The giving season is fast approaching, and you, as a nonprofit manager, are thinking of all ways you can create awareness about your cause and solicit funds for your organization’s most pressing needs. Suddenly you find yourself thinking about holding a fundraising event. The thought alone is exciting but at the same time anxiety grips you and you find yourself bewildered by the sheer weight of the responsibility. What am I going to do? Is it going to be a success? Will my event attract supporters? Do I have the budget to pull it off?
For those who want to organize their first-ever fundraiser, we’ve got you covered!
This article explains how you can go about holding a fundraiser in nine easy steps. While there are many different ways of holding a fundraising event, including through webinars, this article is focused on doing an offline event.
1 – Start by asking yourself questions and write down the answers
Start with 4Ws encompassing the ‘why,’ ‘who,’ ‘when,’ ‘where,’ and ask yourself ‘how’.
Remember to always treat your fundraising event as a project with a specific start and end date as well as an objective. Regardless of the kind of project, you should always begin with these questions.
‘Why?’ – This will help you answer the objective of your fundraiser. For example, if you are doing a fundraiser for Ukraine your objective might be, “To raise funds for medical treatment of 5,000 children affected by the war in Ukraine.” An objective should be specific and achievable. Next, you find out how much you plan to raise. If it takes an average of $250 to provide basic emergency treatment to one individual, the targeted amount will come out to be $1.2 million. You jot these two pieces of information on paper and ask yourself the next question.
‘Who?’ – Your guest list is the most important element of your fundraiser. Ask yourself ‘Whom am I going to invite?’ Most fundraisers rely on a mix of existing donors and potential donors to achieve their goals. First, make a list of your existing donors with complete contact details, and then find out who your potential supporters can be. For example, if you are doing a fundraiser for an Islamic educational center, the Muslim community in your neighborhood can be your potential supporters. Include them in your invitation list. Celebrities, bloggers, and people with huge followings may also be invited.
‘When?’ – It’s important you decide the date at least two months prior to the event to leave you with enough time to plan and extend invitations. The date will depend on the availability of the venue. Deciding ‘when’ is often a strategic decision. You want to make sure that you are holding the fundraiser at the optimum time. For example, Muslims generally decide to give Zakat to their favorite nonprofits two months prior to Ramadan. Hence, it's important to hold Zakat fundraisers before the month of Ramadan to ensure that people will consider donating to your charity.
‘Where?’ – Deciding the event venue is one of the most high-involvement decisions. Your choice will primarily depend on the number of guests, your budget, and the availability of halls. The venue should be centrally located to ensure your guests can easily arrive at the location with minimal directions. Make sure the venue is accessible by wheelchairs.
‘How?’ – This question centers around your budget. A detailed budget should be made taking into account all items, along with their unit costs and total quantities. Following are the major expense items you need to be looking into:
- Catering and related expenses
- Booking of venue
- Installation of branding
- Installation of multimedia including projectors and screens
- Sound system installation and management
- Lights (in case the venue does not have sufficient lighting)
- Floral decoration
Catering often encompasses 60% of your total budget and is thus the most expensive item on the list. It is a variable cost i.e. it will depend on the number of guests. Make sure that you know the number of guests likely to attend your event before finalizing this budget item. It’s also important to negotiate the best deal possible to ensure that you don’t spend too much on food.
2 – Define the leadership
No project can succeed without a leader. It’s important you define who will be leading the entire event including planning and coordination. It’s often a good practice to appoint two committees as follows:
Host committee – The committee provides a leadership role and is responsible for inviting others to the event. Sociable people with good networking skills should be considered for the role. You may want to appoint some of your most valuable donors for this job.
Event planning committee – This group can support your efforts in planning the entire event including the selection of food items, branding, seating, decoration, etc. The committee may include people who have experience in event management.
3 – Seek sponsors
After the budget has been developed and you have a fair idea of how the event will be organized, you need to seek sponsors who will pay for all or part of the cost of organizing the event. Be sure to make a ‘sponsorship proposal’ that will explain in detail about the event. This document should be shared with potential sponsors to solicit their support. You will need to give brand mileage to your sponsors by placing their logos on branding at the event and promoting them on your website and social media.
4 – Send out invitations
This step may come early in your planning depending on the kind of event and how confident you are in raising sponsorships. Invitations should ideally be sent out as soon as you book the venue. You may send out a ‘save the date’ notice just to let your donors mark their calendars. This should be followed up with formal invitation cards. It should be noted that sending out invitations is a recurring exercise. You should use all communications mediums to invite your donors and potential donors. These mediums include SMS, WhatsApp, and telephone. For ticketed events, you may want to advertise the fundraiser publicly.
It's important to confirm all guests who would be attending the event so that you can make the necessary arrangements beforehand.
5 – Make a detailed event schedule
Make a table with three columns; time, activity, and average duration it takes to complete the activity. It's important to minute each activity that will constitute the whole event. Make sure to leave some time for the guests to arrive and be seated. The schedule sheet should be shared with all team members who have been assigned different tasks on the day of the event.
6 – Appoint a master of the ceremony
A master of the ceremony or emcee is the official host of the event. They are responsible for conducting the entire event and making all the announcements. Make sure that the emcee can clearly and concisely communicate the objectives of the event and entice the audience to extend their support for achieving those objectives.
7 – Work on the marketing collateral
Marketing collateral may include the following:
- PowerPoint presentations - for showcasing at the event
- Marketing videos - these should be displayed to give additional insight into the work you are doing
- Brochures - these documents provide a detailed overview of your organization
- Leaflets - these are normally focused on just one product or program and have a specific call to action for meeting event objectives
8 – Appoint volunteers
You need volunteers to handle the logistics involved in setting up the event venue. You also need them for giving directions to guests and showing them their seats. You can also give volunteers the authority to collect donations during the event through online portals such as the ‘Terminal App’ by Feeling Blessed. The app enables you to set up donation kiosks while also enabling volunteers to process donations using a smartphone or tablet.
Make sure that you communicate all the dos and don’ts with your volunteers about the dress code, interacting with guests, and professional etiquette.
9 – Carrying on the event
You’ve adequately prepared for the event and now it’s time to perform! Showcase the event live on Facebook and Instagram. Live videos on these platform garner increased engagement as every follower of your page gets a notification to tune in to the video. This is also an excellent way to showcase your sponsors and create buzz around your fundraising campaign.
Make sure that you adequately engage with your guests. Don’t leave them bored. Have plenty of activities that involve their direct participation. And after the event is over make sure you thank them for their presence and their donations.
Holding a fundraiser event is more than just event management. It involves engaging multiple stakeholders well before the event and ensuring their participation in achieving your goals. Fundraising events generate great traction not only for your brand but for your campaigns. They are also great ways to keep your donors engaged and associated with your mission. So plan them wisely.