How to plan a successful fundraising event

Whether it’s a small fun day event for kids or a fancy gala for a more sophisticated crowd, fundraising events are an excellent way to raise money and get some publicity for your cause. Unfortunately, even the smallest fundraising event can be extremely time consuming and often costly to organise. Without the right planning, costs can quickly get out of hand and you could end up out-of-pocket.

If you’re considering holding a fundraiser for your charity or you’ve already struggled in the past to make your event a success, you’ll be pleased to know that a money-making fundraiser is achievable with the right plan in place. From your budget to your post-event follow up, we’ve put together all the main things you need to consider when planning a successful fundraising event.

Set a budget

You need to set a budget so you can plan your fundraising event properly and ensure you make a profit at the end

Before you even consider the type of event you want you’ll need to figure out how much money you have to host your fundraiser. Your budget needs to be set first as it will determine the scale and type of event you can have and will also help you set your fundraising goals. Without a firm budget from the outset, you’re always at risk of spending more than you can raise.

To set your budget, consider all the initial funding and sponsorship that might be available. Do some research and reach out to relevant people that would be interesting in investing in the event, whether this is from the fundraising budget of the charity itself or some local businesses and even celebrities. To get them onboard you’ll need to emphasise how sponsoring the event could benefit them in terms of publicity and brand image, as well as to help a worthy cause.

Define your purpose and fundraising goal

Defining the purpose of your fundraising event will help you decide on the communications and style of event you have

Every fundraiser has one ultimate purpose; to raise money. Most, however, also have one or two more specific purposes. For example, maybe the money raised is for a particular project such as building a new school. Alternatively, the event may be primarily about raising awareness or getting more regular and long-term donations. Your purpose will help to shape your event as a whole, from your target audience to your communications at the event.

You’ll also need to set your fundraising goal which will be dependent on both your budget and your purpose. For example, if you’re raising money for a specific project you’ll likely have a rough idea of how much money you’ll need to complete the project. If you intend to raise all of the project money with one fundraiser, then the fundraising goal will be the project figure and take into account your budget or outgoing costs. Setting and advertising your fundraising goal is important as it will give donators a target to reach for and most fundraisers tend to raise much more money this way.

Identify your target audience

Make sure you know your target audience so you can tailor your fundraising event to suit their tastes

It may sound a little cold to call your event guests a target audience, but that’s exactly what they are. The best way to encourage people to open their wallets is to make a genuine connection, and that can only be done with careful targeting. Your event purpose will ultimately define who your target audience is, and it may be broad or very narrow and quite niche.

Taking the school project example, there could be a very broad audience that might be interested in donating to this cause, but you might find more success targeting parents and teachers who already see the benefits of schooling and have an existing connection to the idea. Matching your audience to your purpose will make it much easier to develop communications and come up with event ideas that will better appeal to the hearts, and wallets, of your guests.

Influencers and champions

A successful fundraiser is reliant on donators, and you’ll only get enough with some decent promotion in the run-up to the event. The best way to improve your reach is to organise a team of good promotors or champions. These are known as your ‘host committee’ and are often made up of people that already have connections to the charity either as a volunteer or a donator themselves.

You will need influencers to help you promote the fundraising event and get more donators there

You probably have the beginnings of a host committee from drafting your budget. From securing initial funding you probably already have businesses all individuals that are invested in your event. These are the ideal promotors as they also stand to gain from the success of the fundraiser. Additionally, reach out to the charity to see if they have any high-profile influencers, donators or volunteers that would be willing to promote the event to their own following.

Your host committee is primarily there for their wide circle of contacts and interest in the charity or event, so they can have as little or as much involvement in the fundraiser itself as you or they like. Get to know your committee and see who might be more comfortable taking a back seat and who might be willing to get more involved with the planning process.

Plan for multiple opportunities to give

Make sure you plan for multiple opportunities to give at the event to make the most out of the fundraising potential and to supplement your ticket sales. Your donating opportunities will be the backbone of your event, with entertainment, food and any extras planned around them. Typical donating opportunities include silent auctions and raffles. You should also make sure there are plenty of booklets, pamphlets and volunteers around to make it easy for guests to set up monthly donations or get more involved in the charity after the event. Be creative but realistic when planning the event itself, and always match your entertainment and event style to your audience.

You will need to make sure you have multiple opportunities at the event for people to donate more money

Leave time for research and organisation

When it comes to choosing your fundraiser theme and planning the actual event, make sure you do as much research as possible. This will mean you’ll need to leave plenty of time for your planning process so there’s no last-minute rush at the end. With enough planning time, you’ll be able to do much more research when choosing your venue, catering and entertainment so that you get the best possible price as well as the best match for your event purpose and audience.

While it’s important that you pick entertainment that appeals to your guests, it’s also essential that this is within your budget. With careful research and some savvy organisation, you may even be able to shave off costs and come in under your budget, leaving you even more money to put towards your fundraising goal. For example, talk to local businesses to see if any are willing to offer a significant discount or even provide free services. Local caterers, events organisations and even venues may be willing to become sponsors themselves and help you cut costs.

Make sure you leave plenty of time to plan your fundraising event properly

You should also weigh up the costs and value of outsourcing aspects of the event compared to doing them yourself. For example, DIY decorations and volunteers running stalls or games are perfect for fun-days and more laid-back event, and they can save you significant money. Galas and evening events, however, might not suit a DIY approach so even though you could save money on outsourcing, the overall effect might be detrimental to your guest’s enjoyment and fundraising success. Remember, your event is an exchange; donators will expect a valuable experience in exchange for their charity.

When organising your event, consider:

  • Venue
  • Food and drink
  • Decorations
  • Entertainment – photo booths, games, rides etc

Follow-up and thank you

Don't forget to say thank you to your guests and sponsors and lay the ground work for future donations

Most people plan for the event itself but forget to think about afterwards. The follow-up communications to the event can be just as important as the fundraiser, and there are plenty more opportunities to raise awareness and money afterwards. This is especially important for your host committee or any sponsors of the event, as many will have done so partly on the promise of publicity. Updating your website and social channels with pictures and shout-outs from the event is a fantastic way to keep the momentum going and tagging your sponsors and host committee goes above and beyond your publicity promise while also taking advantage of their own audience reach.

Don’t forget to email and phone the guests themselves with a thank-you. Not only does this make them feel appreciated after their donations, but it’s also an opportunity to send them any extra information about the charity or upcoming events to help cultivate future donations.

Stand out at your next fundraiser

A fundraising event is a perfect opportunity to spread awareness and get your latest message across. We’ve helped charities do just that with printed t-shirts, jackets and other personalised clothing. Not only is this a great way to make sure your volunteers stand out from the crowd to make getting information and donating even easier for your attendees, but they’re also the perfect canvas for your important fundraising messages.

Get charity clothing and fundraising gear from i-Prints to help you raise awareness and money at your next fundraising event

Alan Drake

Alan Drake

9 Years printing experience.

Previous 12 years IT Support experience.