The Definitive Guide to Planning the Perfect Charity Event

Whether you are a non-profit organization, a Fortune 500 corporation or simply a concerned citizen, this guide is intended to help you plan and execute a successful fundraiser.

Start with the Goal

Charity events focus on three main principles that are all interlinked:

– Bringing the community together;
– Raising awareness for a cause;
– Raising funding for the cause;

Consider these follow-up questions. If you are going to be raising funding, HOW MUCH would you like to raise? Will YOU be spending the funds raised on a charitable project yourself, or will you be donating them directly to a charity or cause?

If the fog of uncertainty surrounding your event is beginning to clear up, write a short mission statement for your fundraiser which you will need for your branding next.

Theme and Branding

Although you might want to consider who your target audience is, what their interests are and what type of activities they might enjoy doing, we can also argue against that. Your event should be fun, or at least contain some fun activities. You want your attendees to have a good time, donate generously, stay until the end and possibly consider attending your next fundraiser. Of course thinking outside the box does not mean inviting high-level business executives to a Slipknot concert with a formal dress code, although you never know what works until you try!

For over 100 fundraiser ideas click here. Have a look at the ideas but remember to add your own elements of branding and originality. For your logo and slogan, you can either create new ones from scratch or you can adapt your company ones by adding some ‘charitable’ changes or elements.

Time, Date and Season

Any event needs to be planned well in advance, of course the timing depends on the breadth of your goals. Ideally you should give yourself from 3 to 6 months for planning. Make sure you account for the season, holidays, festivals and other events happening in your community at that particular time. Your fundraiser should not clash with important dates and events, when people will prioritize against you.

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Location, location, location (Venue)

You need an event venue that fits your fundraiser’s theme, audience and audience size. Make sure the venue has good communication links and enough parking space for everyone, including the catering, suppliers and other staff.

Budgeting and Costs

Just like any other event, the budget for your fundraiser should be your trusty guide all the way, from the planning stage through the execution phase, leading up to the grand finale. Always overestimate your costs and underestimate your income.

Possible income ideas:

– Sponsorships
Ticket sales
– Paid activities
– Raffle ticket sales
– On the spot donation box/es
– Food supplies sale

Some important costs to consider:

– Marketing (Advertising)
– Venue hire
– Equipment hire
– Catering
– Food supplies (refreshments, snacks)
– Entertainment (guest speakers, artists)
– Staff (volunteers, team members)

Tasks, Activities and Management

Assign team members activities, make sure you have a clear report process and good rapport. If you are accustomed to sharing work tasks and responsibility with colleagues, that’s great, but try to distribute clear event responsibilities and, at the very least, set figurative deadlines for each task. Get together as often as possible to communicate progress, possible issues and ways of dealing with those. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

For the fundraiser itself you can recruit volunteers, to work the coat room, serve at the bar, act as stewards, parking attendants, and other such simpler tasks. The volunteers may be students looking for work experience or extracurricular activities for their CV. Speak to local high schools and/or universities, but please remember that you need to stick to child labor laws.
It helps if you use an event management software for a well organized back office, keeping count of attendees, registrations, ticket sales, and as a general database of all parties involved.

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We’ve talked about the importance of finding sponsors for your event before, here and here. We cannot emphasize enough on how essential it is to have sponsors for a charity event. The sponsors can cover basic costs, donate supplies, prizes, and/or services. Just make sure you entice them by explaining HOW and WHY your fundraiser will be of benefit to them. WHO will attend, WHICH media outlets (if any) will be covering it? Concentrate on your theme, branding and mission statement, WHAT makes your fundraiser unique?

Finally, make sure the sponsors are appropriate for the event being held, you don’t want Blackwater sponsoring your Iraqi War Relief of 2015. At the very least make sure the sponsors are not involved in any recent or highly publicized scandals/questionable policies.

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Prepare a press release for traditional media (TV, radio, and press) and consider offering sponsorships for advertising space. Again, treat the media as you would the sponsors, focusing on what is unique about your cause and YOUR event. What do they stand to gain by covering the story?
For digital media we can publish a whole encyclopedia here, so let’s stick to the basics. You need a decent enough website and an excellent social media engagement strategy.

If the budget (or sponsors hint, hint) permit, print posters and/or flyers, however consider the waste of paper and thrash created, weigh that with the benefits. You can do with just a couple of posters, using them in key communal areas around your town for publicity.

No experience? No problem!

Get ready to document all purchases and expenditures. Always ask for and collect all receipts and invoices. Ideally have a member of your event’s committee be in charge of accounting and finances. Consult an actual accountant regarding any tax requirements for your fundraising event.

Important Policies, Rules and Regulations you should be considering:

– Selling and/or serving alcoholic beverages
– Selling and/or handling food (raw/uncooked and cooked)
– Policies on smoking
– Activities that may or may not be construed as gambling/illegal
– Health and Safety
– Attendees with Special Needs
– Attendees with Dietary Needs
– Insurance Policies
– National and local Rules and Regulations for events/event organization

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Some rights reserved by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory – PNNL