1. Identify your purpose
Are you trying to spread awareness, thank your donors or raise money for your mission? Once you determine your primary purpose narrowing down your options becomes a much easier task.
Are you looking for an outdoor event such as a 5K Run / Walk? How about a trivia or game night? Or are you looking for a more formal event such as a Gala or Auction? Some events tend to lend themselves to a more interactive experience. Your Gala can too! Gala’s can help you highlight awareness and identify your mission. A gala also allows guests to celebrate after fundraising has been successfully accomplished with live musical entertainment. It’s essential to clarify the purpose of your event so you can create measurables to gauge your success.
2. Create an event planning team
One is the loneliest number, so create a team! Splitting up tasks will not only relieve stress but also allow for more creative energy through collaboration. Start with defining roles and delegating responsibilities with due dates. Hold everyone and yourself accountable by setting deadlines to complete specific tasks.
When planning a fundraising event, look for creative ways to build excitement and engage your donors and board well in advance of the event. Video invites, one on one coffee dates, and progressively building excitement through social media are effective tools to generate early interest. Utilizing Google and Youtube ads is a creative way to engage new potential donors, but that discussion is for a different article.
3. Fundraise and Sponsorships
Events cost money, but having great sponsorship partners can help offset some of the event costs. From national brands to your local businesses, look to build long term partnerships. How do you make your donors feel?
Donor and sponsor engagement can take many forms from sponsoring the dinner or dessert to being featured on the red carpet step & repeat or by tagging your sponsors on screens at the event. There unlimited ways to bring engagement and entertainment when planning a fundraising event.
The bottom line is to think creatively on how your sponsors can help you and in return, ensure they receive tremendous value and affirmation. This reinforces the good will of partnering with your organization.
4. Build Your Budget
Identify a venue that can accommodate your event in consideration of location, budget and space. What are the most important elements to your event? While you spend a great deal of time on the menu, it’s important to also note professional production and A/V can make or break your ability to connect and support your fundraising efforts.
The top reasons donors, sponsors and fans do not return are because of disorganization, not being able to hear, not being able to see various presenters and screens, or because the nonprofit didn’t connect overall. In our focus groups, many donors have also commented on leaving their homes expecting a nice night out, and being sent home after dinner without any musical entertainment. That leaves many feeling they didn’t receive their money’s worth, and likely won’t return. When you’re figuring your budget, you must incorporate some element of musical entertainment. Telling your band or DJ their sound is already covered by the A/V company makes it much easier on them. This may give you negotiating power.
Focus Group research indicates guests will come back, bring new donors and talk about your event if you not only convey your mission, but provide a fun experience that entertains your attendees as well. Don’t overlook the element of making your event as fun and entertaining as it is purposeful. Research your audio/video needs and the company you entrust to execute the technical and musical aspects of your event.
Always remember – Fundraise first. Party later.
5. Event Day!
Remember the event and engagement begins as guests arrive, not during the dinner or program. Make registration and greeting seamless with organization and volunteers. Your key staff members and volunteers should be greeting guests out front vs. managing the tasks at hand. And remember, your event doesn’t end until the last guest walks out of the door. For post-event follow up, have a gratitude plan in place to thank EVERY guest, not just high dollar donors. Send video emails from recipients with personal thank you’s. Take your time here. Explore all possibilities of creativity. Sending a form letter is not good enough. The extra special touches go a long way. You can also send out a post-event survey to gather feedback for your next event.
The real litmus test – as the guests depart, they should be talking about what a great evening they experienced vs. the chicken or fish.
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