How To Plan A Fundraising Event
The ultimate checklist for charities looking to smash their first fundraising event.
Here in Britain, we love events. Music concerts, festivals, Christmas parties, even a weekly chin wag over a cup of tea. Whatever the occasion, us Brits are down for it. In the UK, between 2012 and 2015 the annual concert audience grew in size from 13.1 million to 24 million attendees. Not only do individuals love events, but so do companies – 80% of marketers agree that live events are critical to a company’s success. There are 1.3 million business events held in London alone every year. This comes as no surprise, as events offer organisations the opportunity to create a closer bond between their customers and their brand.
Some brands are already making the most of this kind of experiential marketing with great success. Lush, the cosmetic brand, hosts an annual Creative Showcase where super fans can get sneak peaks at their new products, see live demonstrations and enjoy pop-up shows, as well as using the latest tech like virtual reality in imaginative ways.
This isn’t unique to the corporate sector however. Events are an effective way for charities and nonprofits to immerse their supporters in a memorable, exciting, and personal experience. While many individuals give to charities on a regular basis, donating takes on a more personal, emotive meaning when there is an in-person interaction behind it. If you haven’t organised your own fundraiser before, it can be daunting at first, but all you have to do is cover the key components. No matter the size or scale of your fundraising event, these are the vital steps in how to plan a fundraising event successfully.
Step 1 – Define your cause
Be clear on who you’re raising money for and why. This creates a clear promotional strategy in the lead-up to the event, and helps donors know what the impact of their participation in the event will be. Events with a clear aim in mind are far more impactful as they help donors connect to your cause on a personal level. This should align with your overall fundraising strategy, so that all channels, campaigns and projects work towards the same end target.
Step 2 – Set a fundraising goal
Traditional fundraising has historically revolved around reaching a monetary target. How much money can you raise from your fundraising event? But as we mentioned in our blog post on weird and unique fundraising ideas, your goal shouldn’t necessarily revolve around how much cash you can raise. Set a clear fundraising goal for your event. This might be to get 100 new recurring donors as opposed to a one-off monetary figure. Or maybe it’s to form connections with 10 potential business partners with whom you can form a charity-corporate partnership. Perhaps you want to gain more publicity or reach out to a new network of potential donors, measured through social media engagement.
Although raising money doesn’t have to be the only goal of your fundraising event, if you are thinking of having a figure to work towards, look into past fundraising events to determine a realistic amount to aim for. As a rough guide, your goal should be around about 30% higher than what you need to actually set up and run the event. This will ensure that you can cover your expenses and still raise funds to help your beneficiaries.
Step 3 – Create a budget
Venue hire, food, drinks, entertainment, organising the activities. It all costs money. As charities have tight budgets to begin with, making a budget is the best way to ensure you don’t overspend in the organising of your fundraiser. Create a detailed budget to work out how much needs allocating to each area, with some room for unforeseen extra costs. Life has a funny way of throwing a spanner in the works in fairly imaginative ways, so having a buffer against unpredictables prevents you being caught out. If unexpected costs do arise, you’ll be able to adjust your budget or fundraising target to accommodate.
Step 4 – Get friendly with your audience
It may seem all well and good taking a ‘the more the merrier’ approach to your fundraiser, but it’s best if you concentrate your efforts on appealing to a specific audience. Decide which specific group to strategically focus your efforts on. Picking your audience will help you work out the best ways to reach out to this group, and what things you’ll need to include in your event.
It might be that your organisation attracts a particular group united by age, interests or location. Or maybe you want to reach out to a new audience, such as millennials or corporates. The type of audience you choose to target will affect the type of event you hold. Small, black-tie events with an exclusive, invite-only entrance will appeal to a completely different group of people than wacky community fundraisers.
For example, 75% of millennials value experiences over material things. They are the age demographic that attends the most events and have the highest disposable income. So if you choose to appeal to this consumer group, you need to ensure that your event creates an unforgettable experience jam-packed with activities which will involve your attendees and encourage an emotional response from them. As the generation who grew up in the digital age, millennials are also the most tech-savvy generation, so making use of the latest digital gadgets can also be a huge hit.
Step 5 – Create an experience
Although millennials may be the ‘experience generation’, regardless of your target audience’s demographic, they’ll want your event to be a positive and rewarding experience. An easy way to create an experiential event is to give it an overarching theme. This can also be seen as ‘branding’ your event – making sure the event name, logo, colours, and activities all work together to create an overall ambience. This will help you create consistent messages for your promotion later on.
As well as the look and feel of your event, you should make sure that the finer details fit in with your wider theme too. Your guest speakers, promotional items and entertainment should be consistent with the experience you want to create, otherwise you’ll risk your fundraiser feeling a little all over the place. If your fundraising event is a truly immersive experience for your guests, they’ll be more likely to donate more money on top of the original ticket price. To get your creative juices flowing, here are some Weird and Wonderful Fundraising Ideas to get you started.
Step 6 – Find a venue
Now that you’ve set your budget and have begun to plan how you’re going to bring your fundraiser to life, it’s time to set the scene. First things first, you’ll need to choose an event space. Find a venue to host your event that fits your theme and can accommodate your audience, then decide on the date and time.
You’ll need to decide on the date and venue for your fundraiser at least 6 months in advance to give you plenty of time to organise the rest of the event and start promoting it to your target audience. When choosing dates, consider days and times which will work better for your potential attendees. For example, weekends might work well to attract millennials to a city-centre event, but not for families who might spend the weekends away from the city, likewise for corporates.
It’s worth finding out if there are some venues willing to donate their space for your fundraising event in exchange for promotion alongside your cause. If you have a corporate partner, why not see if they can pull a few strings and help you secure a venue, or maybe they have a space that you could use. Both of these options will help you save on costs which can be put towards making the event even better.
Step 7 – Create a host committee
An effective way to reach a wider audience for your event is through influential members of your host committee. Create a host committee made up of people who already support your cause, such as corporate partners, long-term donors or philanthropists. Involving them in the planning of your event will not only help to strengthen your current relationships with them, but might also mean you can benefit from the resources that they can offer. They will also provide a wider circle of contacts who they can reach out to about your event.
Sep 8 – Get promotional
No one is going to know about your event unless you tell them about it. When it comes to promoting your event, it’s vital to get the word out in the best ways possible for your specific audience as opposed to trying to cover every channel. Email, content marketing, advertising, social media. They are all different ways to reach out to your donors and let them know about your event.
The thing to keep in mind is whichever and however many channels you use to market your fundraiser, you need to ensure the messaging across all channels gels together. This doesn’t mean they have to be the same message, but the tone of voice and wording should be similar. This goes back to how you are branding your event. Before you start posting tweets and going live on Instagram, you need to have a clear idea of what image you want to project to your donors.
Once you know the tone of voice you’re going to go for, you need to organise a promotion strategy. Create a promotion strategy that reaches out to your audience through the channels that they use. Pre-event promotion is vital. If your attendees are excited about the event, they are likely to share it on social media before the event takes place. Eventbrite found that when it comes to talking about an event on social media, 41% of the conversations takes place before the event takes place, while 25% of traffic to ticketing and event registration pages comes from social media.
By creating pre-event social media posts, as well as interacting with donors already posting about your event, you can capitalise on this pre-event buzz. A good way to track the conversation about your event is to create a branded hashtag and encourage your donors to use it. This will not only serve as free promotion when individuals use it, but gives you an easy way to track the online conversations about your event in real time, allowing you to interact with donors there and then.
According to Eventbrite’s study, people who had just bought tickets were responsible for 22% of the tweets about the event overall. This means that making the most out of when donors sign up to your fundraiser is essential for capitalising on their sign-up social sharing. By offering ticket-purchasers simple ways to share their attendance right from the confirmation page, you’ll make it easy for them to share your event to their social network, potentially attracting more donors.
You can also capitalise on real-time social posting during the event, as out of all social sharing this has the most impact. This ties into the above point about creating an immersive experience, as attendees who have an amazing experience will want to share it through their Instagram stories and tweets. This experiential content gives your fundraiser a more human dimension which might inspire others to donate to your cause while the event is happening.
When it comes to using emails to promote your event, make sure that you tailor your email message to each receiver. By personalising an email subject line with the recipient’s name or city, you can boost the number of people likely to open the email by as much as 20%. This is because targeted, relevant emails drive 18x more revenue than generic ones, while emails with imagery have a 42% higher click-to-open rate than those without.
Step 9 – Work out how you’ll collect donations
Although your ticket sales will likely be the main form of fundraising, this doesn’t mean you can’t still raise additional funds on the day. While cash donations have been a traditional form of fundraising up to this point, it might not be the smartest option to go for now. Handling cash donations requires suitable methods for counting and cashing up the money collected correctly. As cash collections are not often not banked immediately, this also makes them a less secure form of donation, while online giving is processed using a secure payment gateway and likewise for cashless payments using contactless cards or mobile payments like Apple Pay.
Beyond security and easy processing, relying on cash donations might also jeopardize your chance of maximising your fundraising. A decade ago, cash was used in 60% of payments, by 2018, this had fallen to 28%. This means that nowadays, fewer people are walking around with pockets jiggling with change or wallets full of coppers. For your fundraising event, if you want to collect the most amount of additional funds as possible outside of your ticket sales, your collection methods need to match the shift towards cashless payments. Select fundraising devices that allow you to raise these additional funds on the day of your event.
Our contactless donation devices allow you to seamlessly collect additional funds at your event without your attendees needing to dig into their pockets for long-forgotten spare cash. The GBx Mini is the perfect mobile, compact solution for contactless giving; it can easily be carried around by your volunteers on the day of your event. While our award-winning GBx Core can be placed at food stalls and bars, activity stations or event entrance desks to help maximise donations. Our digital fundraising platform, the GoodBox Portal, allows you to track and analyse the donations collected from your event based on donor demographics and behaviour, helping you learn which donors are the most likely to give a little extra. This will help you improve your audience targeting for events in the future by learning who are the best donors to appeal to and attract.
Step 10 – Remember your thank yous
Remember what your mum told you about saying your please and thank yous? This applies to your organisation too. Make sure that your organisation takes the time after the event to send thank-you notes to everyone who was involved, including contributors, donors, volunteers, staff and vendors. Reaching out to your donors is particularly important, as a simple thank you message, whether via phone or email, will make them feel appreciated and valued. Thanking them for their support will make them more likely to donate in the future and become a recurring donor.
To us, planning a fundraising event should be a doddle, and digital tech can help you do it. The latest tech can help you create an imaginative, immersive experience for your attendees, make the most out of your fundraising, and inform how you organise events in the future. What’s not to love?
As a FinTech company, we specialise in helping charities to utilise the latest in digital technology to make their fundraisers and campaigns more impactful. From integrating our contactless donation technology into your fundraisers, to using our digital fundraising platform to optimise your donor targeting, GoodBox can help you make the most out of your fundraising projects. To see how we’ve helped national names and local charities revolutionise their fundraising, browse our fundraising stories and charity success case studies or check out our articles on how to improve your fundraising projects.