Guide for Successfully Planning a Fundraising Event

How to Set Fundraising Goals, Gain Sponsors, and Market Your Event

fundraising event

Hosting a fundraising event is a great way to raise money for an organization or cause. Fundraising events raise awareness, foster community involvement, and provide a fun gathering all while raising money for a good cause. Planning a fundraising event — just like planning any other event — takes time, organization and creativity.

Planning a Fundraising Event

Follow this easy-to-follow guide for successfully planning a fundraising event.

1. What Is the Objective?

Before getting started with any actual event planning, decide first what the objective is for your fundraising event. Most fundraising events have more than one goal.  The objective may be to gain publicity, increase awareness, expand an existing network, or reward volunteers for their efforts, all while raising money at the event. Know what the desired outcome is so that you can design an event that will meet that objective.

2. How Much Money Do You Hope to Raise?

How do you know if your fundraising event is a success if you don’t have a fundraising goal? Establish a clear and measurable fundraising goal.  The goal should be attainable but also slightly out of reach. This will provide extra motivation for those involved in the event -- and your target audience -- to strive to meet the fundraising objective.

Track the fundraising progress using indicators and publicize the progress using social media and other marketing channels.

Urge your fundraising network to contribute to help you reach the target. Keep in mind this goal is the amount of money that is left over after all event expenses are paid.

3. Establish an Event Budget

With your fundraising goal in mind, establish your event budget. Make a complete list of all the expenses involved in hosting this fundraising event.

This includes:

  • Rental costs for venue
  • Catering
  • Equipment rentals
  • Costs for staffing
  • Invitations
  • Entertainment (guest speakers, musicians)
  • Decorations
  • Transportation
  • Security personnel

Your budget should reflect all known costs and include an amount for unforeseen expenses. To meet your fundraising goal, the amount of money raised at the event must exceed all expenses.

4. Know Your Target Audience

To effectively market an event – whether that is a fundraiser, meeting, or a festival – you first need to establish who your target audience is.  Are you trying to reach young professionals who will embrace your cause? Is your fundraising event something for the public at large and anyone can attend? Perhaps your target audience is small business owners who will contribute a percentage of their sales to your cause. Think about who you are trying to reach so you can tailor your marketing efforts.

5. Reach Out to the Community

When planning a fundraising event, think of your local community network in your outreach efforts. Reach out to local businesses to ask for their assistance in providing some of the event components at no or reduced cost. For example, consider soliciting donations for the following items:

  • Chair rentals
  • Tent rentals
  • Decorations
  • Food and catering
  • Music or DJ
  • Signage

Local supermarkets may donate bottled water to guests. A local printer may donate the signage. In return for a certain level of their participation, offer the business or vendor publicity in the form of listing the businesses in printed materials or signage at the event.

The benefits of this community outreach are many.  Your organization receives materials or services at no or reduced cost, which helps to lower your expenses. Those local businesses become part of your network, and their support will promote your event to their customers.

Reach out to other charitable groups for help, such as local youth organizations, scouting groups, or community service clubs at the local schools. They can offer assistance with setup, clean up, distribution of items at the event, and more.

6. Create a Host Committee

Typically, fundraising events have a host committee. These committee members should be committed to the cause and the event, and be large donors who will encourage others to contribute their resources as well. Business leaders and local celebrities often serve on host committees. Their role is not one of event planning; instead, it is to work to help you reach your fundraising goals.

7. Event Publicity

Once the event date is established and the target audience selected, it is time to work on event publicity. Develop a public relations/marketing plan for the fundraising event — one that is separate from your fundraising event plan. Include a timeline for making announcements and sending out materials, as well as available methods for distribution. This may include:

  • Mailing invitations to the event
  • Direct mail marketing campaign
  • Social gatherings featuring representatives of the host committee
  • Online presence (organization website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Direct outreach to organization’s fundraising network
  • Local community outreach
  • Local newspapers and online publications
  • Host committee business and social network

Make your publicity campaign a priority. Without effective marketing, the event itself — as well as the charitable cause — will go unnoticed, and the fundraising goal will not be met.

8. Format for Ticket Sales

As part of your fundraising event plan, include a method for ticket sales and distribution. Decide how tickets will be sold, when they will be sold, and whether they will be distributed before the event or available for pickup at the door of the event. Determine if there will be one flat ticket charge for the event or different contribution levels, such as a different price for access to the V.I.P. area or a special reception.

Also, create a method for organizing the ticket sales, as well as how the personal information from those purchasing tickets will be added to your fundraising contact list. This contact information is a valuable part of your future marketing efforts.

9. Don’t Forget to Say “Thank You”

Don’t make the costly mistake of not thanking your event contributors, event sponsors, and volunteers. Take the time to send personal notes to everyone who is involved in your fundraising event. Thank the caterer for their sponsorship participation in the event and for providing stellar food. Thank the scout volunteers for their time and energy in helping to set up the tents. Thank the vendors who provided much-needed rentals at a discount. You get the idea.