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Fundraising Tips

How to Organize a Fundraising Event: 8 Steps for Nonprofits

December 27, 2023

Regardless of your nonprofit’s goals or mission, the process of planning and executing a successful fundraising event requires careful consideration and strategic thinking. And if not executed well, your nonprofit might lose out on crucial funds, or important supporters.

From setting clear goals to engaging your attendees, this guide will walk you through eight essential steps to help your nonprofit learn how to organize a fundraiser, including how to:

  1. Determine mission and goals
  2. Choose a fundraiser
  3. Assess your resources
  4. Assemble a team 
  5. Secure sponsors
  6. Spread the word
  7. Engage attendees
  8. Follow up and give thanks
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8 easy steps to plan your fundraising event

Step 1: Determine goals and mission

Before jumping into any of the details of running a successful event, it’s crucial that your nonprofit first identify your goals for hosting the event itself. The goals you establish will not only guide the planning process, and your fundraising efforts, but also serve as a compass, ensuring that every aspect of your event aligns with your organization's mission.

Your goals can be fundraising goals or objectives around raising money. Or, it could focus on bringing in new donors or event attendance, trying to spread awareness about a specific project, or creating lasting relationships with supporters.

Regardless of your objectives, it's important to make them SMART, or specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound:

💡 Examples of SMART goals:

Learn more about SMART goals for nonprofits and download our free fundraising calendar template here →

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Step 2: Asses your resources

Before you can jump into event planning, you’ll need to evaluate what you have available to you, like:

Step 3: Choose a fundraising idea

Ideas for fundraising

There are hundreds of different kinds of fundraising ideas to choose from. Depending on your mission, audience, and resources, some might be better suited to your needs than others. Consider some event ideas like:

Step 4: Assemble a team

Hands of a team united for fundraising

To prepare for a fundraising event, you’ll need to gather a team of trusted supporters or staff. To make organizing the event as stress-free as possible, create and assign roles and responsibilities. These might include:

Step 5: Secure sponsors 

Securing sponsors is one of the most important steps to event fundraising. Corporate sponsorships can help:

 To secure potential sponsors, be sure to:

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Step 6: Spread the word

Marketing of a fundraising event

One of the most crucial parts of organizing a fundraising event is marketing it. If supporters don’t know about your event, they're not likely to come. When considering how to spread the word, be sure to use multiple channels of communication. This might include:

Learn about the top 3 no-cost ways to promote nonprofit fundraising events →

Step 7: Engage attendees

The planning that occurs before the event is usually the most effortful. However, the work isn’t over once the event has started. To keep attendees engaged, having fun — and donating — be sure to include a few extra games and surprises at the event like:

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Step 8: Follow up and give thanks

Once the event is wrapped up, the event management work isn't done. Be sure to thank all participants and donors for such a successful fundraiser, and for their financial support. Expressing gratitude is one of the best ways to make donors feel good, and even encourage future giving.

6 common pitfalls to avoid when organizing a fundraiser

1. Not showcasing impact

Failing to clearly communicate the impact of donations and how they contribute to the mission can result in a lack of motivation for potential donors. They want to understand the tangible outcomes of their contributions.

How to showcase impact:

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2. Not using donor-centric language

When fundraising for your nonprofit, using language that focuses solely on the organization's needs rather than emphasizing the donor's role and impact can lead to a lack of connection with potential supporters. 

Donors want to feel valued and understand how their contributions make a difference. Language that centers on the organization may feel impersonal and may not resonate with the audience.

How to use donor-centric language: Use phrases like "you make this possible" to show appreciation for their contributions.

3. Not offer multiple ways to give

Donor payment options

Restricting donation options to a single method or platform may limit accessibility for potential donors who have preferences or constraints. People have different preferences for how they contribute, and limiting options may discourage potential donors.

How to offer multiple ways to give: Use payment processing that accepts a variety of donation methods. This might include Apple Pay, Google Pay, or even Venmo. Plus, be sure that your nonprofit offers several different channels for giving. This might include online platforms, mobile apps, text-to-give, and other options.

4. Not doing prospect research ahead of time

Neglecting to research potential donors can cost your nonprofit crucial support. Personalized and targeted appeals are more likely to resonate with donors. Without prospect research, organizers may miss opportunities to engage donors effectively.

How to do prospect research: Conduct thorough prospect research with tools like iWave and DonorSearch to understand the background, interests, and giving capacity of potential donors.

5. Not connecting the event to the mission

Disconnecting the fundraising event from the organization's mission can lead to confusion and a lack of clarity regarding the purpose of the funds raised. Donors are more likely to support a cause when they understand how their contributions align with the organization's overall mission and goals.

How to tie the event to the mission: In all marking materials, clearly articulate the connection between the fundraising event and the organization's mission. Outline exactly how funds raised will help the cause.

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6. Not using the right tools

Ignoring helpful fundraising tools and technology can make things harder, limit how many people you can reach, and make you miss chances to connect with donors.  If you don't use these tools, you might waste time and miss chances to connect with people.

How to find and use the right tools for your fundraising: Use a platform that offers marking and communication tools, event ticketing, online donation forms, and more. Plus, be sure to choose a platform that offers great customer service and usability so you can navigate any mishaps.

Organize a fundraising event for free with Zeffy

Organizing a fundraising event takes lots of time and energy. But with the right plan and tools, your nonprofit can create a memorable experience for everyone. Plus, bring in some major donations, and make lasting connections with supporters.

Whether your nonprofit is looking to host a gala or an auction, Zeffy is the best, completely free all-in-one event planning and fundraising software. Packed with tools for donor management, marketing and communication, hosting raffles and lotteries, and selling tickets, nonprofits can handle all of their fundraising in one central place.

Unlike other platforms, Zeffy is the only platform that doesn’t charge nonprofits platform or processing fees. That means, when a donor gives $100, $100 goes right to your cause — and not a cent less. User-friendly and loved for its great customer service, hundreds of nonprofits use Zeffy every day to help make the world a better place.

Create your fundraising event page now

Keep reading about fundraising:

101+ Fundraising ideas for nonprofits

How to prepare for your nonprofit's fundraising gala events

33 Unique Raffle Prize Ideas to Raise Money

Peer-to-Peer fundraising: The Definitive guide