Hosting fundraising events can energize your donors to give to your campaign and spread the word about your organization. But, your fundraising event requires thorough planning to be successful.
Proactive fundraising event planning helps you identify your priorities and prevent issues before they occur. Whether you’re new to event planning or you’re looking to optimize your current process, it can seem daunting to get started, but it doesn’t need to be. In this guide, we’ll discuss the fundamentals of fundraising event planning so you can elevate your event to the next level and raise as much money as possible. Let’s get started!
1. Use event management software
Dealing with paper RSVP envelopes, invitations, and other documents have made event planning incredibly difficult in the past. Streamline the process with event management software to increase your bandwidth and throw an unforgettable event. Some important features to look for in a software solution include:
- Registration management through your online RSVP form
- Event-specific expansion modules, such as auction management
- Payment processing
- Sponsorship management
- Ability to send automated thank-you notes, post-event surveys, and tax receipts
- Real-time giving thermometers
- Connectivity with your fundraising software to track engagement and donation data
- Reporting capabilities from past events
Your nonprofit can automate and optimize all aspects of the planning process, so ensure you have a powerful event management platform ready to use before anything else. To get started, research the software solutions available and choose the one that best fits your budget and needs. Then, work with an onboarding specialist so you know how to take advantage of the platform’s capabilities.
2. Determine your goals
The goal-setting stage is essential for keeping your event on track. To start, consider the following:
- Who do we want to attend and engage with this event?
- What will be the event’s theme?
- When’s our proposed event date?
- How will the event support our mission and big-picture objectives?
- Will the event be fully remote, in-person, or hybrid?
- Did we achieve our goals last year? Why or why not?
- How will our goals change this year?
Another helpful exercise during the goal-setting process is to conduct a SWOT analysis. Identify your organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses that may impact the event. Then, pinpoint external opportunities and threats that could influence the event. This provides a holistic overview of different factors that could jeopardize or contribute to your event’s success. Structure your goals around your opportunities and strengths for the best possible outcome.
3. Solidify your event budget
Along with your goals, your nonprofit’s event budget dictates the direction you’ll take during the planning process. Some important items to budget for include:
- Marketing materials
- Corporate sponsorships
- Branded merchandise creation
- Technological infrastructure for a hybrid or remote event
- Event management software/CRM upgrades
To set your budget, first examine your past fundraising event costs and measure them against the revenue you expect to bring in at the event. Research your options ahead of time for each line item so you have a good idea of what they will cost. Remember, it’s not worth hosting a fundraising event if you’re losing money at the end of the day, so factor in all relevant costs based on your priorities.
4. Create your schedules
Sticking to a schedule is crucial for keeping your fundraising events running smoothly. There are several timelines you should create and follow leading up to your event, such as:
- Promotion schedule: Use your nonprofit marketing software to start planning your outreach approach at least three months in advance. This gives you plenty of time to make your marketing material and identify your target audience. Then, begin promoting the event a month in advance.
- Activity schedule: There’s a lot of prep that goes into launching your fundraising event. Write out all of the tasks that you need to complete before the event starts and when they need to be done. Then, as you start delegating responsibilities, add them to this schedule so they know what’s expected of them.
- Event schedule: Finally, put together the schedule for the event itself. Mention everything from when the doors open to when the last person leaves. The more detailed you are, the more structured and professional the event will seem to your guests.
It’s completely normal that your schedules will need to be amended as certain situations arise. Just ensure that you debrief your attendees and fellow event planners about these changes so that everyone remains on the same page.
5. Identify your marketing channels
Your prospective attendees likely receive several nonprofit event invitations and promotions throughout the year. To help your event stand out from the rest, identify the marketing channels you’ll use to promote it. Some effective options are:
- Your fundraising landing page: Create a landing page on your nonprofit’s website where visitors can learn about the event, donate, and RSVP. If you’re crowdfunding ahead of the event, include a live fundraising thermometer so your donors can visualize your progress.
- Social media: Spread the word by posting your event’s brand components on your social media pages, such as its logo. Don’t forget to make a campaign-specific hashtag so your supporters can post their involvement to their own networks while connecting with existing stakeholders.
- Email: Sending an email blast with the link to your fundraising page and RSVP form streamlines the communication between you and your prospective attendees. Just remember not to inundate your prospects with emails, as this can turn them off from the event and your organization as a whole.
Choose your marketing channels based on your supporter base’s preferred methods of contact, your marketing timeline, and your budget.
6. Form a planning committee
Planning an event can be a lot of work for one person to take on. Plus, you likely have other responsibilities to take care of throughout the planning process. Get all hands on deck by forming committees to take on some responsibility. Ask your stakeholders, including your board members, donor ambassadors, volunteers, staff members, corporate partners, and even beneficiaries to sit on the event planning committee. Then, assign roles and responsibilities based on their availability, interests, skills, and connections. Sync with your committee members on a regular basis to address any issues and provide updates on the event’s direction.
It might feel counterproductive to spend so much time planning for an event that’s only a few hours long. But, the right nonprofit software, marketing materials, and predetermined strategy at your disposal will help guide your efforts. Once have a set planning process, you’ll be able to consistently host fundraising events that wow attendees, build relationships, and boost donations.