Creating a Checklist to Plan Your Events

When it comes to raising money for your nonprofit organization, successful fundraising events provide a substantial contribution. These can be big or small, one-time or annual but they all come with one major goal in mind: raise money for your charitable cause.

Fundraising events can generate significant funding to your organization, but it can be difficult figuring out where to start to get everything done. To keep it simple, we’ve crafted a simple step-by-step checklist to plan and run your nonprofit fundraisers. Following these tips will help your nonprofit events go smoothly, gain constituents and raise donations.

1. Determine your audience.

Before you start planning, you first need to determine who to aim your fundraising event towards. Is it family-centered for parents with elementary kids? Will it be for people who are of drinking age? What about seniors or older adults? Specifically, will the event target existing supporters or hopeful constituents? Your organization should ask these questions before jumping into planning.

For example, as an animal shelter, you could host an event for children to meet the puppies or for college students to take a break during study time. These two different audiences would determine the type of event you have and its main focus.

2. Set goals.

When planning beforehand, set goals for what you want the fundraiser to accomplish. You should have one main goal alongside minor objectives. Make these specific and measurable. For example, maybe a homeless shelter wants to raise $500 to provide pajamas for the children staying there. You can measure this goal in a specific dollar amount with a straightforward purpose: kids’ pajamas.

A minor objective could be gaining 30 new potential volunteers. Still measurable, still purposeful, but smaller than the main goal. Outlining these intentions beforehand will make the event’s purpose clear to everyone in your organization and those attending.

3. Establish a budget.

You can’t set a well-studied goal before knowing how much has to go into the event. By going through your nonprofit’s financials and resources, you’ll get a clear picture of what you need to invest in order to make the event successful. Take into account all possible expenses:

  • Venue
  • Decorations
  • Food & refreshments
  • Printing, mailing & postage
  • Travel expenses
  • Programs or brochures
  • Equipment
  • Entertainment
  • Licensing & permissions
  • Advertising
  • Speaker fees
  • Door prizes

Don’t overstretch the budget, but remember: The more your organization puts into the event, the more will come out of it.

4. Give yourself enough time.

Make sure you have enough time scheduled beforehand to plan. The larger and more intricate the fundraiser, the more time you will need. Depending on the size of the event, you should begin planning at least a month in advance. This gives your organization time to organize and prepare materials, plus provides potential attendees enough notice to arrange for it on their calendars.

5. Choose an event type.

The list of potential events your nonprofit organization could utilize is endless. Choose a type that best fits your cause and what you want to represent. Keep in mind:

  • Your intended audience
  • Available staff and volunteers
  • Your brand identity
  • A time constraint
  • The organization’s budget
  • The overall goal

By choosing an event type that represents your nonprofit well, constituents will better understand your mission and be more likely to get involved and donate. For ideas on potential fundraisers, check out our articles on 10 Creative Fundraising Ideas and 10 More Innovative Fundraising Ideas.

6. Find sponsors.

Corporate sponsors provide financial backing and security for your cause. Meet with possible supporters and discuss details to see if the event has potential for their involvement. Talk about who the fundraiser will reach, what your organization’s mission and cause are and how you’ll promote the sponsor at the event.

When backers are interested in your fundraising events, their involvement will allow your group to expand its budget and reach a larger audience. Additionally, the sponsor receives corporate benefits from working to better the local community.

7. Delegate work.

Event planning comes with a lot of work, and leaving the assignment to only 2–3 people can become troublesome for employees, volunteers and the organization. Working together helps clarify what work needs done and who needs to accomplish it, while shortening the amount of time needed. Establish a committee with a core group of individuals in charge of different aspects and lean on volunteers for any other assistance. Clearly communicate roles and tasks, and trust those who help and work around you.

8. Remember other considerations.

During all the hubbub of planning your next fundraiser, don’t forget practical considerations your nonprofit group may need to take into account. These can include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Event health and safety
  • Access for individuals with disabilities
  • Liability insurance
  • Photography for the event
  • Available first aid
  • Any necessary transportation

Taking care of these considerations beforehand helps ensure your organization has a smooth and successful fundraiser. Cover all the bases when planning and avoid any potential mishaps during your event.

9. Promote the event.

Once your fundraiser is planned out and ready to go, promote, promote, promote! Set up a strategy within your organization and market the event across various media: print, website, email marketing and social media. Get the community involved by asking volunteers, donors and sponsors to help promote the event. When it comes to marketing, you can never have enough promotion. More publicity means more constituents, which means more donations for your cause. For more ideas on how to market your fundraiser, check out our article on Creating Content to Promote Your Next Event.

10. Assess afterwards.

When the fundraiser finishes, review how it went. What went well? What could you have done differently? Did your group accomplish its goals? If not, how could you achieve them in the future? Analyze your answers to these questions and come up with a plan for the organization’s next event. If applicable, you could even discuss the fundraiser’s outcomes with volunteers, donors and sponsors to see how to better reach them in the future. Cultivate and maintain relationships with these individuals and continue to grow your cause.

When planning fundraisers for your nonprofit, a step-by-step plan increases the potential for a successful outcome. Utilize this checklist for your next event and show how your nonprofit organization can raise awareness, gain constituents and increase donations.

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