There are many fundraising strategies that your organization can do to raise money: direct mail, coin collection, corporate partnerships, earned income, special events. For now, let’s focus on the latter.
Special events are public occasions for an organization to mainly do 4 things—raise money, raise awareness on your cause, improve group cohesiveness, and offer something for the spirit of the participants.
The sky is the limit when thinking of the kind of special event you want to do. You can organize fun runs, auctions, bazaars, gala events, dinners, exhibits, concerts, and movie premieres.
To help you ensure that your fundraising event is a success, here are 10 major components that you must consider*:
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. Your 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. The amount you choose should be what you hope to net; that is, the amount you plan to raise after expenses are deducted.
3. The Budget
Every fundraising event plan should contain a complete budget listing all of the expenses to hold the event. Your budget should include staff, invitations, space rental, catering, entertainment, transportation, security, and utilities. It 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.
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. They could be composed wealthy donors, business leaders, or local celebrities. They’re 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.
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 held? Will food be served? Will there be entertainment? What kind of dress will be required? What is the itinerary?
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, and word-of-mouth
Once you promote 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). Decide who will sell the tickets, how they will be shipped or delivered, and who will be responsible for organizing the incoming information.
While you probably won’t need a full run-through of your event, it is essential that everyone, who is working at the event, knows, 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 runs 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.
As with any fund raising strategy, organizing special events to raise funds has its pros and cons. It generates awareness to your cause, it’s good for acquiring new donors and enhances teamwork in your organization. On the other hand, it can be disadvantageous because of the cost, time, labor-intensive work, and even factors beyond your own control, such as the weather. At the end of the day, however, a successful fundraiser makes it worth all the time, money, and hard work involved.