- Set a Goal
When beginning a new project you always want to start with looking at what you want to achieve. What are your goals for the event you are planning? A specific monetary goal in mind will help determine the success of your event and ways to improve in the future. You’ll also want to look at how the event ties into your larger fundraising strategy as a whole. Are you looking to attract new donors or reward existing donors? Is the main focus to gain publicity for your cause? What segment of your charity’s mission are you looking to reflect? With your specific goals in mind you can then begin to articulate a vision for your fundraising event.
- Choose a Type of Event
To choose among the numerous types of events to host, your initial question should be, “What type of event will encourage donors to attend?” Along with your fundraising goal, this question will create the nature and scope of your event. Are you looking to host a high-end event for major donors? A traditional gala or formal dinner would be the way to go. Focusing on publicity? Try a large event open to the public like a walk-a-thon. Host a golf outing if you are looking to showcase what your charity has accomplished over the year as well as have some networking time with guests.
- Build a Budget
With your main goal to raise funds for your non-profit, don’t forget that you will have to invest some of your own capital to make the event happen. Each event is different; a few ideas of typical expenditures include event space/venue, catering/refreshments, entertainment, invitations, event planning or auction software, promotional items. Create an excel sheet to keep track of your budget. You’ll also want to add a category for contingency funds for unexpected items. This is the time to begin looking for potential sponsors for your event. If you can find supporters or local businesses to help defray some of your event costs you’ll not only build a lasting community relationship, but also reduce some of your event expenses.
- Create a Leadership Team
Now that you have an understanding of what you’ll be doing, it’s time to focus on who will be in charge of the various logistical components. For smaller events it may only be a simple team to coordinate the different pieces. For larger events you may have multiple committees or task groups with staff and volunteers reporting to them to get everything done. Think about all the facets of the event and assign a person or group of people in charge of each. Examples of these would be: sponsorships, marketing and promotions, ticket sales/registration, volunteer management, venue set-up and clean-up, auction item procurement, event follow-up. Communication is key, so make sure everyone knows their role and specific tasks to ensure a successful event.
- Set a Date and Time for Event
The perfect date would be one that is convenient for donors and also provides plenty of time for planning and securing RSVPs. If you’re hosting an annual event try to keep the timing consistent year to year so that donors know when to generally expect it. Check your date against a local events calendar to ensure your guests won’t have conflicts with other large events like sports games or local festivals. Weekends are typically the most popular time, but can also be the most expensive. By choosing a Friday night, weekday, or fall/winter date which is off-season for your venue/catering/entertainment you can save money on some of your costlier budgetary expenses.
- Market your Fundraising Event
The details of your event are coming together, and now it’s time to get the word out. Try a variety of avenues from traditional mailings to free online community calendar postings. Make sure that your event is prominent on your charity’s website and is shared throughout your social media platforms. The most effective marketing plan includes multiple channels both online and offline.
- Start Selling Tickets to your Event
How will you handle ticket sales and registration for your event? Will you charge a flat price or offer different packages? Should you offer a VIP ticket option or offer discounts to groups or families? A popular option is to offer a discount to those who purchase early by a specific date. Will you offer electronic tickets, physical tickets or both? Will tickets only be available for purchase on your website or through an event management platform like Eventbrite or Waddle? Additionally, you’ll want to provide donation options for those who want to contribute but are unable to attend the event and manage attendee and donor information.
- Preparations for the Big Day
In the final weeks leading up to your event make sure that you have confirmed all details (such as set up, arrival time, parking) with your vendors especially the catering and entertainment. Schedule and organize your volunteers for the event. The day of you’ll have last minute details such as decorating the venue, displaying auction items and setting up a registration table.
- Enjoy the Event
Don’t forget to have fun! Your supporters will be able to tell if you or your staff is stressed out or exhausted. Show your donors how excited you are to have put together such an awesome event and how grateful you are for their attendance. Create a hashtag to make social engagement easy to track. Consider a live stream of the event on social media to include those guest who couldn’t make it. Take time to engage with your guests and make sure they are enjoying the event.
- Follow Up
The event may be over, but your work isn’t done yet! Follow up and thank your attendees for their support. Write thank you letters to everyone involved in your event including: all guests, sponsors, volunteers and vendors. Let them know the amount of money that was raised as well as how it will benefit your charity. Be as detailed as possible. Solicit feedback to make your next event even better!