5 steps to get started with your fundraising event!
Events are a great way to engage with your supporters, acquire new ones, raise awareness for your cause, and also give an extra boost to your fundraising results!
But let’s face it, while the outcomes may be amazing, we all know that a lot of planning and hours of work go into organising a fundraising event, whether it’s physical or virtual. So, if you’ve ever asked yourself where to start, you are in the right place.
In this article we will share 5 basic steps to successfully plan any kind of charity event, no matter the size of your organisation, and make it memorable for you and your supporters.
What you will find:
- How to Set a Purpose, Goal, Budget, and Target
- Planning right, and ahead of time
- How to Promote your Event
- How to avoid mishaps with practice rounds
- How to Thank your supporters
Set your Purpose, Goal, Budget and Target
First things first: figure out with your team what’s the purpose of your charity event, and what you are trying to achieve. Do you want to raise money for your cause? Raise awareness on your mission and build your network, or collect in-kind donations? The objective of these events may differ, so make it clear from the beginning what you wish to accomplish.
Let’s take for example a friend-raising event. In this case, the primary purpose of your event is to build brand awareness and acquire new supporters. With this in mind, you should ask your circle of constituents to spread the word, inviting those from their network who may be interested in getting to know more about your cause.The aim here is to raise awareness on a problem, talk about what your charity does to tackle the issue, and what the outcomes of your projects are. All of this without the expectation of raising a lot of money during the event, but gaining something that may be even more valuable: your donor base.
We know what you’re thinking: “If I don’t raise money from this event, how can I break even and cover the costs of the friend-raiser?”. Relying on the support of one or more sponsors may help you do just that! Ask for the help of local entrepreneurs or companies that may be interested in getting involved with your cause and supporting your event.
If you’re planning to host a fundraising event instead, then you should definitely start from these 4 points:
- Set a financial goal: How much money should your organisation raise to support a specific project? Add to this ALL the expenses you’ll face running your event. Remember to set realistic goals. Every not-for-profit organisation would like to raise millions for their cause, but is your donor base even able to reach those numbers?
- Set a budget: Think about every detail: from the costs of the location, the food, sponsorships, even marketing materials such as branded goodies. Consider the budget for having a specific theme for your event, or if you will need external help to manage it. You should write everything down and top that up into your financial goal.
While brainstorming on the budget, evaluate involving sponsors who may cover some costs (catering, location, marketing material etc…). Don’t be afraid to ask for a sponsorship, you will be amazed to see how many companies are eager to help. And securing the help of a sponsor – be it cash or in-kind – will allow you to put into practice some creative ideas that may be just unreachable with your budget.
- Identify your target audience: Ask yourself who you want to reach. The choice of the audience will influence the type of event itself, but also the way you’ll talk to your target and the channels you will use. Everyone would like to organise a fundraising event and reach as many people as possible, attracting all ages and types of donors… the perfect scenario. But, most of the time, that’s just not possible.
- Choose the right type of event: If you are thinking of reaching a younger audience, you may want to avoid a static event like galas or dinners with auction items. Consider instead a concert with ticket sales, a happy hour or a sports competition with a registration fee, something that can spark their interest and involve them even in a challenging way.
To communicate about the event use social media and video contents instead of direct mailings and paper invitations. You will definitely reach a broader and younger audience if you do so!
Having said that, you shouldn’t forget about your donor base. If Millennials, Gen X and Gen Z are still not part of your donor base, it’s better to avoid social media as the main channel of communication. Think of a better tailored way to involve them.
In any case, keep in mind that your target audience will need to have a clear understanding of what their money, time and involvement will be used for. Based on that they may decide whether to be part of it or not.
Plan plan plan!
We have all been there… We underestimated the importance of planning, and we find ourselves doing things at the last second, hoping there won’t be any problems. Needless to say, this can happen when organising an event. Trust us, by planning your fundraising event ahead of time, not only will you be able to make it memorable for both your supporters and your organisation, but you will also be better prepared if any sudden mishaps present themselves.
Another reason why planning in advance is essential, especially if you’re a small organisation, is that you may not even have dedicated resources who will take care of the planning and management of the event. Your team members most probably need to go on with their regular job in fundraising and will need to have a clear idea of what their duties are, and how to manage their time.
Here a few points to keep in mind when defining the pillars of your charity event (budget, goal, targets etc…):
- Think about how many people from your team will be involved and assign a specific role to each one of them according to their skill sets. Decide on a team leader who will be in charge of managing everything, making sure that everybody knows their tasks and checking that all deadlines are met.
- Consider involving your volunteers as part of the organising team and during your event. They will be eager to help you create hype around it, but also with the logistics before and during the big day. You will also need one or more team members to manage the volunteers, lead them, and organise their shifts; someone to be their reference point in case of any questions or problems.
- Write down all the details concerning the setup of the event. Will it be a physical or digital event? What will be the duration of the event? Evaluate the cost of the location and whether you will serve food, etc.
- Book, secure and schedule ahead your top needs – venue, food, entertainment & speakers – before promoting the event to the public. You don’t want to have to organise your event again from scratch because you missed that amazing location, right? Even more, you won’t want to communicate this change to your audience. To be fair, your supporters and attendees need to know when, where and how the event will be hosted before signing up, simply because this information could be influential on their decision to attend.
- Build a promotion strategy. Having an agenda will help you understand what visuals, or materials you will need, who will take care of the graphics, the content and the launch. Plus you will have the timing for each one of these elements.
- Differentiate the channels you will use to promote your charity event, but align your different messages – your social posts, direct mailings, email campaigns and web page should have the same tone of voice, look & feel. Make your supporters dive into a custom space, created specifically for your fundraiser event.
- Don’t forget to provide your sponsors with all the visuals, materials, and content necessary to communicate with your same tone of voice. Prepare a communication kit for them, it will make life easier for both of you.
The most important part of organising an event, therefore, comes down to this point: planning. Take note of it and start ahead of time.
3, 2, 1… It’s promotion time
It’s now time to promote what you’ve planned down to the smallest detail. Bear in mind that you might have the greatest idea for your event, but if no one knows about it, no one will attend. Give yourself time to get the word out, because it can get busy real fast.
Don’t forget to stick to the target audience you’ve selected during the brainstorming and strategy building phase. Your promotional message & creatives (as well as the channels chosen) will be tailor made for those supporters.
Send out Save the Date cards or invitations months in advance, to get your audience hyped. Following what we said before, it’s important to share right away the date, time, location & purpose of your charity fundraising event. With this your supporters will have the time to decide whether to attend and to block their agendas on time.
In the following communications you will need to convince your audience that your charity event is worth their time & money, because of course they will donate for your cause and project. Create that pre-event buzz necessary to keep the attention high and make the conversation go on (read our guide on how to promote your fundraising event on social media).
Your sponsors, volunteers and supporters will help you out with the promotion of your event. They will act as a sounding board, your best chance to generate excitement among their network, attracting more subscribers to your event and more people that may be interested in supporting your cause.
💡iRaiser Tip: Involve your supporters and their friends and family in the promotion of your charity event with a Peer-to-Peer fundraising campaign, and boost your engagement! Sports challenge, cooking competition or game night, whatever the event, with the right platform, you can provide your supporters with an easy tool to participate & involve their network.
For example, a not-for-profit organisation that works with dogs could think of organising a short marathon for its donors with their pets.
By giving donors the chance to become ambassadors and fundraisers, and allowing them to launch their personal fundraising page, the charity would increase its outreach & boost their results.
Don’t forget to practice before going on stage
Your event is fast approaching and you should now think of rehearsal. Organise a practice day with all those who will be involved during the day, it will definitely be beneficial for your team and volunteers to have a run-through of the event.
Take this chance to check the location, to see if there may be issues. Are the microphones working? Are the directions to your venue clear? Will the reception and food queues run smoothly?
You should think about every detail and go through each step of the event, to have a successful and smooth day.
Make sure your volunteers and staff know their role and tasks at any time, and think about a plan B in case of unexpected absences.
Practicing is essential to creating a stress-free environment, and since we just can’t predict everything, having most of the steps already organised ahead will help you solve sudden issues more easily.
Last but not least, always remember to say thanks.
Your donors, your sponsors, your co-workers, your volunteers.. Everyone that was involved should be thanked! Make sure they know they are appreciated, this will help you engage with them in a later event.
Send follow-up emails, and if you can, a little material reward, to those who participated. Remember to send the first email no longer than two days after the big day: add the event’s successes, the results and the achievements reached with their help.
Take this chance to turn your attendees into recurring donors, adding as well an appeal to keep supporting your mission. You certainly did an amazing job during the event, and inspired your supporters. So, keep the feeling alive with an effective thank you email, and rest assured that many will want to be part of your community and take action.
During the registration phase, don’t forget to ask for opt-ins to your mailing list. Like that you will be able to send not only the thank you email, but also more communications around the cause of your charity. Keep your audience informed on your mission and how much their help meant and was worth for your recipients over the following weeks.
With these 5 points you now have an idea of how to get started with the organisation of your charity event.
Your event should be a good ROI for your time and efforts, so if you plan it well ahead and consider your fundraising goal & budget, you’ll definitely make it memorable. And if you’re looking for inspiration for your charity event ideas be sure to check out our blog, where you’ll find plenty of inspiration. We constantly publish new articles, case studies, and other content with tips and best practices about fundraising. You don’t want to miss out!