Your Ultimate Guide To Planning A Grand Nonprofit Fundraising Event: Steps, Timeline and Tips

Smiling event planner holding marker while brainstorming for nonprofit event planning

Fundraising events like charity galas and golf tournaments are essentially one way nonprofits, NGOs and charities raise substantial amounts of funds for their mission. Furthermore, fundraising events are also helpful in raising awareness about the non profit organization. 

And just like in any work, every event depends on its planning and preparation. As Paul J. Meyer stated; “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” 

And yet planning a fundraising event can be very daunting and preparation can get overwhelming. And even more so if you don’t know where to start and how to go about it. 

This guide will help you in planning your next or maybe your first nonprofit fundraising event that will surely bring in the necessary funds and bring lasting impact not only to the guests and attendees but including your donors, sponsors, and the organization itself. 

11 Steps to a Successful Nonprofit Event Planning

1. Identify the goals for your event

It is of utmost importance to clearly identify and define your vision and goal for the event. You might want to go back and remind yourself and the team of the organization’s mission and vision and work around it on the event’s goal. 

Afterward, you need to determine what you hope to achieve for the event. Is it only to raise funds or do you also want to raise awareness of the organization and your cause? Do you want to give proper acknowledgment to your sponsors and donors and want to gain more connections and networks?

Whatever your fundraising goal may be, it should be well understood, especially by everyone on your team. More common objectives for an event can be: targeting a specific number of attendees in a certain demographic, gaining a particular number of donors and sponsors, and raising a specific amount of funds.

2. Craft a creative event type or creative event experience

Once you have a clear goal for your event, you can then start with your event design. This includes identifying the event type, coming out with a theme, planning the program, etc. Plan an event that will not only be fun and memorable but significant and impactful.

Brainstorm on different concepts and themes that will help you create that desired mood and experience. Formal gatherings like red carpet events or dinner gala showcase your donors and sponsors by giving them special treatment. Or you can pick a more relaxed outdoor fun game. A simple yet intimate event like this creates a relaxing and light atmosphere where people can freely interact with each other. 

You could also opt for virtual fundraising events. This will attract interested sponsors that can’t physically attend your event. Furthermore, online fundraisers will allow a specific attendee or donor to donate and participate wherever she/he may be situated in the globe.

Your creativity is the limit. The more creative and engaging your event is, the more money you will be able to raise. However, you need to keep in mind that your event is a good opportunity to show how cautious the organization is with spending. After all, you want to gain the trust of your sponsors.

3. Identify and target your audience

Charitable and fundraising events are not for everyone. Therefore, it should be crystal clear to you who your target sponsor and audience should be. These are the people who will be the backbone of your cause.

Keeping in mind the objective of your event will help you identify your target audience. Once you identify them, you can then effectively strategize how to persuade and reach out to them. Understand the reasons why your donors give. And focus your marketing efforts on these.

4. Calculate the cost or budget

If this is your first time hosting an event, you’ll need to gather different quotes from different vendors or suppliers for reference and comparison. The more vendors you have connections with, the more options you’ll have. 

You need to have numerous options so that you can effectively decide on which will meet your needs and overall budget best. You may also partner with vendors who’ll be willing to support your nonprofit organization. And in return, you can promote their business.

Aside from vendors (food and drinks, venue, decorations, equipment, etc.), you also need to consider the marketing and promotional costs in your budget. Swag giveaways and entertainment are also necessities.

An effective budgeting strategy happens when you identify what is necessary from what is not without sacrificing the overall quality of the event. 

5. Set the date and venue

It is important to consider the date and venue of your nonprofit event at least 12 months out. This will give enough time for guests and participants to lock in on that date for your event. Also, starting out early is crucial for resolving any unforeseen cancellations and adjustments, as in the case of an already-booked venue. It will give you an opportunity to seek other available venues.

Also, setting the date will allow you to accomplish tasks in a timely manner, making sure that everything gets done on time. Setting a time budget will furthermore prevent your staff and vendors from undergoing unnecessary stress and troubles.

6. Assemble committees and committee heads

As an event planner, you know that you can’t do things on your own. You need a team of select individuals to partner with you during preparation, planning and execution. To facilitate specific committees and groups, you need to appoint coordinators and committee heads. 

Assign these individuals as coordinators to different departments or committees for more segmented and specific tasks to tackle.

Among the more common committee heads are:

  • Event Coordinator. You may choose a nonprofit event planner who will be in charge of the event from the preparation and during the event to the follow-ups. This individual will see to it that all other coordinators are doing their tasks. They will identify what is lacking and make necessary corrections in their tasks. 
  • Operations Coordinator. This person ensures event logistics run smoothly and works closely with the event coordinator and with other committees. He/she plans purchases and coordinates with budgeting, sets schedules, monitors operations, inspects tasks, and ensures that everyone is on time with deadlines. 
  • Communications Coordinator. A communications coordinator executes and monitors communications strategies. Part of what they do are marketing and promoting the event. This person is responsible for public relations and marketing efforts.
  • Fundraising Coordinator. The fundraising coordinator secures the needed funds for the event and monitors the funds raised at the event. This person works with existing and potential sponsors and donors. 

These are just some suggested few. You can actually create your own committee depending on your need and depending on the event you are having. Planning with the right team of individuals will make the preparation for your event less stressful and less intimidating. 

7. Choose partners and volunteers for the event

Committee heads will be needing people to work with them. This is where the beauty of nonprofits and charities comes in. Fundraisers always bring a community together. This is a perfect opportunity to not only impact a community but to involve everyone in the community in achieving a relevant cause. 

Participating in fundraising events doesn’t only benefit the organization but the volunteers as well. Positive events like a fun run make people happier, strengthen social connections, and even foster positive well-being. 

You or the committee heads can choose the people who they would want to work with or people can be assigned to them. Working with the right people is very crucial to the overall success of the event. 

The right people don’t only possess the right skills but also the right heart. Choose volunteers who are willing and 100% committed to dedicating their time and effort to the said cause. 

8. Identify guests (speakers, entertainers, etc)

It’s now time to go into the specifics. Identify and book guests such as the Master of Ceremony, presenters, guest speakers, entertainers, etc. Hiring renowned guests like artists, celebrities, performers, and influencers will encourage more people to join your event.

Hiring personalities who already have a solid fan base will make it easier for you to hit your target attendance. Furthermore, it will add credibility to your movement. Just imagine if a famous personality like President Barrack Obama gets to speak at your event. That will surely make your mark on the nonprofit world.

9. Offer practical fundraising options and activities

There are a lot of ways a sponsor can support your cause. Provide easy, effective and secure ways in which your donors can give. You may offer a text-giving option, which is an easy and quick way to send donations. You can send money in just a few clicks on your mobile phone.

Fundraising letters are one of the traditional but effective ways to encourage donations. You can send a mail with a compelling letter that states your cause and how your donors can make a change, no matter how little it may be.

In a digital world, you will be surprised by how impactful and meaningful a handwritten letter can be. You can then attach a reply card and a reply envelope to your mail in which your donor can send their donations.

Another option is creating a sponsorship package and/or selling event tickets. You can utilize your website for this. Set up an event page and a donation page to cater to online donations. As a premier event management software, Event Espresso can help unload some of the major tasks like event management, online registrations, selling tickets, processing ticket sales and payments, assisting in event check-ins, and others.

These are just some of the many different ways your donors and sponsors can give. Keep in mind that you need to make giving hassle-free, swift, safe, and convenient in order to gain and retain donors.

10. Promote your event

It is best to promote your event frequently and early on. Use any available marketing strategy that fits your budget. Here are a few examples of how you can promote your nonprofit event:

  • Social media posts, blogs, and vlogs: This is one way you can promote your event. You may create a page for your nonprofit event on different social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more depending on your target audience. Which social media platforms work best for your target audience? To get the word out about your charitable event, you need to create a strong online presence and develop a following on social media platforms. 
  • Email:  This is a widely used marketing strategy that is absolutely free. Email works best especially when you already have an email list of loyal supporters who have joined your previous events.
  • Print Ads and Press Releases through local magazines and newspapers: You may gain sponsorships to local magazines in exchange for exclusive coverage of local newspapers.
  • Local TV and Radio Stations: Most radio stations will gladly promote your charitable event for free especially if it really helps the local community. Try reaching out to your local tv and radio stations for your event.
  • Network of people: Word of mouth is an effective and the least efforted marketing strategy. When you provide a relevant and impactful experience, people will naturally talk about it even without your intervention.

11. Follow-up plan

Even if the event is finished, your job is far from being done. Some of the post-event tasks that you need to do are post-event logistics and surveys, sending thank you notes or letters, event assessment and evaluation, and others.

Showing gratitude, for one, is very important in fostering relationships with your supporters and volunteers and it will also secure future contributions and support as you gain their loyalty and trust.

Going the extra mile, like personally calling your sponsors, will show how serious and appreciative you are of your supporters. This shows how much you value their partnership. On the other hand, carrying out surveys and hosting assessment meetings will allow you to identify what went right and what needs improvement. 

Also, don’t forget to keep in touch with your donors, sponsors and volunteers. Keep them posted and updated on the progress of your fundraising campaigns by regularly posting on your social media accounts or organization website. If you fail to do this, you might lose credibility and lose their trust.

A nonprofit organization can benefit so much from a well-planned charitable or fundraising event. Here are some things you can benefit from a well-planned fundraising event.  

Benefits of Hosting a Well-planned Nonprofit Event

  • Awareness

Whether you are a new nonprofit organization or have already existed for some time, you always strive to grow and you do it through exposure. Your event will bring awareness and good exposure to your nonprofit. 

However, you should remember that you only leave a good impression if your attendees have a good event experience. And good experience is a product of a well-planned event.

  • Connections

Planning an event is a great way to connect with different types of individuals and groups. You don’t only associate with existing donors but you gain new ones which include corporations, vendors and other charities. 

Furthermore, you also provide an opportunity for like-minded people to gather and network whether it be for business or social purposes.

  • Sponsorships and donations

When you provide a wholesome and valuable event experience, you both gain new sponsors and you probably gain more funds than what you aimed for. 

  • Participation

People love to participate in worthy and meaningful causes. What is good about fundraising events is that you bring a whole community together. This will promote kinship, unity, camaraderie and a sense of belongingness.

  •  Recognition

Charity events are also great opportunities to honor and recognize the efforts of the volunteers and the support of the sponsors. Make them feel that they are valued and appreciated and that their contribution is making an impact, one life at a time.

Donor appreciation should be done frequently in order to encourage, recharge and strengthen sponsors. And when your sponsors are refreshed, your organization can do so much more.

You can make a list of these people or committees: committee heads and volunteers, guests, entertainers, artists, and celebrities, including everyone who attended so that you will not miss mentioning everyone worthy of recognition. 

Timeline and Checklist

Before

6-12 months

Identify event objectives

Consider the budget

Determine committees and specific roles

Pick a venue and other suppliers

Make a proposal for event marketing and promotion

5-3 months

Book venue and vendors/suppliers

Confirm guests, entertainers, presenters, etc.

Double-check permits and other safety protocols

Asses decoration and set up plans

1-3 months

Create social media posts

Confirm suppliers

Onsite visitation

Determine menu

Final meetings

During

Get program copies, names of guests, and permits

Be in the moment.

Enjoy and have fun.

After

Update on the financial status of the organization and how much money was raised

Acknowledgments and thank you notes

After event survey

Update on social media posts

Having a printed or digital timeline and checklist can be very helpful. Check out this event planning checklist which you can use as a guide.

Conclusion

The experience and memories from a well-planned event are priceless. And it’s not just the experience that counts. It’s the act of giving and making a difference that makes everything worth it.

The event planning process can be overwhelming, intimidating, and time-consuming but with proper guidance, it can be so rewarding in the end. By following these guide steps, you are on your way to a successful fundraising event.

However, if you want planning done with ease and comfort, leave it to the experts. You don’t have to do it alone and you don’t have to be an expert at every step of the planning. Plan your nonprofit event with Event Espresso. Try our free demo today and join our community of successful event marketers and event planners. 

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