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Nothing brings a community or group together for a good cause like a weekend fundraiser with delicious food, a live band, and a parking lot full of beautiful cars with their hoods propped up.

Although it can involve plenty of effort, planning a car show to benefit a charitable organization doesn't have to be complicated. With proper planning and some support from a small team of reliable people, you can put on an unforgettable show.

Here are five tips to make it happen:

1. Host a raffle with sponsored prizes

While you may not be able to convince the Ford Motor Company to donate a brand new truck, you can find other businesses willing to donate cool prizes for your raffle like free car washes, accessories, and car cleaning supplies.

But your prizes don't have to be car related in order to be enticing. You can raffle off prizes like home stereo equipment, Bluetooth speakers, laptops, and even Starbucks gift cards. TheFreeWealth.com offers some great tips on how to generate some of the best sponsored prizes for your raffle.

Hold multiple raffles to keep people interested

Smaller prizes raffled off more frequently are more fun since it gives people the perception of a better chance at winning. If your event extends over a couple of days, be sure to split up your bigger prizes between both days.

2. Find a location with great character

The atmosphere of your event is just as important as the location. It's reasonable to choose a big, empty parking lot, but you'll need to create a self-contained atmosphere from scratch.

If you can find a location inside of an existing atmosphere, like a busy downtown community, you'll be able to leverage the community's existing livelihood—and its parking, too.

A great way to discover potential venues is to drive around town and look for open spaces that would accommodate all of your cars, a large crowd, vendors, and portable toilets. When you find a place you like, find out who owns the property and ask them if you can use their location for a weekend event to raise money for your cause. You can always offer a free vendor booth in exchange.

3. Recover your costs with local vendors

A car show is a perfect opportunity for local businesses in auto-related industries to reach their target market, and they're usually willing to pay good money for that access. This makes vendor booths the perfect way to recover a good portion of your costs.

Contact car mechanics, dealerships, auto body repair shops, and even local car washes to see if they'd like to rent a booth at your event to market their business.

4. Find sponsors that can make your event fun

Sponsors are a great way to add more fun to your event. For example, you can find a local school or sports team to host a car wash during your event where all proceeds go to your charitable cause. You can also have a mechanic teach a class on basic car maintenance, and charge a few bucks to attend.

By creating pockets of activities within your event, you give your guests more reasons to stick around longer and come back the next day.

5. Get the word out with an emphasis on your cause

Just having the coolest cars in the world at your event isn't enough. You need to know where to reach your ideal guest, and market your event so people know you're raising money for charity. Don't worry, you don't need to be an expert in marketing to do it right.

First, you need to identify your target market. Clearly, your ideal guests are going to be interested in cars, even if it's just a casual interest. This usually includes families with young kids. You'll also attract serious enthusiasts in whatever car niche you're showcasing. The best place to find these people is by searching local car clubs.

Another portion of your target market is going to be people who identify with the cause you're raising money for. Often, people will attend fundraisers for causes they are passionate about, even when they don't have an active interest in the event itself. To reach these people, find some local organizations dedicated to your cause, and see if they're willing to advertise your event to their members.

Create marketing materials

Once you've found your target market, you need to create marketing materials. Flyers are an appropriate choice for a one-day or weekend event, and are relatively easy to create. Make sure your cause is prominently displayed so people know it's not just another car show.

You may even be able to score some free or discounted ad space in a local car magazine or other publication. Remember, when your event is a fundraiser, more people will be happy to donate, trade services, or provide generous discounts.

Bonus tip: for a fuller guest experience, make sure your music and food match your theme. For example, if you're showcasing American classics, you can bring the experience full circle with 1950's music and all-American foods like hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, and milkshakes.

Cool cars connect families and communities

No matter what charity you're raising money for, your event will give the people in your community a reason to go out and connect with each other. So don't be afraid to pull out all the stops and make your event remembered for years to come.

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