What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?
Anyone planning a fundraiser should enter the initial planning process with financial parameters in mind.
Anyone planning a fundraiser should enter the initial planning process with financial parameters in mind. Balance how much needs to go into the event in order to be able to raise enough money to make an impact on the organization, and not only cover the cost of the event itself. Once a realistic number is reached, the organization can spend their time focusing on other areas such as sponsorships, attendee list or content. Leave the tedious behind the scene tasks for us.
Ensuring that you are doing outreach to the right audience is a major component of the overall success of a fundraiser. Although it is easy to fill a room with those near and dear to you, expanding your network to introduce your cause to a new audience really goes a long way.
Most importantly, focus on the impact and amount of gratitude you would like the evening to leave on your attendees. Making it a fun, memorable evening that is completely different from traditional fundraisers, allows your organization to gain momentum and excitement for future events.
In-kind donations or discounts for services from partners you trust mean less money that needs to be spent to make your event a success.
Those vendor relationships we mentioned before? They come in really handy when hosting a fundraiser. In-kind donations or discounts for services from partners you trust mean less money that needs to be spent to make your event a success.
Coming up with a viable sponsorship menu is invaluable. Don’t aim too high and set prices that are cost-prohibitive, even to your highest donors. Don’t forget to make sure each sponsor is recognized as they specify for their contributions.
My biggest suggestion is: research, research, research!
My biggest suggestion is: research, research, research! Research what kind of companies align with the mission of your client. It’s also important to get an early start; 1 year out at a minimum. Also, don’t just copy and paste when reaching out, be thoughtful and explain why you’re reaching out to them. And, most importantly, follow up (especially with a phone call).
I would suggest narrowing in on the true purpose of the event, the target market, and then allocating resources to having the right levels of support to make it happen.
Fundraisers have many levels of support and planning needed to create the right event for the intended crowd. I would suggest narrowing in on the true purpose of the event, the target market, and then allocating resources to having the right levels of support to make it happen. Hiring a professional that can assist with budget management, planning, event design, production support, etc. can help elevate the event to create the end result they are looking for.
We use our standard list of specific questions for clients to ponder, yet for fundraisers specifically, we focus on the F.U.N.:
Our team is often asked for inexpensive ideas to support not-for-profit organizations and fundraisers. We use our standard list of specific questions for clients to ponder, yet for fundraisers specifically, we focus on the F.U.N.:
– Frame: Similarly to a picture frame, challenge organizations to establish four (4) key bordering goals that are desired to be achieved. Allow individuals or organizations to define for themselves, but contained ideas may be financial targets, desired attendees/support organizations, preferred venue, and location, etc. Defining four main goals allows for a framed, specific focus for all involved.
– Unique + Usable: Define and establish a unique event theme [and marketing tagline, if need be], aligned to the brand’s mission and vision. Weave this throughout all communications and event materials. In respect of costs, ensure any guest invitations, favors, signage, and offerings are thoughtfully designed, reusable and recyclable.
– Negotiate: Leverage any/all personal and professional contacts to navigate and negotiate event contracts.
People are looking for experiences so I always start by trying to find an interactive aspect for each fundraiser.
People are looking for experiences so I always start by trying to find an interactive aspect for each fundraiser. Finding a way to engage guests so they can really understand the goal of the non-profit is the goal. Currently, I’m working on a fundraiser for an incredible organization called Art-Bridge, which allows for the installation of art on construction areas around New York. We are hosting their fundraiser across the street from an installation, bringing in the artists who painted the artwork and will then auction parts of the installation. The winning bidders will then walk out with the artists and choose the part of the artwork they would like. Guests at the fundraiser will see the artwork installed, speak to the artists, and learn about the organization. If you can design the fundraiser so that guests have an experience they could not normally have, you have the makings of a successful event.
A well-done plan can serve as a future event blueprint.
Plan! Know what your objective is, then move onto the goals and tactics to get there. Make sure the event plan is written and shared with the internal team. Keep updating it as you move through the event cycle. A well-done plan can serve as a future event blueprint.
Definitely creating a firm budget is a must as well as deadlines.
I had so much anxiety when I had my very first fundraiser! The reality is if you have a solid framework. It becomes really easy to hit all your marks is what I have learned. Definitely creating a firm budget is a must as well as deadlines.
Maximizing awareness can help you connect with the audience who is willing and able to give.
My advice for someone seeking to plan a fundraiser is to first see who is on your team. If you don’t have someone that’s good with marketing, PR or is social media savvy, start there. The goal of a fundraiser (online or in-person) is to get as many people aware of the cause as possible.
Maximizing awareness can help you connect with the audience who is willing and able to give. Not only give but share your message with their friends so they can give. Having a team and then having a fundraising goal is critical. Create a plan on how you will inform donors. Are you doing a news interview? Are you using Ambassadors to help spread the word? Are you making fundraising into a competition like you see with charity races and walks?
The framework of your fundraiser starts here and then you can execute by letting the public know. You won’t get a lot of traction by simply saying give. Have a compelling story. This is the perfect time to be a storyteller and explain why giving to your fundraiser will make a difference. For example, if this is going to benefit a cancer patient, ask a few survivors what fundraisers like yours did for them.
Carry all of this over to the execution of your event. When people are moved emotionally, they will give. Make sure your programming speaks to their emotions. Don’t have great marketing leading up to the event and then fall flat at the event. People will not return to the next one.
Choose a budget-friendly venue, and turn it into a high-end event simply by adding lighting!
Planning a fundraiser can seem like a daunting task! The good news is that it doesn’t have to be stressful or overwhelming. The key is to stay organized! First, create a budget. Next, put together an event planning checklist. (Do a quick Google search and you’ll find many free resources for these checklists!). Then assign deadlines and volunteers for each task on the checklist. This is a tried-and-true way to successfully plan a fundraiser! PS: Looking for ways to save on budget? Choose a budget-friendly venue, and turn it into a high-end event simply by adding lighting! Event lighting also takes the focus off of other areas, such as centerpieces and linens. This means that you can use affordable centerpieces such as candles instead of costly fresh florals, and use standard white linens instead of upgrading tablecloths.
It’s important to create an event that allows your guests to connect to the cause, and that way want to donate.
The most important thing is to hire professionals to get the job done. While the goal is to raise as much money as possible for the cause/ organization, one cannot underestimate the event itself. You have to be willing to allocate a reasonable amount of money for the event, in order to get the best outcome which is raising money. A team of professionals can help you elevate the initial event idea and highlight key aspects and values of the organization in a way that is elegant and subtle. It’s important to create an event that allows your guests to connect to the cause, and that way want to donate. It’s all about making people feel connected. An event planner might also end up getting better pricing from vendors due to their longstanding relationships.
Raising money from an event is great, but there are usually other goals involved - including donor cultivation, engagement, community awareness, etc.
Fundraisers are a tricky beast. The biggest piece is determining goals. Raising money from an event is great, but there are usually other goals involved – including donor cultivation, engagement, community awareness, etc… Determining how these goals play into the mix is very important. The most significant question to ask with respect to the “funds” is around a tangible target. What level of money raised (after expenses) would the organization be happy with? Anything above that number is gravy on top… anything below means the event didn’t meet the financial goal. Determining that “number” is key!
Understand your resources, how to optimize their engagement and what you need from them in addition to what you can offer them.
Start by identifying your goals and what success means to the organization planning the fundraiser. You cannot get into the end zone if you don’t know where it is. Secondly understand your resources, how to optimize their engagement and what you need from them in addition to what you can offer them. Then work on your creative direction, and remember, as someone who has made a career out of renting couches, it’s never about the furniture! Think through your guest experience, the expectations of your staff and how you can organize everything to accomplish those goals.
Basically, I recommend determining the purpose of the event, then brainstorming the overall vision of the event, figuring out the budget, and then looking into the location/date.
I love helping people figure out where to start. I actually created a whole free guide (called the ultimate cheatsheet) that talks about this and gives readers a few things they can do today to start planning. Basically, I recommend determining the purpose of the event (type of event, target audience, and desired outcome), then brainstorming the overall vision of the event, figuring out the budget, and then looking into the location/date (those are usually secured at the same time). It just keeps going from there.
Pick a date far enough out that you can have some control.
Pick a date far enough out that you can have some control. If this is your first one, you don’t want to do it in 2 months (though it is possible, I don’t recommend it). Also, be sure it is not a major date (holidays, super bowl, Cinco de Mayo, etc) or one that is big in the town you are in. In MA they have the Big E, if you are trying to run something small in the midst of those few weeks, the traffic is horrendous. You don’t want to do that. Also, I would start gathering as many volunteers and donations as soon as you have a date/cause.
Start by going to the organization’s website to see if they have any source material to help you on your way.
Start by going to the organization’s website to see if they have any source material to help you on your way. We have several event planning kits to help people get started with timelines, budgets, and pieces of advice. After that reach out to the organization and let them know this is what you want to do and see if they can support you in any way. Often, they can assist with free tee-shirts, to brochures, to helping promote the event.
Start with previous supporters and a blank slate.
Being a previous Executive Director of a nonprofit I know this personally! Start with previous supporters and a blank slate. Some of my best events have come out of allowing myself to be open to possibilities. A perfect example is a recent fundraiser that I did at IKEA. I was watching the unconventional materials challenge of Project Runway and I thought how cool would that be if I were able to do that as a competition for event professionals. From there I thought about materials that would be needed for that type of event. The basics like tables and chairs but also florals, plates, fabrics, etc. Where could I find all of these things in one place? Malls, craft stores, decor companies. Once I came up with a list I started just talking about it with some of my friends who came up with even more options than I ever thought possible. Finally, it came down to just calling and asking. Remember the worst thing anyone can say is no but they can’t say anything until you ask.
We always recommend starting with a budget discussion.
As a team with years of creating fundraising events for large non-profit organizations, we recommend starting with an honest conversation to answer some important questions:
1) We always recommend starting with a budget discussion. How much money do you want to raise realistically? What are you raising money for?
2) Next, we like to look at how you can recognize the sponsors and donors. How will you promote the event and sponsors? What sponsor benefits can you offer and deliver on?
3) Trust and transparency are critical for asking for donations and support. How will you measure and report how and where the donor dollars go?
We encourage them to understand who the demographics are for their event.
We encourage them to understand who the demographics are for their event. They need to understand the expectations of the guests. Is it black tie or casual? From there, they can predict a budget.