The 10 Steps to a Successful Fundraising Event

by Joe Garecht

Fundraising events are a popular form of fundraising.  While they can be great money makers for an organization, they can also be time consuming and expensive.  The success of events depends on careful planning.  (Yes, you should have a written event plan for every event you hold!)

To help you ensure that your fundraising event is a winner, here are ten major components that you must incorporate into your event plan:

1. Purpose:

Before doing anything else, you must decide what the purpose of your event is. Is this truly a fundraising event? Or does it have other goals? Perhaps your organization may be hoping to raise money at the event, but the main function of the event is to gain publicity, or reach out to a new network. Many charitable events have more than one goal. Figuring out the details for your event will depend on knowing what goals you are trying to achieve.

2. Fundraising Goal:

In conjunction with the event host committee, organization staff, and key fundraisers, you must decide what amount of money you plan to raise at the event. If this is truly a fundraising event, then everything in the event plan will be geared to raising this specific amount of money. The amount you choose should be what you hope to net, that is, the amount you plan to raise after expenses are deducted.

3. Budget:

Every fundraising event plan should contain a complete budget listing all of the expenses that will be required to hold the event. Your budget should include staff, invitations, space rental, catering, entertainment, transportation, security, utilities, and anything else that will be required to make the event a success. Your budget should take into account your fundraising goal, ensuring that you raise that amount above and beyond all expenses. Be sure to leave a little extra room in your budget for unforeseen costs.

4. Leadership:

As part of your fundraising efforts, your event will most likely have a “host committee” and one or more “host committee chairpersons.” These people are responsible for contributing substantial amounts to the event and encouraging others to do the same. The host committee is generally composed of wealthy donors, business leaders, or local celebrities. The host committee and chairpersons are not responsible for actually running the event, but are integral to ensuring that you reach your fundraising goals.

5. Target Audience:

Who is the target audience for your event? Is this a general fundraiser where everyone will be invited? Or is this event geared towards a specific group like business people, parents, or young professionals? In short, you must decide whom you will invite to your event.

6. Set – Up:

Your event staff should plan the event set-up well in advance. The set-up includes all of the particulars of the actual event: Where will it be? Will food be served? Will there be entertainment? What kind of dress will be required? What is the itinerary for the event?

7. Marketing:

Just like a new product, your event needs to be aggressively marketed to your target audience. You need to convince your supporters that your organization and event are worthy of their time and money. Draw up an entire marketing plan for the event. Possible methods of “getting the word out” include: using your non-profit’s fundraising network, mailed invitations, direct mail, phone banks, word of mouth and the event host committee.

8. Sales:

Once you market your event, there must be a procedure in place for making the actual ticket sales, or accepting donations for the event. You must decide whether there will be different contribution levels for the event (such as a flat ticket charge, an extra charge to be invited to a V.I.P. reception in addition to the event, etc.). You must decide who will sell the tickets, how they will be shipped or delivered, and who will be responsible for organizing the incoming information.

9. Practice:

While you probably won’t need a full run-through of your event, it is essential that everyone who is working the event know, ahead of time, what their responsibilities are, where they should be during the event, and how the event is going to “flow.” If you are having a large or unusual event, the key event staff may want to have a practice run to make sure that your operation is running smoothly.

10. Thank – You:

One of the most oft heard complaints from contributors to charitable fundraising events is, “They never even said ‘thank-you.’” Ditto for your event volunteers. Make sure that the organization takes the time to send thank-you notes to everyone who is involved in your event, including contributors, volunteers, staff and vendors. Keep your donors happy… you’re probably going to be asking them for another donation sometime down the road.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna February 13, 2011 at 3:31 am

I love this article! I recomend it to EVERYONE! It has helped so much in all of my event planning! You can’t go wrong following this easy guide!

Shelly September 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm

What a time-saver! Thank you for all of your helpful tips. You did the ground work for me. It’s as though we’ve had several meetings together muddling through the “how to’s”, and you put it all down in writing for me. Thank you for saving me HOURS of research.

Becky Willis January 27, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Don’t you have to get a license to do a large fund raiser? We are putting one together now for a man who is very ill and they can not find out what is making him so ill. He cant work and has been in UOFM hospital for over a month. His insurance does not want to pay for him to be in for much longer. So we need to do a large fund raiser. We have a hall, food and a band, we are going to sell tickets and have local businesses donate baskets to raffle off. We are going to see if they will put posters up for us. Do we just go to the City that the found raiser event will be held and get a permit to hold it? We want to make sure we are all legal in doing the event. Any help you can give would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance for considering our request, Rebecca Willis

Joe Garecht January 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Becky,

Thanks for your e-mail. Laws and regulations differ by state, county and municipality. Generally, the most important thing is that you either register your group as a non-profit with the IRS, or that you find a charity or church that already has non-profit status and is willing to partner with you to do the event. If you are not approved as a non-profit organization with the IRS or working with an approved charity, then donations people make to your event are NOT tax-deductible and your group will be liable for paying tax on the donations as if they were income.

If you decide to file your paperwork with the IRS (instead of working with another charity) then you will likely also have to file with your state’s bureau of charitable giving (or whatever it is called in your state). Generally, once you file with the IRS and with the state, you don’t need any other permits or licenses to hold a fundraiser, but this differs by location so consult an attorney or knowledgeable non-profit person in your area.

Best of luck with your fundraising efforts!

Joe

Chloe Driscoll August 7, 2013 at 11:13 am

Hi I am working in aid of Richard house childrens hospice, I have held many events and they have been such a success but everytime I have trouble trying to get sponsorship has anyone got any ideas or the best way to go about it please.

Many thanks Chloe

Joe Garecht August 8, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Chloe,

Thanks for your question. Check out this article that we previously ran on our site: http://www.thefundraisingauthority.com/fundraising-events/cultivating-corporate-sponsors/

Joe

Esther Miles November 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Enjoyed the organized steps listed above. Will definitely incorporate into my next event. Thank you for the clarity

Joe Garecht November 9, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Esther, glad you found the steps helpful. Thanks for your comment!

Joe

Ed Savage December 11, 2013 at 11:28 am

What are the potential pitfalls of a charity partnering with some individuals who want to stage a golf tournament for the benefit of the charity?

Joe Garecht December 12, 2013 at 12:47 am

Ed, Thanks for your question. The pitfalls here would be (a) cost – are you paying for the tournament or are they? If you are responsible for the cost or for guaranteeing the cost, and the event doesn’t work out, you may have to fork out a significant amount of money, and (b) the opportunity cost – if your supporters can’t pull it together and the event falls through, and you have invested a serious amount of time into planning for the event, it takes you away from other fundraising activities.

My advice is to make sure that those who want to hold the golf tournament for you are committed to the event and capable of pulling off a successful event prior to agreeing to participating in the tournament.

Joe

Amber February 11, 2014 at 5:26 pm

I am putting on a fundraiser in the form of a dog wash for a local dog rescue organization. I was wondering if you had any ideas as to make this a great fundraiser.

Joe Garecht February 13, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Amber,

Thanks for your question! Consider trying to find some sponsors for the event to raise some money before the first dog is washed. Also, put together an event committee that will help you get dogs in the door, find sponsors, and spread the word. You should also offer an opportunity for those who bring their dogs to donate above and beyond the cost of the dog washing.

Good luck with your event!

Joe

Irene March 16, 2014 at 2:34 am

Hello, I was wondering if you could tell me the formula you use to purchase beverages and liquor for private fundraising parties (how much to purchase exactly, the cheapest way, etc.), that are not located at a venue but most likely a donor’s home. I may be starting a job that entails this, and I want to have a guideline beforehand. If you can, please be as specific as possible. Your information is appreciated!

Thank you!

Joe Garecht March 17, 2014 at 2:28 am

Thanks for your question. This really depends on the event. First, figure out how much your folks will likely drink and eat (1 drink per person? 2? — 1/2 entree + 3 appetizers per person? 5 appetizers per person, no entree?) Come up with averages that you think will work. Then, check to see if you can get the items donated in return for promoting the donating company as a sponsor of the event. If not, try for a discount.

Melissa April 3, 2014 at 4:12 pm

If an outside organization (not-for-profit) makes a donation to underwrite some of the costs of a small, educational conference (also not-for profit organization), should members of the outside organization be given free or discounted fees if they wish to attend the conference?

Joe Garecht April 4, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Melissa,

That’s up to you. I would say that normally, sponsors of an event get some free tickets to the event, but not an unlimited supply.

Joe

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