Fundraising events are a great way to raise money for your organization and expand your base of support. In addition to donations and grants, fundraising events are a vital source of income for many nonprofit organizations. Most of all, though, they’re a great way to have fun in support of a good cause.
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a first time fundraiser, keep reading to discover how you can make your next event your most successful yet.
Nonprofits host fundraisers for a variety of reasons. These include food/supply drives, solidarity events, and charitable events. In this article we will focus primarily on charitable events aimed at raising money for an organization or cause. If properly organized, charitable fundraisers are a great way to generate support for a cause or organization. The proceeds can be directly transferred to the mission, banked to support future operations, or put towards the expansion of your facilities and amenities.
With so many possibilities, planning an event can be intimidating. Rather than trying to think of the perfect event and then finding ways to make it happen, it can be helpful to first set goals for yourself.
First, identify your organization’s financial needs. Setting a target is a great place to start when planning an event. A gala with 300 guests might raise lots of money, but if your organization only needs a small boost, then perhaps something easier to coordinate would make more sense. On the other hand, if your organization has been struggling due to COVID or other circumstances, then a larger event could be what you need.
In addition to raising money, your organization might have other goals for its event, such as gaining a wider base of support, more publicity for your NPO and exposure for your cause, and the possibility of attracting major donors.
After you’ve identified your goals, it’s time to start thinking about the event itself. Try to think of events that would appeal to your supporters in particular, and events that are in line with the mission of your organization. For example, if you are part of an educational or athletic organization, then a sports tournament to raise money for new equipment would be a great choice. On the other hand, if your focus is on the environment, then a bike race ending at a scenic location could be a great way to get people excited about your NPO. Take into account the demographics of your supporters, where they are located, and the venues and locales you have at your disposal.
This is also a great time to appoint a leadership team for the event. Depending on the event you’re planning, there can be a lot of variables, such as booking and setting up the venue, arranging catering and entertainment, marketing, ticket sales etc. Usually an Executive Director or Events Director will be in charge of the overall event, but it can be helpful to delegate specific tasks to assure they are all properly taken care of.
Finally, you should create an event budget before too much planning goes into the event. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t spend nineteen thousand dollars to raise twenty thousand. However, it’s also worth considering that you’ll have to invest some of your organization’s capital up front in order to get the event off the ground. To ensure you get a return on this investment, create a detailed budget of where funds will be allocated. This includes things like entertainment, food, drinks, invitations, staff, and the venue itself. Creating a spreadsheet with different service providers can be a great way to track and compare costs. Additionally, you should pad your budget to account for any unexpected costs.
No matter how much planning you put in, an event is only as good as its guests. Once you’ve planned your event, you’re ready to start marketing it. Ideally, your marketing strategy will include multiple avenues of communication, including social media posts, website promotion, local radio reads, email newsletters, flyers, and good, old-fashioned snail mail.
If you have a donor management system, consult your donor notes to get an idea of what channels of communication have been most successful in the past. If most of your donations still come in the form of checks or cash, then physical invitations might be more effective than an email invite. On the other hand, if you have a lot of traffic on your website then putting the event on your homepage is a great way to promote the event.
In addition to packing the house, event promotion can be a great reason to contact potential sponsors. Event sponsors are individuals or businesses who contribute a significant amount of money towards the event. It can be a win-win for all parties, as the sponsor gains exposure and publicity (and a tax deduction) while the organization secures additional resources and expertise. Try contacting local businesses or community figures for sponsorship.
Now that your event has started to get some attention, it’s time to start selling tickets! Whether or not you plan on selling tickets at the door, you’ll want to include an online option as well. Not only can these tickets be purchased far in advance, but they make things like tracking, receipting and following up with your attendees a lot easier.
Online options also make it easier to have multiple ticketing options and add-ons. In addition to general admission tickets, you can also create a discounted option for members of your organization, a top-of-the-line VIP package for top spenders, or give your donors the option to add an additional donation to your organization on top of their ticket purchase.
Of course, ticketing software can easily eat into your budget. With Simplyk, you can create custom ticketing forms, automatically send tax receipts to all your attendees, and follow up with them after the event, all at no cost to your organization.
You’ve planned your event, laid the groundwork, promoted, and planned some more. Although it may seem like the hard work is behind you, the day leading up to your event is a great time for last-minute flourishes and to make sure everything is set to go off as planned. If you haven’t already, make sure the venue is decorated and that your volunteers, entertainers, and guests know when they’re supposed to arrive and where they’re supposed to go. If you have time, a brief “sound check” to make sure the lighting, sound system, and technology is set up and ready for your guests. Don’t tire yourself out too much, though— you still have an event to enjoy!
Your event might be over, but in typical nonprofit fashion, your work is not. A huge perk of hosting fundraising events is the connections they help you make. Cement those connections by following up after the event and thanking your guests for their support and participation in your mission. This is a great time to update your supporters on the progress of your organization and cause. Tell them what the money they helped raise will be put towards and the effect it will have. You can also follow up with a brief survey to see what was popular with your guests and what wasn’t. This information can go a long way to ensuring a successful event year after year.
Once again, the fundraising platform you choose can significantly impact the amount of work you have to do. A platform like Simplyk automatically sends tax receipts to everyone who made a contribution, and allows you to customize your own thank-you email after the event. Regardless of what platform you choose, make sure that it not only makes your life easier during the planning process, but with the follow up as well.