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8 Steps to Planning a Successful Nonprofit Fundraising Event

To be considered successful, a nonprofit fundraising event should be both fun for the attendees and lucrative for the organization!  

Careful and timely planning is paramount as events are often costly.  Having an event plan established, drawn out, and distributed to your staff, volunteers, board members, and anyone else involved will help you gain positive results.

Plan Your Fundraising Event in 8 Steps

1. Define the Intent of your Event  

  • What are you trying to achieve through this particular event?  
  • Is this solely a fundraising event or does it also involve volunteers?  
  • Are you trying to gain media or community attention through this event?  
  • Who is your target audience? 
  • Write down all the details of what you aim to accomplish through the event

2. Create an Event Budget & Agenda

  • List every required expense for the event
  • Include the cost of your staff, marketing materials, space rental, etc.
  • Include a buffer for any unexpected expenses
  • Create an event agenda with the date, location, itinerary, catering, etc.

3. Set a Fundraising Goal

  • Your event budget and purpose should help inform your fundraising goal
  • Collaborate with your staff, board members, and fundraisers 
  • Your goal should factor in all event expenses 

4.  Establish your Fundraising Pioneers

  • “Fundraising Pioneers” are your peer-to-peer fundraisers who are often the first to make donations and promote your event
  • Inform your supporters early to get them excited about the event in advance 
  • Get any other major players from the community involved as well, such as popular local businesses and political figures that are known for their philanthropic contributions or who are already connected with your nonprofit

5. Plan Your Event Promotion

  • Tailor the marketing of your event to your target audience
  • Put time and energy into making your event attractive & exciting
  • Have a marketing plan developed in advance 
  • Reach out to your existing network to help you promote the event  

6. Provide Donation Options

  • Have a simple and secure way to accept donations both online and offline
  • If you’re selling tickets for people to attend the event, decide what the minimum contribution will be to cover the cost of a ticket, whether or not to have donation levels, and if higher donations grant special V.I.P. event access or if the same access will be granted for all ticket holders  
  • Decide when you’ll start and stop accepting event-related donations      
  • Provide donation options for those who want to contribute but not attend

A terrific example of a successful fundraising event that provides ways to donate and participate online is the annual Women Build Weekend for Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins and Cortland Counties.

Nonprofit Fundraising Event
Fundraising Event for Women Build Weekend 2018!

When visiting their fundraising event page, supporters can register to participate in the in-person event, make a donation, act as a peer-to-peer fundraiser (i.e., fundraising champion), join a fundraising team, share the event via social media, and more – all from one convenient place.

7. Hold an Event Rehearsal

  • Practice makes perfect – or at least reduces the chance for errors  
  • Assign everyone their “roles” for the event in advance
  • Have everyone “act out” their roles in a mock event to see how it plays out
  • Provide a script or itinerary of where people need to be and when along with their task assignments

8.  Don’t Forget Stewardship     

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to develop a thank you strategy
  • Assume all contributors will notice if they’re not shown appreciation
  • Donors, volunteers, vendors, board members, your staff, and anyone else who helped the event be successful should be sent a personalized thank you 
  • Do what is most reasonable for your organization, but at the very least send a personalized email
  • Consider providing a thank you gift at the event itself for those who attend
  • Don’t forget to thank those who couldn’t physically make it, but still contributed in some way

Remember, happy supporters are loyal supporters

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