Hosting a charity event is a great way to celebrate your organization. With 56% of donors worldwide attending events regularly, not only do events raise awareness about your cause, but they are super effective to raise money. It’s also an opportunity to bring your donors, board members and volunteers together while inviting others to join your community!
Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to throwing your best event yet.
1) Establish the event goal
“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” —Zig Ziglar
To start, you need to set a goal for the amount of money you want to raise. Base it on what your organization is trying to accomplish in the future and how much you will need for your projects. Your goal should not only be about creating revenue. Your event is a great opportunity to build stronger relationships with everyone who contributes to your organization and to raise more awareness about your mission.
Think of it as a party celebrating all you have accomplished and what you are looking to do in the future. Write out your goals and employ them throughout the process of organizing the event. For instance, use them to emphasize the importance of your event when marketing it. An example of this could be:
Help us reach our goal of raising $100 000, so that we can double the number of meals we provide in 2020.
2) Make a budget
Once you’ve decided on a goal, outline how you are going to spend money to make it happen. To do so, you’ll need to set a budget and stick to it. To help you set the budget, identify what might limit your spending. It could be the amount of man power you have to organize the event, the venue you choose or the amount of people you estimate will attend.
Our tip: set your budget about 30% higher than what you think you will pay, because unexpected costs may come up!
The costs should include:
Our tip: You can cut costs by using fundraising activities as your entertainment. Get creative with ideas that will have attendees entertained, and giving at the same time! For example, instead of hiring a band, you could have a live auction.
By using Simplyk’s ticketing, 100% of what attendees pay goes directly to your organization, we don’t take a cut or charge a fee. You’ll save on ticketing and transaction fees by using our platform.
Right now, it is difficult to know the future of in-person events due to the pandemic. That’s why it’s great to plan your event online. Learn more here about how to plan a virtual event!
3) Find sponsors
Boost interest for your charity event with sponsors. They can donate money or merchandise to help make your event a success! Who to reach out to for sponsorships:
- Local businesses
- Those with ties to the organization
- Supporters of your cause
- Companies offering something interesting for the event
Our tip: Always make sure to research that the company you choose to approach aligns with your values and mission. Your partnership should be purposeful, meaning you both strongly support each other’s mission and want to work together to further it. For example, if an organization works on research to end juvenile diabetes, they could look to partner with healthy food retailers.
What’s in it for them?
Companies will want a return on their investment, so craft a sales email explaining that supporting your organization is not only about getting visibility, but contributing to a cause that touches the community. Engaging in social responsibility is important to companies’ customers, creating good culture and attracting future employees. This is especially true for millennials as 81% expect the companies they support to have good social practices within their community (Forbes). The value your organization can bring is abundant and you need to demonstrate this! Outline it in your sales email by explaining how you can partner to:
- Create volunteer opportunities for employees
- Develop or add to their corporate social responsibility portfolio
- Build sponsorships
- Attract consumers
- Attract top job candidates
- Create networking opportunities
Create sponsorship packages
You should set up sponsorship packages, depending on what you need for the event. They should list what you are offering in exchange for the sponsorship gift. If you need cash sponsorships, create a package outline offering perks like: the sponsor’s logo on all event advertising, VIP tickets to the event, one piece of their marketing distributed to each guest. Set a price for each package. The more advertising and perks it contains, the larger the sponsorship amount must be.
Sponsorships don’t need to be made uniquely through monetary contributions. Similar packages can be made for in-kind sponsorships, meaning contributions in services or merchandise. These types of sponsorships can be especially helpful because they allow you to save on expenses. They can be:
- Printing and distribution for advertising the event
- Complimentary or discounted stays at hotels near the event
- Electronic equipment for during the event
Identify items or services you’ll need to spend on. Then, select the companies you could get them from as sponsors to decrease your costs.
4) Choose your target audience and a theme
Before you choose what your event will be, you need to decide who you want to target as guests. Use your goal and budget for the event to guide you.
What was your goal for the event? Decide who you need in order to reach your goal. This is the group you want to have at your event. In 2017, Canadians 65 and older represented 42% of the country’s total donations, and also had the highest total donation amount per year (Statistics Canada). In the case that you are aiming to raise a lot of money, this may be the group that you want to target. If you have a different type of goal, for example attracting younger supporters in a new area, your audience might be young professionals in that area.
If you have a lot of supporters, you can choose to target a different segment of them for each event you host. For example, you can host a golf tournament for your donors that are 50+ and a bar crawl for student donors.
Make sure your target matches up with your budget. Using your current donation data, estimate the average donation you will receive from your target audience. Multiply it by the number of guests you plan on having. The total needs to match all of your expenses plus the amount you want to raise. If it comes out to more, that’s even better.
Now that you have your target, you can choose your theme. Use the intended guests to decide on the theme. Send them a survey about the type of event they would be interested in, or call the most important donors directly. Compile the ideas and make a decision with your staff, including your board.
5) Choose a date and venue
Once you have chosen your theme, you are going to need a venue and a date. What you should consider when choosing the venue:
- Size and layout
- Accessibility (for parking and public transport)
- Amenities (lighting, sound, wifi, etc)
- Licensing (alcohol, sales, lotteries)
Once you have found the venue that responds to all these needs, you can choose a date. It will depend on the availability of the venue, so part of the decision will be made for you. Make sure the date works for your guests. Don’t make it a weeknight, around holidays and other major events.
6) Set up your ticketing
Choose an online ticketing platform that fits your needs. With Simplyk, ticketing is simple and easy for you and your donor. Simplyk is completely free, which is great because we recommend you use a ticketing software that allows you to cut your costs. You should also choose a platform that has an automated communication system with guests, which Simplyk has too. This should include automatic tax receipts, scannable tickets and reminders so that you don’t have to spend time managing that.
7) Marketing your event
Marketing your event is crucial, because you want to get the word out to donors and possible attendees. Put in place a marketing strategy by focusing on:
- Branding your event
- Creating a social media campaign
- Local advertising
Create a brand around your event. Give it a catchy name, create a logo and incorporate your theme. Use a particular colour palette, font and a few images that represent it well.
In 2018, 43% of people participated in charitable events because they heard about it on social media (Nonprofit Source). Use the material you created in branding to make social media posts and event posters. Be sure to post on all social media platforms, by scheduling frequent posts leading up to the date. Create material suited for instagram, facebook and more so that guests can share with their followers and you can leverage your community to get the word out!
Approach local businesses to display your posters. Although online advertising is great, your audience might respond more to learning about your event while out at their local coffee shop, library, restaurant and more.
Email remains one of the best communication tools you have with your donors. Create great campaigns for your events on email applications like MailChimp. Schedule initial emails explaining your event and showing off your branding along with follow ups, reminders and post event updates. It is also helpful to use a CRM to track how your emails are being received, the responses and more. Simplyk’s ticketing service integrates easily with any emailing application and CRM and will help make your email campaigns even easier!
8) Prepare for challenges
Things will go wrong at some point during your planning or even at the event. Expect a few bumps in the road so that you can prepare. When you find yourself in these situations, make sure to stick with what you know how to do to resolve the issue. Taking a risk may not be the best option. Be sure to clearly communicate with your donors if anything does come up.
Here are some things you should look out for:
- Low ticket sales or overspending on budget
- Being understaffed
- Lacking time
Handling budget issues
Low ticket sales and going over budget may be some of your biggest fears for the event. You’ll have to prevent this by planning well early on. Be extremely modest when spending, especially early in the planning process. Avoid making any changes to the event that will be costly. Make sure to drive ticket sales early on. You can create an ‘early bird’ special ticket price, giving those who buy early a discounted rate. It will need to be significantly lower than the regular ticket amount to incentivize your guests to make the decision right away, but not too low that it won’t create enough revenue for your mission. You can also reach out to those who have attended your events in the past, inviting them directly.
Make sure to really target your 100 most devoted supporters. When tickets go on sale, send them each a personal message or even better, give them a call. Use messaging like:
We are really looking forward to seeing you at the event.
We need your support to make this a hit!
Once tickets begin to sell, more and more people will want to attend through word of mouth. In your budget, underestimate the amount donors will give. If you end up receiving more than expected, it will be a nice surprise.
Dealing with lack of staff
You don’t want to end up missing staff the day of the event. To prevent this, make sure you talk to all actors you are working with and know exactly what they need. For example, speak to those in charge of monitoring entrance. Have them tell you in detail what needs to be done and establish exactly how many people need to be working if the maximum amount of attendees show up. Make sure you do the same with all other groups involved, whether it’s the caterer, entertainment, security, setup crew and more. Have people on call, just in case.
Going off schedule
Whether it’s in the lead up or during the event, time is important! You don’t want to run out when organizing your event. You also don’t want to go off-schedule during it. Again, you need to prepare for this beforehand. Write out a detailed timeline months before the event, describing when you will take care of each of the steps listed above. Share this with everyone involved in organizing. Do the same to make a schedule for the event and make sure it is respected. A few minutes late after each part of the event can lead to it running way over time!
9) Follow-up after the event
Once the event is over you can finally take a breath. Congrats! Your work is almost done. Be sure to follow-up and send thank you’s to everyone who contributed to making it a success. This means all your attendees, volunteers, sponsors and staff. Attach pictures and a brief recap of how it went. Post on social media and include all the fun activities, reactions and pictures. And of course, don’t forget to celebrate how much was raised and how it will go to furthering your mission.