Tips to Plan a Successful Charity Fundraiser
Philanthropy, Tips and Advice

Tips to Plan a Successful Charity Fundraiser

Charity fundraisers are a great way for nonprofit organizations to raise money and awareness for their cause, while also courting major donors. As with any event, there is a lot of hard work that goes into throwing a fundraiser of any kind. There is money that has to go into the event and staff take time out of their duties with the organization to support the fundraiser. An unorganized fundraiser can turn out to be a waste of time and money. But, a well-run fundraiser can be a significant asset to your organization and create added impact and awareness for your cause. Here’s how to make sure your event is well-done.

1. Decide what kind of fundraiser works best for your organization.

There is a wide variety of fundraisers that exist. From galas to sports tournaments all the way to movie nights or dine-ins at your favorite restaurant, the options are important to consider. Sometimes your organization may need to have multiple fundraisers for your donors and supporters to participate in.

Demographics are important to consider here. Are a lot of your supporters and donors younger with kids? If so, a more family friendly fundraiser, like a carnival, bowling tournament or restaurant night, may work better. If your donors are a bit older or typically donate a lot of money, then a gala or dinner may be the better choice.

Staying true to your brand and your organization’s identity is the key factor. If you pride yourself on being casual and accessible to all, then a gala may be too stuffy for your supporters. Again, the most important thing is that it makes sense for your organization.

2. Have specific and measurable (SMART) goals for the event.

Many organizations make the mistake of throwing an event without making benchmarks for what they are trying to accomplish. It’s important that everyone working on the event understands the goals and what the event’s purpose is. Are you trying to raise money for a specific initiative? If so, how much? Are you looking to raise a specific amount of money but also grow your donor base? SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-bound) are a great way to make sure you have detailed goals in place.

You should always have a specific dollar amount on your fundraising goals because it encourages donors to give. Knowing you are looking for $20,000 could help someone give $500 or $1000 because they are giving you a good chunk towards your goal. Without that number, donors may not know how much they should be setting aside for your organization. The specific goals can change how you shape what happens at your event and how heavily you promote it inside and outside your network. Know what success looks like for your organization.

3. Make sure you have a clearly defined budget.

When you set your goals for what you want to raise at the event, you should also be setting a budget. Nothing can derail an event faster than no budget. Your staff doesn’t know how much to spend, it’s harder to negotiate with vendors and it’s more difficult to track expenses. Make sure every part of the event is budgeted, from name tags to A/V to food and beverage. Are you providing giveaways at the event or promotional materials? Make sure there’s a budget for that. This helps your team stay on track and not overspend preparing the event. If they know what the limit is, they will be better at staying under it. Avoid confusion and hesitation from your team provide a budget and empower them to take the lead on the coordination of specific aspects.

4. Bring on corporate sponsors to help support the event.

Corporate sponsors are a great way to add resources to your fundraiser. Corporate sponsors can provide services or products for your event, or they can simply donate a specific amount of money in exchange for access to the event and exposure with their logo as a part of print and digital marketing materials.

Just like when you are choosing the right kind of fundraiser for your organization, it’s important to make sure your corporate sponsors make sense with your brand. If you are an organization that raises money for childhood cancer, engage with organizations that work with young people, or that donate to hospitals or research centers. If you are raising money for those going hungry, work with food warehouses, grocery stores, bakeries, etc.

These corporate sponsors will likely not only donate but want to attend the event for the opportunity to network with potential customers or brand advocates. Corporate sponsors also will want to see if there is an alignment with those individuals or groups you serve, so metrics and data are important to share with them when you speak about sponsoring.

5. Know how you are taking event donations.

This one may seem pretty self-explanatory, but it’s extremely important. There needs to be a couple key ways that people can donate to your organization during the event. Typically, this includes writing a check, paying via credit card (using apps like Square) or giving cash. If you have more ways, great, just make sure that those staple three ways are available for people at the event. Nothing looks worse than someone wanting to donate and your team running around trying to find the one person with the credit card reader. Plan ahead and make sure you are ready to take any and all donations.

6. Promote the event from all angles.

Once you have your game plan, celebrity participants (if any) and corporate sponsors onboard, it’s time to promote. This is where your team, partner organizations and corporate sponsors come into play. As an organization, you can promote to your donors and supporters, but it’s hard to expand that reach to others if they aren’t aware or familiar on the organization. Your internal team should be responsible for inviting their network of contacts to the event. Do they speak with clients on a weekly basis? Make sure they are invited.

Your donors and sponsors should also be promoting the event for you. Send your donors an email or flyer that is tailored for them personally so they can share with family, friends, coworkers, etc. For sponsors, do the same so they can share with their internal teams, partners, and other contacts. The more the word can be spread organically, the bigger buzz your event will receive.

7. Provide a memorable experience for guests- tell a story.

When it’s finally time to host the event, make sure you are ready to give your audience a show. Beyond having good food, entertainment and a nice venue, it’s important to ensure your guests remember why they attended in the first place.

Regardless if the event is a fundraising dinner, a celebrity gala or a sports tournament, show your work. Have photos up in the venue of those that your organization supports to whom their donations from the event will go. Share a video clip of someone personally affected by your organization speaking on how much your work has impacted their lives. If you can bring a few members of the community you serve to come to the event and speak to attendees directly, it goes a long way. Remember, the point of this event is to compel people to donate. Visuals and metrics are a great way to do that.

8. Follow up after the event.

This final step is often overlooked by many organizations. You do all the hard work to get people there, spend money and get their contact info, but then you never follow up. If you can’t follow up with the new or returning donors that participated in your event, you’ll never grow awareness or raise more funds. It’s important to reach out as soon as the day after the event to those you met and thank them for coming, share the results of the event, and connect further. Events are a big marketing piece and it’s important that nonprofits treat events the same way corporations do.

We hope this helps you in the planning and execution for your next fundraiser. If you need some extra hands, check out how we can help through our sports philanthropy consulting services.  

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