean.

While having lots of room to spread out and carve is important, there are other things to look for in a venue. For example, try to find a venue that provides tables for you. A location with workspaces included means one less item you have to purchase and transport.

Speaking of transportation, make sure you keep in mind just how many items you’ll need to move to your event site. In addition to tools like carving knives and paint brushes, you’ll need to move the actual pumpkins to the spot where your event will take place. If you’re planning to bring three dozen large pumpkins, you probably shouldn’t choose a location on top of a steep hill.

Gather supplies and volunteers.

Next, you’ll need to gather supplies and helpers. This event requires a variety of small, miscellaneous items to give participants the best pumpkin carving experience. Make a list — or use the one we’ve provided below — to make sure you remember to bring everything you need.

You will also need volunteers to assist children, pass out supplies and promotional materials, and accept donations. The number of volunteers depends on factors like how many guests you plan to host and how long the event will run. Keep in mind that if the event is likely to have a lot of small children in attendance you will need more volunteers than one that is geared towards teens or adults.

Set up pumpkin decorating stations.

Before kicking off the event, set up designated spaces for pumpkin carving and decorating. Prepare for tables and floors to get messy with paper or plastic sheets. Try to position at least one trash can near each carving table for any pumpkin waste.

If you are planning to host different pumpkin decorating activities like painting or adding glitter, it’s best to set up separate tables for each activity. You probably want to avoid the pumpkin carvers getting paint smudged across their pumpkins. Along with separating out different activities, try to make sure you have enough supplies to go around at each table.

5 Tips to Make Your Pumpkin Carving Fundraiser a Success

Plan ahead.

Since this event is seasonal, it is time-sensitive. While nothing is stopping you from hosting a pumpkin carving contest in July, it may be a little hard to source pumpkins and convince people to get into the fall spirit several months early. So, it’s probably best you stick to hosting in October or another autumn month.

To ensure you can work this event into your organization’s schedule and secure a location on your preferred date, you may need to start planning the event two or three months in advance. The number of people you plan on attending your event can also impact your event planning timeline. A good rule of thumb is to allow for about two months of planning per 100 guests.

Prepare to get messy.

Pumpkin carving and decorating certainly isn’t the cleanest fundraising idea. There is no guarantee all of the pumpkin bits and glitter will make it into the trash, so make sure the venue you choose is accepting of potential messes. Clean-up is much easier outdoors, so finding an outdoor venue should be a priority.

If your organization has to hold the event indoors, do your best to keep the space clean during and after the event. Laying out cheap plastic tablecloths or shower curtains on the tables and floor is an easy way to protect surfaces from pumpkin goop. You can also designate a few volunteers to keep the area tidy throughout the day so no large messes pile up.

Host activities suited to different age ranges.

Let’s say your event is aimed at families, and you want to make sure everyone is included in the fun. Obviously, a three-year-old and a teenager probably wouldn’t enjoy doing the exact same activities. To avoid these situations, set up a few different activities based on age ranges.

For toddlers and other young children, offer simple and safe activities. This could be painting a pumpkin, gluing on pompoms and googly eyes, or carving very simple patterns with adult supervision. For teens and adults, offer more creative patterns for carving or encourage painting complex designs.

Keep it local.

As you search for a venue and pumpkin supplier, look to local businesses first. A pumpkin patch in your town could be your golden ticket to getting a venue, plenty of pumpkins, and an event sponsor all at once!

Local businesses are often excited to offer their services to nonprofits and support their mission. Working with a local farm or pumpkin patch builds connections with community-oriented organizations that might be willing to sponsor you in the future. They could also set you up with better deals on pumpkins and other supplies than chain grocery stores.

Promote your organization.

While the main goal of your event is to fundraise, it is a good idea to promote your organization at the same time. Prioritize promoting your event — along with your nonprofit itself — before, during, and after the event takes place.

Before the pumpkin carving, market the event to your supporters with flyers, posts on social media, and emails. Then, set up some additional information sites at the event so you can make sure attendees know your nonprofit’s name and mission. Before participants leave, have volunteers pass out flyers or leaflets with information about your organization.

Pumpkin Carving Shopping List

Pumpkin carving and decorating requires a lot of stuff — most of which you don’t think about until you desperately need it. This shopping list should cover most of the pesky miscellaneous items, like tape, that you’re likely to forget. Take this list with you when you shop for supplies to make sure you get everything:

  • Pumpkins
  • Carving knives
  • Pencils or markers
  • Carving patterns
  • Paper
  • Tape
  • Scoopers for pulp
  • Large trash cans and bags
  • Plastic sheets or tablecloths
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Additional decor like ribbons, glitter, etc.

Making sure you have all of the supplies you need for this event can ensure that everything runs smoothly. Before shopping, make sure you know exactly what your organization plans to do at the event so you can purchase all of the necessary supplies.