By Joshua Meyer
There is no lack of ideas for raising money—from social media challenges to text campaigns—but one of the most fun and engaging ways to raise funds is by hosting a special event.
Hosting an event takes careful planning, especially if you hope to make the event an annual attraction. Breaking the event down into 10 steps can help make planning and hosting a memorable event much more manageable.
- Determine your goals. In order to measure the success of your event, it is important to first determine some goals. Key among these will be the amount of money you hope to raise. To find this, consider where an event can tie into or supplement existing fundraising efforts. For example, hosting an event can kickoff a capital campaign and inspire major donors. Make educated guesses about the number of supporters who will attend and the dollar amount you hope to raise per guest over and above expenses. This will become easier in subsequent years.
In addition to raising money, think how your event can help you reach other goals, such as:
- Acquiring new donors
- Promoting your cause
- Stewarding existing donors
- Identify the right type of event. Next, you will need to figure out what type of event to host. Look to your donor database to understand the kind of event that will interest your donors. If you have a strong volunteer base, consider planning an event with a community service component. If your base is mainly millennials, consider a less formal event, such as a fun run. If you hope to cater to major donors, consider a charity gala or formal dinner and auction.
- Establish an event budget. In order to raise money you will have to invest some capital. This will include spending on the event venue, entertainment, catering, event planning and auction software, invitations, etc. Make a budget with all the items needed, and do some research to find the best prices. Don’t forget to include a contingency fund for unexpected costs. This is the time to begin seeking sponsors to help defray costs.
- Assemble a leadership team. Determine who will be in charge of the different components of your fundraiser. This may include a single committee for smaller events or multiple task forces comprised of staff and volunteers for major events. Delegate someone to lead specific duties, such as:
- Soliciting sponsorships
- Marketing and promotions
- Ticket sales, registration and checkout
- Volunteer management
- Venue setup and cleanup
- Auction item procurement
- Event follow-up
- Set a date. Before booking entertainment and a venue, you need to know when your event will take place. Some things to keep in mind include:
- Make sure you have enough time to secure a venue and allow guests to RSVP.
- If it is an annual event, keep your date consistent each year so donors can expect it.
- Avoid conflicts by planning around holidays, national or local events, major sports games, etc.
- Market your event. To maximize attendance, it is important to promote your event using both online (social media, email, website) and traditional channels (direct mail, print ads). Optimize marketing materials to create a memorable and inexpensive impression. For example, post a PDF version of your event flyer on your website, then convert the same image to a JPG to share on social media.
- Sell tickets. Start selling tickets to your event as soon as possible, but first consider the following:
- Flat price and packages. A VIP ticket option will commend a higher price, and discounts for groups or families will drive sales. Also, consider early bird prices.
- How will you sell tickets? Make sure donors know how to purchase tickets by providing a clear option on your event website.
- Managing attendee information. Online ticket sales or event registration gives you the opportunity to collect donor information. Integrate your CRM with fundraising software so all data flows seamlessly into your donor database.
- Set up for the big day. Before opening the doors, put all the final touches in place, including:
- Confirming details with entertainment (arrival, parking, rehearsals/sound-checks)
- Decorating the venue
- Scheduling and organizing volunteers
- Arranging day-of ticket sales and registration
- Displaying auction items
- Confirming catering
- Enjoy the event. During the event, focus on engaging with guests. Make sure they are enjoying the event and gather feedback. If possible, livestream the event on social media or use a designated hashtag to promote the fun.
- Follow up with supporters. Tap into the good feelings your supporters have from the event by promptly thanking them for their support. Be sure to include event sponsors and volunteers. Let everyone know how much money you raised and how this will benefit your cause. Solicit feedback to make your event even more successful next year.
Planning an event fundraiser that is memorable and fun for supporters and profitable for your organization takes a lot of hard work. With a little planning and coordination, you can help your organization reach its goals of engaging supporters and raising much needed funds.
Joshua Meyer is director of marketing at BidPal, a cloud-based mobile bidding and payment solution for nonprofits. BidPal’s mobile auction and event fundraising software offers an intuitive, reliable and affordable solution. Providing the ability to manage multiple fundraising events/campaigns annually allowing any sized organization to connect more donors to your cause.