Fundraising events are a great way to raise money for charities and nonprofits, but they can also be time-consuming and costly to host. Before you commit to hosting a fundraiser, ask yourself a few questions: Is an event the best course of action or can we raise funds through other means? If we host an event, what are our goals and who is our audience? How will we secure sponsors for and sell tickets to our event? The success of your fundraiser depends on advanced planning. By using our 10 step guide to hosting a fundraising event, you will have the tools to build a team, set a budget, publicize your event, and achieve your goals.
The first step in hosting a fundraising event is building a team. Whether you are employed at a large organization or working with an ad hoc group, you need people to commit their time and talent to your event’s success. Consider the many areas involved in a fundraiser, like marketing and publicity, sponsorship and ticket sales, website design and communication, and event planning and logistics. Then, think about those individuals from your network who could manage and elevate planning in those areas for the event. By assembling a team, you ensure a division of labor and a network of talent to contribute to the success of your event.
The next step in hosting a fundraising event is setting goals. Most fundraisers are designed to raise (you guessed it!) money; therefore, you will need to attract donors to your charity and inspire them to give. In addition to a primary fundraising goal, you can set a secondary goal, like hosting a certain number of attendees, building publicity within the community, or attracting a new audience. However you define your primary and secondary goals, make them measurable, attainable, and realistic. It’s better to surpass a practical goal than to fall short of an impractical goal.
Next up: determining a budget. Every event, but especially a fundraising event, should include an estimation of all expenses, as your monetary goal will need to surpass the expected expenses. Your budget should account for venue, catering, entertainment, decor, staff, transportation, and security. Keep in mind: as the number of attendees go up for in-person events, so do the expenses. Above and beyond ticket sales, securing sponsorships (see #8) is a great way to offset expenses.
The fourth step in hosting a fundraising event is defining your target audience. Ask yourself a few questions: Should this event be accessible to all community members? Or, should this event be designed to attract a specific audience, like young professionals, local business leaders, or philanthropic families? Is this event adults-only, or are families welcome? Once you’ve identified your target audience, consider the type and theme of your event. The cost of a black tie gala demands a high ticket price which makes the event inaccessible for the general public and young professionals. The cost of a family fun day is reasonable for most community members, but is also less likely to bring in significant funds through ticket sales alone.
The next step in planning is choosing a venue. The most important things to consider are location, services, and cost. Will your guests be arriving by car or public transportation? Is there parking available at the venue? How many people can the venue accommodate? If the event is more or less popular than expected, can you change the space? Many venues have exclusive contracts with catering, audiovisual, and valet companies; that means you must use their services even if you have a preferred vendor. Be sure to ask about staffing arrangements as well: how many staff members will the venue provide per number of guests? All of these elements are important when evaluating the total cost of the venue.
Next on the list: creating a production schedule. Your event production schedule is the master calendar of to-do’s which must be accomplished prior to your event. This calendar identifies key tasks, responsible parties, and completion dates for your team to follow throughout the planning process. Your production schedule is the ultimate way to keep you and your team organized and on task during the planning process. By using this production schedule, the team is aware of the “ripple effect”: by letting one item on the checklist fall through the cracks, many other tasks may be delayed which can potentially impact your fundraising goal.
The seventh step of planning a fundraiser is branding and promoting your event. This is your opportunity to name the event, develop a logo, create a hashtag, choose colors, and set a theme for your event. Branding your event creates name recognition and builds consumer loyalty. Use your brand in various event elements, like invitations, entertainment, website, food and beverage, and marketing. After you’ve branded your event, establish a communication strategy to promote your event. Create a website and use social media, email, and print mailings to market your event to increase publicity and drive ticket sales.
The next step is securing event sponsorship. Having sponsors will help offset expenses through cash or in-kind donations. To secure sponsors, first create a sponsor package which lists your sponsorship levels of support plus the deliverables you will provide in exchange for support. This can be: discounted or free tickets, publicity, speaking opportunities, or access to attendee information. Then, distribute your sponsor packages to local businesses, philanthropic organizations and individuals, and community supporters. Utilize your social media network for an easy and cost-effective way to disseminate your sponsorship information.
Selling tickets is the next step in planning your fundraising event. Once you’ve promoted your event, you need to establish a procedure to sell tickets, accept donations, and fulfill sponsorships. Who will sell your tickets? Will they be mailed, delivered, or held for pick up? Who is responsible for organizing and managing this information? Many organizations are choosing to use online ticketing options as a way to streamline ticket sales. You may want to consider accepting various forms of payment such as credit cards, checks, or cash apps.
Once your event is over, the final step is to assess your results. This step is often overlooked; after months, sometimes years of planning, who wants to revisit an event once it’s over? However, only by assessing your results will you know if the event achieved its goal or goals, determine if the event met the attendees’ expectations, and collect data to help you improve your planning strategy for future events. Collect data by sending an attendee survey, talking to your staff and volunteers, and calling your most generous sponsors for their feedback. With this information, you will be better prepared to plan your next fundraising event.
We hope with our 10 step guide to hosting a fundraising event plus our all-in-one event website and online registration platform, you are ready to raise funds for your charity of choice! EventCreate makes it easy to create a beautiful, professional-looking event web page in minutes using our easy-to-use website builder. Get started by choosing one of our event website themes, each handcrafted by our award-winning design team. No coding skills are required and no server setup is needed. EventCreate gives you the power to fully customize your event reply process. Sell tickets, accept credit cards, and customize your reply form with unlimited custom questions. Invite attendees to your event with beautifully simple and fully customizable email invitations. EventCreate's invite system comes pre-built with a host of features including delivery tracking, bulk list upload, and scheduled reminders.
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