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6 steps to successful fundraising event management

December 10, 2022
This nonprofit event manager is greeting supporters that attend the event.

Fundraising events are an effective way for nonprofit organizations to cultivate support and attract new donors. But great events require extensive planning, financial support, and a team effort.

Once you’ve determined that hosting an event is the best approach for your nonprofit organization, use fundraising event management strategies to guide your efforts. This involves how your team oversees all logistics leading up to, during, and after an event. When done correctly, fundraising event management ensures your event runs smoothly and your goals are met.

Follow these steps to plan and execute the most successful event possible:

1. Determine your fundraising event goals

Before you commit to a fundraising event, you must first decide why you’re hosting it. Most nonprofit organizations host events to:

  • Raise a certain amount of funds. The primary goal of hosting an event should be to fund your nonprofit’s purpose, programs, and campaigns. If you’re hosting an event in the hopes of funding a specific project, break down the estimated costs and determine a realistic fundraising target. 
  • Spread awareness. Not every attendee will be a donor, but you can still encourage them to spread the word about your nonprofit organization. An event will capitalize on your audience’s energy, keeping them invested in your purpose for years to come.
  • Strengthen donor relations. Hosting an event can help you recruit new supporters and steward existing ones. If you’re hosting an event in the name of donor relations, your goals may not be as definable, but you should still have an idea of what success looks like. 

Whether it’s your first time planning an event or you’re experienced in fundraising event management, these clear, measurable goals will help guide your efforts.

2. Choose the right type of fundraising event

It’s important to choose an event that resonates with supporters and inspires them to give or act. Identify their interests and event attendance history through your donor management system to determine their event preferences.

If you’re still having trouble choosing the type of event to host, review these popular fundraising event ideas for inspiration:

  • Charity auction: Auctions are known to generate engagement because donors get something in return for their charitable donations. To build anticipation before the event, procure popular items and release your catalog in advance.
  • Awareness walk or run: Activity-based events often use peer-to-peer fundraising in which registrants encourage their friends and family to sponsor them as they walk or jog around your predetermined course. For example, a participant might ask for peer-to-peer donations of $1 per lap.
  • Gala: Galas typically only take place once or twice per year, as they are large-scale events. Attendees are encouraged to donate by purchasing a ticket and through additional activities, such as raffles and mobile bidding.

Regardless of which event you choose, make sure you have a community of supporters already in place. You may need to host a few smaller events so people can get to know your nonprofit organization before throwing a huge gala.

3. Secure corporate sponsors

Fundraising events can require a fair amount of money to cover upfront costs. Ensure your event is a financial net gain through corporate sponsorships. With the support of an established company, your event will receive greater reach and recognition.

To secure a corporate sponsor, you should prepare the following:

  • Define your value. Communicate why your nonprofit organization is a good fit for a partnership. How does your purpose align with that sponsor’s goals? Do their employees already support your cause? How many people in the community have benefited from your organization?
  • Convey your reach. Make a strong case for sponsorship by showing how your target audiences overlap. Potential sponsors want to know that they will be featured and promoted at an event where attendees can easily become customers. For example, a clothing store with a target customer base of people aged 18 to 24 would be the ideal partner for a nonprofit event aimed at younger people.
  • Build sponsorship packages. Describe what you’re looking for in a sponsorship, such as a $5,000 donation or a free venue. Then, outline what sponsors will receive in return. Common incentives include displaying their logo on marketing materials and mentioning their company in speeches. Offer different packages and sponsorship levels to attract small “mom and pop” sponsors as well as big brands.

Once you find a sponsor, include them in your event planning so that they feel like a partner.

4. Create an engaging experience for your supporters

With so many fundraising events out there, it can be difficult to make yours stand out. That’s why it’s important to encourage “out of the box” ideas to educate and engage your supporters. For example, instead of your normal cocktail hour, create an “educational gallery“ that showcases compelling photos and stories about what you’re doing.

For a fundraising event that inspires donors, consider these tips:

  • Pay attention to the invitation. Personalize your invitations and connect supporters to your cause. Create a sense of urgency by providing early bird pricing and exclusive benefits for early registrants.
  • Go green. Adopting sustainable practices can help your nonprofit organization save money and attract environmentally-conscious donors. Reduce your use of paper by selling tickets, completing registrations, and collecting donations online.
  • Solicit additional donations. Give attendees the option to donate beyond the ticket price through donation kiosks, text-to-give, and mobile donation forms. Plus, you can complement your event with additional activities. If you’re hosting an auction, consider adding in a raffle to motivate donors to give more.
  • Sell event merchandise. Selling branded merchandise helps boost funds and promote brand awareness. When supporters wear a t-shirt or use a mug with your logo and event details, they are actively promoting and engaging with your nonprofit organization’s purpose.
  • Encourage registrants to spread the word. Include social sharing buttons on all digital marketing materials, so participants can easily promote the event within their own networks.

Keeping these attributes in mind when planning your next fundraising event will help create a memorable experience for supporters.

5. Market your fundraising event

Promotion is a key aspect of fundraising event management. With the right marketing materials, your event attendance and engagement will grow to new heights.

Follow these tips to effectively market your event:

  • Establish a communications plan. A communications plan will make your event messaging more consistent and effective. Build out a calendar with information about your promotional content, a detailed schedule, which platforms you’ll use, and who the intended recipients of your outreach efforts are.
  • Include calls to action. Let donors know how to get involved with your event by adding a clear call to action to all solicitations. This can take the form of a button on your website or a subject line in your email. Just be sure to use strong, urgent language like “Register Now” or “Donate Today.”
  • Leverage a multi-channel marketing approach. Take full advantage of your website, social media, email, and direct mail to reach your intended audience. Using a combination of these communication channels provides multiple touchpoints for interaction.

Keep in mind that successful fundraising events require promotion well in advance. Start sending out marketing materials about a month or two prior to the event to build anticipation and drive registrations.

6. Assess your results and cultivate your relationships

After the event, thank your supporters and cultivate meaningful relationships by:

  • Following up with a thank-you email, phone call, or letter within 24 hours to a week of the event.
  • Sending out a survey to participants asking for feedback and gauging their interest in other events.
  • Featuring major donors in your nonprofit organization’s newsletter or annual report.
  • Providing event attendees with additional opportunities to connect to and support your cause.

After thanking and following up with donors, review the results of your fundraising event. Did you stay under budget? Did your promotions attract attendees? Did more people sign up online or offline? Did you receive new donors? Were your corporate sponsorships successful?

Analyze the results of these questions to assess what worked and what could be improved. Doing so will help you hone your fundraising event management skills and build on your endeavors in the future.

Invest in fundraising event management

Fundraising event management involves thorough planning, skillful oversight, and a follow-up plan that engages supporters. If you’re looking for a solution to support your fundraising strategy, Bonterra Donor Engagement’s Guided Fundraising solution (formerly Network for Good) has built-in tools that allow nonprofits to create customized event pages, sell tickets, and request donations from those who can’t attend. After a successful fundraising event, you’ll have a committed supporter base that will be well worth your efforts.

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