Planning Your Event

This blog series is tackling the lame, boring and ineffective fundraising events the majority of us are forced to endure on a regular basis. If you missed Part 1, catch up here.

Talk about creative. Each year the Holland Museum hosts a fundraising cruise on the Holland Princess.

Talk about creative. Each year the Holland Museum hosts a fundraising cruise on the Holland Princess.

Planning is obviously key to hosting a successful event. For your planning to succeed your organization, board and staff need to focus efforts on one major event a year, with one or two small events throughout the year. This will help you avoid staff burnout and donor fatigue while increasing your success.

Let me say this again…events are not an effective form of fundraising. On average a fundraising event makes $.50 on every dollar. That being said, events are a great way to engage the community, donors and raise awareness around your mission and vision.

Now, lets talk about the planning. We highly recommend, hiring an event planner to focus on the logistics, promotion and creative. Yep, it is a cost but you need to spend money to make money. Having someone managing the most stressful components of an event, allows your team, board and committee to focus on fundraising! They can dedicate their time to building a successful silent and live auction.

Get started on the planning component as soon as possible to give yourself more time for fundraising.

Keep the following in mind:
  • Set a realistic goal and stick to your budget. Under promise and over deliver. If this is a first year event you will more than likely breakeven or have a small profit. Your second  year is where the sponsorship and donations pour in. It is important for the community and donors to see success before they invest.
  • Choose the right type of event. Understand your audience and ensure the event is in line with the organization’s vision and mission. If your audience is underprivileged youth, why would you host a gala? Does that send the right message?
  • Secure sponsorship. Again, if you have your committee, staff and board focused on ONLY fundraising, imagine how much more success you will have! Don’t be afraid to customize sponsorship packages for higher level donors, involved them in the process! For example, utilize them in media spots, PSAs or blogging.
  • Design a dynamic event. Think out-of-the-box – I don’t care how cliche that sounds. The community is sick of black ties, races, luncheons…you name it. Your event components can remain the same, but change your theme up. Be creative! Need an example? Check out the Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids Be Great Tailgate. 
  • Promote the hell out of the event. We will cover this in part 3 of the blog series.
  • Assess results. This should be a no-brainer. To determine if your event was a success, it goes beyond money raised. Obviously funds are an indicator but what about: 1) social media engagement, 2) website traffic, 3) earned media, 4) board participation (don’t even get us started on this), 5) email analytics, 6) attendance, 7) word-of-mouth
  • Cultivate relationships…all relationships. When we mention this the first thing everyone thinks of is DONORS. Sure, they are important but your volunteers, committee and staff are what made the event a success. Two words: handwritten notes. Do it. I don’t care if you have to write 100 of them, get them in the mail and let your volunteers know just how special they are. Host a thank-you lunch and get feedback from those that were in the trenches – how can you improve next year? What worked? What didn’t work?

Events are A LOT of work. Focusing efforts is key. Check back next week for the last in the series, event promotion.

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