What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?
Work on a storyline that explains the importance of the fundraiser and why people should care about it.
My advice is to follow this four step process:
Have a clear goal. Sure, you’re raising money but what specific initiative are you raising money for? What’s the story around the initiative? People relate to stories that make sense to them. So, work on a storyline that explains the importance of the fundraiser and why people should care about it. For instance, your fundraiser can focus on women who are victims of domestic violence but what is the specific initiative these women will benefit from? A more targeted goal would be to raise funds for female victims of domestic violence who need education opportunities so they can start afresh. Having a clear, initiative-based goal makes it easier to set a financial target.
Clearly outline all the expenses related to the specific initiative.If you’re focusing on multiple initiatives, ensure they’re related to the common goal and list all the expenses. How much cash do you already have available to meet those expenses? What additional funds do you need to raise? Make your funding target realistic. Create a detailed budget for the event that considers the venue, catering, and other event hosting expenses. It’s going to cost you something to put on this event.
Figure out who your donors are and where you can find them. Your promotion strategy should focus on encouraging them to buy into your initiative. If there are too few people who can relate to your cause, the fundraiser may not be worthwhile unless those few people are high income earners. So, carefully consider who your target donors are, the communities in which they are located, and how you’re going to reach them.
Ensure the venue and event match with the nature of your initiative and the type of donor you want to attract. My team and I once planned an event for an NGO that supports children with cancer who have birthday wishes. We knew the event had to be fun, child-friendly, and in a relaxing atmosphere. So, we chose a park and had a wide range of fun activities that spoke to specific wishes expressed by the kids. For example, one of the activities was a paintball fight where the funds were used to purchase art supplies and classes the children requested.
Start planning early. You’ll build more momentum the sooner you start. I always give myself 12 months and set up a timeline for when each part of the planning and promotion process should be completed. I started promoting the event six months prior using social media, press releases, special invitations…any form of relevant promotional material I can use. The promotion only includes teasers and surprises that will get people excited about the event. Don’t over promise though because that will mar your reputation.
The first step would be to put together the A-team who can assist with various aspects of the event.
Fundraisers require a considerable amount of time, effort and planning. The first step would be to put together the A-team who can assist with various aspects of the event and determine the following:
• Define the purpose of the fundraiser and set a target goal.
• Pick a date and research it to see if there are other major events going on that might influence the number of guests who attend your event.
• Secure a venue and vendors including a caterer and a photographer. Be sure to tell them you’re hosting a fundraiser and inquire about discounts.
• Plan a marketing strategy for social media, TV, radio, email, and word of mouth. Design a hashtag, purchase promotional materials, and start advertising as soon as possible.
• Purchase any necessary remaining supplies and brief everyone involved in the event on the day-of activities and do a final walkthrough of the venue space, if possible.
• Set a follow up date after the event to discuss if objectives were met and potential ways of improving future fundraising events.
• Don’t forget to smile and have fun!
Always start with your ‘why’ – what is the purpose and cause of this event.
Always start with your ‘why’ – what is the purpose and cause of this event. Once you’ve fleshed that information out start with a detailed plan and event proposal covering all aspects of the event. We break our events into 4 pillars, event planning, event design, event production and event execution. Within those 4 pillars are detailed steps.
Once you’ve fleshed out your plan and steps, start thinking about a marketing plan for your event and sponsorships for your event. You want to have as many people attend as possible to contribute to the success of your event.
Whether it is a fundraiser, special or corporate event, my planning advice would be to focus on the macro-level first.
Whether it is a fundraiser, special or corporate event, my planning advice would be to focus on the macro-level first. What is the goal of the event? What is the design vision? Who would you like to collaborate with to help carry your vision and goals to fruition? What is your expected guest count?
These questions (and others) serve as a pivotal starting point for your planning endeavor. By addressing these, you will begin to navigate to the micro-level of the planning process.
Hiring a planner is crucial.
Fundraisers offer the unique opportunity to have an experience, bring awareness, and raise money. Hiring a planner is crucial.
Networking is key. Speaking with individuals and corporations to secure contributions is critical. Without contributions, there is no way to raise funds. Get comfortable asking for those contributions.
The experience and auction items are what is going to have those invited coming back year after year. Make an unforgettable ball or black tie event and make sure those auctions items are worthy of a great bid.
Make sure you have a committee/team committed and ready to work hard to make the event happen.
Make sure you have a committee/team committed and ready to work hard to make the event happen. Most times, fundraisers fail due to manpower and lack of time in preparing for the event (this coincides with budgeting and fundraising money without lead time).
A consultation or meeting to discuss the vision is critical.
A consultation or meeting to discuss the vision is critical. He or she will have to be willing to brainstorm and break down the following: their purpose, deadline, budget, target audience, etc. Once components like that are determined, we can immediately start communicating with relevant vendors and continue organizing the remaining process.
Honestly, hire a planner!
Honestly, hire a planner! I, personally, donate two events a year to charities – and I am sure there are others who do the same! It’s good for the soul to give back to the community, helps connect me with future clients, and is so much fun!
Always be clear as to the GOAL of the fundraiser...
If you are planning a fundraiser make sure you have a committee/ team working hard to make the event happen. Always be clear as to the GOAL of the fundraiser as everything you plan has to resonate and ultimately achieve your goal – from the selection of your venue, partnerships, sponsorship, and even your guest list to name a few…
Hire a corporate event planner with an actual background in planning successful fundraisers.
Hire a planner. No, seriously, hire a corporate event planner with an actual background in planning successful fundraisers. And be sure to ask questions before and after you hire them. Stay in touch with the process and be very clear about what your expectations are (and be willing to adjust those expectations). Start early and have a budget (that isn’t dependent on ticket sales).
If you want to plan a fundraiser, you need to experience one first.
I always advise hiring a planner of course! If someone isn’t looking for a planner, my best advice is to recognize your visions and do lots of research. If you want to plan a fundraiser, you need to experience one first. Attend a fundraiser that is similar to what you are wanting and observe and take in everything you can. Talk to other people who put on similar events.
But most importantly, take the time to figure out your WHY. Why do you want to have a fundraiser? What’s the vision? What is your mission? Objectives? Goals? Once you can identify your event, you can start with the logistics.
Start with the inner circle. Who is closest to the organization? Who does the organization support?
Start with the inner circle. Who is closest to the organization? Who does the organization support? Those are the people who will donate first and will attend.
Then start with your friends and colleagues. They will support the cause because they support you. Sometimes you can’t personally give money or donations, but you know someone who can. Use who you know before you start making the ask to strangers.
Fundraisers have so many working parts that I would organize the event into functions and recruit a team of leaders to be in charge of each piece.
Fundraisers have so many working parts that I would organize the event into functions and recruit a team of leaders to be in charge of each piece. Most fundraisers need the following:
- Event planner (the theme, design and day of timing, etc)
- Marketing & PR team to promote the event
- Procurement team (gets auction, raffle items)
- Tech team (event website, online ticket sales management, registration, auction software)
Once you have your functions identified, I would make a complete list of everything each team is responsible for and create a working calendar and timeline from the beginning to the completion of the event so everyone can see the big picture of how everyone intersects and how the fundraiser will get completed.
I would always start with the budget.
I would always start with the budget. How much are they hoping to earn? How much do they have to work with? The budget is sometimes the most difficult discussion, but once you get it out of the way, decisions are so much easier to make. Planning a fundraiser is not just a PR move, it’s to earn money for your organization and so often I see events that lose sight of that bottom line.
With each fundraiser, there is a different end-goal and if you identify it from the beginning it should start you on the path to a successful event.
I began my career in large scale fundraisers in NYC and LA. The first question I always ask myself is what is the goal of this event. Is it to bring the community together? To raise as much money as possible? Bring awareness to a certain charity or issue? With each fundraiser, there is a different end-goal and if you identify it from the beginning it should start you on the path to a successful event.
Find an experienced event planner.
Find an experienced event planner. Do your homework, see referrals, ask around. We have planned many Fundraisers of all types and sizes. Now even virtual ones. In addition to the planning, design, and execution, we can also assist in marketing and sponsorships. A well experienced and connected Event Planning firm will make your fundraiser shine and ultimately raise a lot of money for your worthwhile cause.