One of the most effective things you can do to raise money for a cause is to hold a fundraising event. But what exactly does this involve? How do you create a fundraising event?
If you are new to event planning or have not yet planned a fundraising event, this guide will walk you through everything you need to know and the steps you need to take to turn your event ideas into a full-fledged, successful fundraising event!
Define Your Purpose and Fundraising Goals
Before you can begin planning the actual event, you need to define the purpose of the event. Yes, we know you want to raise funds for your cause, but else are you hoping to do?
Many fundraisers have multiple purposes. Think carefully, are you hoping to create awareness? Will this event try to create lasting change in the local community or is it more a corporate affair? Are you hoping to build a support network?
The answer to these questions will depend on your particular cause or the organization you are planning to support. For example, are you raising funds for a local nonprofit or a national cancer charity?
Once you have narrowed down the aims of your event, you can start to figure out your fundraising goals.
What amount of money do you hope to raise? Certainly, you’d love to raise as much money as possible but be realistic in your goals.
It is important to have this goal established early on so that you can focus your event planning and event elements around reaching this fundraising goal.
To make sure that no detail of your fundraiser gets missed, form committees to handle different parts of the planning. The number of committees you need will depend on the size and scale of your event but, in general, you should have a:
- Planning Committee: This group will be in charge of all the behind the scenes details like setting the budget, securing a venue, entertainment, keynote speakers, event agenda and the event timeline that all of the committees will follow.
- Fundraising Committee: This group will be in charge of tasks like soliciting sponsorships and securing raffle and auction items.
- Marketing Committee: This group will be in charge of branding and marketing your fundraising event. They will manage your social media presence and all traditional/print advertising.
- Volunteer Committee: This group will manage all volunteers involved with carrying out your event.
- Event Committee: This group will handle all of the nitty-gritty details of the event itself like venue set up, decoration, and making sure that everyone from the volunteer committee to the staff has what they need on the day of the event.
If you are running a smaller event, some of these committees can be folded in with one another but either way, forming committees will help you create a successful fundraising event by ensuring an element of organization remains throughout the entire process.
Set Your Budget
In order to succeed in planning any event, it is critical to set a budget and to stick with that budget.
Carefully consider and plan for all of your expenses including any staffing costs, venue rental, entertainer fees, catering costs, decorations, equipment rental, marketing costs, ticketing software, security, transportation, etc.
It is also a good idea to leave a little wiggle room in your budget. Emergencies do happen and you need to be prepared to deal with them when they do!
Choose a Date and Venue
Once your budget is in place, you can nail down a date and choose the right venue. Often times, these decisions will go hand in hand as your date will depend on venue availability.
Try to do this part of your planning at least 6 months in advance. The earlier you can set the details, the more time you have to market your event and reach out to sponsors.
Try to find a date for your event that doesn’t conflict with other happenings in your city. For example, if there is a big music festival or another fundraising event taking place, avoid choosing one of those dates.
You do not want to find yourself in a situation where you are competing head to head for attendees and sponsors. People do have a limit so, if possible, try to plan your event before other similar fundraising events.
Establish Event Details
These are all of the fun details that will set your fundraising event apart from everything else. This is where your fundraising ideas will be turned into a fundraising reality!
The more creative you are with your event, the more buzz you will generate and more excited people will be to take part.
A silent auction and/or selling raffle tickets is a great way to raise money but what else can you offer to really draw people in? There are lots of interesting options like golf tournaments and pub crawls. You can even try an escape room if you are planning a smaller-scale event.
Think about what you would like to experience at an event and start planning from there. If you’d enjoy it, odds are good that someone else will enjoy it too.
Remember, you want to design an event experience your guests will remember!
Carefully consider your entertainment. You will want to find a solution that entertains and uplifts guests but is also appropriate for the occasion. You probably don’t want to invite an insult comic to entertain at a fundraiser for sick children. Think about your event’s target audience and then narrow down your entertainment wishlist.
Catering is another way you can set your event apart. People always remember the food, especially if it’s bad. But the thing is, they will not only remember the food if it’s good, but they will also rave about it! Consider doing something that stands out with the catering, like local food trucks or a taco station.
For some catering suggestions, check out our post 11 Creative Catering Ideas to Make Your Event Memorable.
It is important to decide on these things before you fully launch your marketing campaign as these elements can be what makes people interested in the first place. Yes, everyone wants to support a good cause, but people are more likely to want to support that cause if they can have a good time while doing so.
Brand and Market Your Fundraising Event
Event branding is something you should be thinking about from the early stages. Branding will tell potential guests, attendees, and donors who you are and what you are all about. Your event brand will include things like a logo, tag line, brand colors, and a brand voice that should be worked into every element of your event and marketing campaigns. At every touchpoint, your branding should be clear.
One way to do this effectively is to build an event website. A fully branded website will help you tell your story in a way that connects and resonates with your target audience and adds the type of legitimacy that donors are looking for.
Event branding works hand in hand with event marketing. Marketing and promotion, obviously, is how you will alert people to your event and your cause.
Your event website is one marketing tool but you shouldn’t stop there. Create social media accounts and event pages to engage your audience. Post teasers and publish blog posts or links of interest to your fundraising efforts.
An effective social media strategy will not only help you sell more tickets, but it can enable you to leverage influencers to generate even more donations. Use social media to keep your ticket holders, and interested followers, informed and excited about your cause so that when the day actually arrives, they will be more willing to give.
For more details on how to market your event, check out our Event Marketing Guide.
Line Up Sponsorships
Sponsorships can be the lifeblood of your fundraising event. Sponsors, whether they are major corporate sponsors or local businesses, can provide some of the operational funds you need as well as a little bit of social currency. Your sponsors signal to potential donors and attendees that your event and/or your cause is something worth supporting.
Sit down with your committee or event management team and come up with a list of businesses you are going to approach. Think about businesses that share your target audience. Sponsoring your event will give these businesses an opportunity to access this audience while also supporting a worthy cause or non-profit organization.
Do not forget to mine your own friends and family for sponsorship opportunities. They may know, or have access to, the right people at the right organizations.
Establish different levels of sponsorship, each offering a different set of incentives for the donation amount, then put together sponsorship packages.
If an organization does not want to contribute a sum of money, they may still be interested in donating prizes for a silent auction or raffle. It never hurts to ask!
For more information on approaching potential sponsors, creating sponsorship tiers, and putting together a sponsorship package, check out our Ultimate Guide to Fundraiser Sponsorship.
Open Ticket Sales
Now that your branding, marketing, and sponsorships are in place, it is time to begin selling tickets.
Make sure you have an event ticketing strategy in place. This strategy should include:
- A ticket pricing strategy
- A team in charge of the actual ticket sales
It is important to establish who is selling the tickets and where/when/how the money will be collected.
To make this process easier on yourself, consider using an event ticketing solution like Accelevents.
Accelevents not only make it easier for nonprofit events to sell tickets, but it can also make it easier to collect donations.
This platform offers fundraising tools that integrate seamlessly with the sales tool, allowing supporters to make donations or register for raffles and silent auctions at the time of ticket purchase. It is also possible to set up a text to give option which allows participants to donate to your fundraiser, via text message, from anywhere, at any time.
Your fundraising efforts will be significantly improved if you increase the ways people can donate, and the ease with which they can do so.
Host the Event
High ticket sales and donation totals are great, but you still have to make sure the event is a success.
Perform a walkthrough of the venue and double-check that branding and decorations are on point and that all vendors are in place, the catering in ready, the entertainment has all it needs and that all audio and visual equipment is working properly.
Make sure that on the day of your event management team is in place and knows exactly what is expected of them.
Try to make registration and check-in as quick and simple as possible and consider putting your team in event t-shirts or something similar to identify them to participants. This visibility can improve the guest experience as they will not have to search too hard to find support or answers to any questions they may have.
Create a physical event checklist and go through it line by line so you do not miss a single detail. Sometimes stress and excitement can make us forgetful.
Thank Yous and Follow-Ups
Donating to a worthy cause makes people feel good. But being acknowledged for those donations makes people feel even better. Recognition may not be the primary reason that people give to your cause but it can go a long way to making sure they donate again should you hold another event in the future.
From major donors to small contributors, thank your participants. Take an opportunity at the event to say thank you to your sponsors and all event attendees.
Your ticket sales or registration process will have enabled you to collect contact information from participants so send them a thank you note post-event and at the same time announce final fundraising totals or any information you have about how the funds raised by your event have impacted those associated with the cause.
Do not forget to thank your event staff and any volunteers who donated their time.
When you send the notes of thanks, include a post-event survey to gauge guest satisfaction and learn how you can improve your efforts in the future.
Fundraising events can do a great deal of good for your community or cause, but knowing how to create one, and do so effectively, can feel intimidating.
The tips and steps laid out in this guide can help set you on the right path and allow you to spend less time worrying and more time doing the important work of making a real difference!