Charity events are a popular form of fundraising. While they can be great moneymakers for an organization, they can also be time-consuming and expensive. The success of charity events depends on careful planning. To help you ensure that your fundraising event is a winner, here are ten major components that you must incorporate into your event plan, regardless of the specific fundraising event ideas you use:
1. Purpose of Your Fundraising Event:
Before doing anything else, you must decide what the purpose of your event is. Here are a few questions: Is this truly a fundraising event? Or does it have other goals? Perhaps your organization may be hoping to raise money at the charity event, but the main function of the event is to gain publicity or reach out to a new network. Does this fit into a larger effort or campaign? Are you focused on a large crowd of friends who don’t know much about your cause or a smaller group of familiar supporters and likely donors? Many charitable events have more than one goal. Figuring out the details for your charity event will depend on knowing what goals you are trying to achieve.
2. Fundraising Goal:
In conjunction with the event host committee, organization staff, and key fundraisers, you must decide what amount of money you plan to raise at the event. If this is truly a fundraising event, then everything in the event plan will be geared to raising this specific amount of money. The amount you choose should be what you hope to net, that is, the amount you plan to raise after expenses are deducted. You should develop a goal based on the team members and tools available to you. Start with a humble goal and an aggressive plan. It is always better to adjust the goal higher than it is to lower it as the event moves closer.
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Every fundraising event plan should contain a complete budget listing all of the expenses that will be required to hold the event. The cost of an in-person event can increase steadily as the number of attendees goes up. Hosting a virtual event can help keep food, space, and materials costs from getting out of control and allows for a lower registration fee. Your budget should include staff, print materials, space rental, catering, entertainment, transportation, security, utilities, and anything else that will be required to make the event a success. Your budget should take into account your fundraising goal, ensuring that you raise an amount of funds above and beyond all expenses. Be sure to leave a little extra room in your budget for unforeseen costs.
As part of your fundraising efforts, your event will most likely have a “host committee” and one or more “host committee chairpersons.” These people are responsible for contributing substantial amounts to the event and encouraging other attendees to do the same. The host committee is generally composed of wealthy donors, leaders of local businesses, or local celebrities. The host committee and chairpersons are not responsible for actually running the event, but are integral to ensuring that you reach your guest and fundraising goals. The host committee helps with peer-to-peer fundraising and follow-up.
5. Target Audience for your Fundraising Event:
Who is the target attendee for your event? Is this a general fundraiser where everyone will be invited? Or is this event geared towards a specific group like the local businesses, parents, retirees, or young professionals? In short, you must decide whom you will invite to your event. Question what type of event and elements are a good fit for the target attendees. While a black-tie gala looks nice in our heads, it can be hard to get the numbers you need for this kind of event. Develop a list of fundraising ideas that work well with your audience and your organization. Some popular ideas are holding a virtual event, in-person event, silent auction, raffle, concert, performance, raffle tickets, games, text-a-thon, speakers, the list goes on and on.
Your event staff should plan the event set-up well in advance. The set-up includes all of the particulars of the actual event: Where will it be? Will food be served? Will there be entertainment? What kind of dress will be required? What is the itinerary for the event?
Virtual events have things to set up, too. The first decisions involve online services, what fundraising or streaming services do you plan to use. Do some supporters need special privileges on the day of the event? What graphics need to be prepared. Do auction items need to be photographed.
Just like a new product, your charity event needs to be aggressively marketed to your target attendee. You need to convince your supporters that your organization and event are worthy of their time and money. Make sure they know how the funds will improve someone’s world.
Draw up an entire marketing plan for the event. Traditional methods of “getting the word out” include: using your non-profit’s network of friends and supporters, mailed invitations, direct mail, phone banks, word of mouth, and the event host committee. Today, most successful event marketing includes a Facebook page and peer-to-peer social media outreach by the host committee, staff, and volunteers in the networks they are active, whether it be Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or simple email. Wherever they put the word out, try to do it multiple times in the lead-up to the event. Get the word out early so and follow up to find out if people plan to attend. It keeps your event efficient and reduces stress.
Once you market your event, there must be a procedure in place for making the actual ticket sales, or accepting donations for the event. You must decide whether there will be different contribution levels for the event (such as a flat registration fee, an extra charge to be invited to a V.I.P. reception in addition to the event, etc.). You must decide who will sell the tickets, how they will be shipped or delivered, and who will be responsible for organizing the incoming information.
9. Practice the Fundraising Event:
While you probably won’t need a full run-through of your event, it is essential that everyone who is working the event know, ahead of time, what their responsibilities are, where they should be during the event, and how the event is going to “flow.” If you are having a large or unusual event, the key event staff may want to have a practice run to make sure that your operation is running smoothly.
If you are hosting a virtual event you need to do a dry run with the key people on the equipment they will be using during the event. If you are using any special tools to auction items, count donations as they come in, use a chat feature, you will need to have a few people participate as guests will from different types of devices. If you run into any problems, document the solutions ahead of time and post a troubleshooting link for guests.
10. Thank You:
One of the most oft heard complaints from contributors to charitable fundraising events is, “They never even said ‘thank you.’” Ditto for your event volunteers. Make sure that the organization takes the time to send thank-you notes to everyone who is involved in your event, including contributors, volunteers, staff and vendors. Keep your friends and donors happy… you’re probably going to be asking them for another donation sometime down the road.