Events are a powerful fundraising tool for charities and nonprofits — if not the most powerful fundraising channel. In fact, one in five Americans attended a charity event last year.
When polled, millennials in particular will tell you that they adore live events for the feeling of connectedness they inspire. But as an event creator, getting people to show up is only half the battle. You also want to maximize the amount of money you raise.
Here’s a 10-step course of action for how to plan a charity event or fundraiser that will exceed goals and expectations.
Step 1: Define your cause
Getting clear on why you’re raising money and who you’re raising it for will help you create a clear promotional strategy and operational plan. All other decisions cascade from this “mission statement.” Defining your cause on paper is the first step to setting in motion a clear plan of action.
Step 2: Set a fundraising goal
How much money are you hoping to raise? Consider avenues like ticket sales, donations, live auctions, silent auctions, and crowdfunding.
But remember that donations are not the only way to support a cause. Your event will also raise awareness and catalyze networking. When orchestrating a nonprofit or fundraising event, it’s important to keep all potential goals in mind.
Step 3: Create your charity event’s budget
You’ll need to raise funds above and beyond the amount you’re going to spend. A budget will help keep your costs in perspective and get more for your money. Make sure it includes every single detail — from the venue to the catering to the parking valets.
Always leave a little room in your budget for the unpredictables. Better to exceed your goals than have them eaten into by unforeseen expenses.
Step 4: Pinpoint a target audience
Dialing in on the audience you want to attract will help you plan a better fundraiser and market it appropriately. Does your charity appeal to a particular generation or type of interest? Is it a local fundraiser or a universal cause? Is it going to be an invite-only, black-tie affair, or will you reach out to the general public?
By defining your audience, you can determine the best ways to reach potential attendees and donors. From there, your marketing and outreach plan will follow.
Step 5: Find a venue
Choose a venue, possibly something non-traditional that will infuse your event with flair. Shop around. Some venues might be willing to discount or even donate the space to be associated with a good cause. Being flexible with your date can help secure a venue at a lower cost.
And be sure to ask the right questions when vetting a venue. Knowing exactly what’s included in the price is vital to your bottom line.
Step 6: Establish a theme for your charity event
People are excited to support a cause, but they also want to have a great time. Millennials in particular are “the experiences generation.” They love spending money creating memories, and the theme of your event will help tease what awaits.
Remember: “Raise money” is not a theme. “Singles charity night” is. To inspire donors, come up with a fun, unique idea they’ll be excited to attend (and recap on their social media feeds).
Consider both your cause and your audience. What would your target audience find entertaining that would be on point with your cause? If you’re not feeling creative, read 100 Unique Fundraising Ideas that Actually Work.
Step 7: Market your charity event aggressively
All events need marketing, but some need more marketing than others. For a charity event or fundraiser, spreading the word is crucial — it directly affects your ability to meet and exceed your goals.
Traditional fundraising models include mailed invitations, phone banks, and direct mail. Today, of course, we have digital at our disposal. Create a strategy for which digital channels you’ll employ: email marketing, content marketing, advertising, and more.
Social media is one of your biggest allies here. And specifically Twitter, which has been shown to be a powerful platform for promoting fundraisers. In fact, a single share of an event on Twitter generates an average of $8 in ticket purchases.
Step 8: Decide how you’ll accept donations
You’ll need at least one way to gather donations. But for the best (meaning most lucrative) results, don’t limit yourself to just one donation method.
Start with an online event ticketing platform, which can take digital and mobile payments in advance and help you track them. The best can also offer full-service payment processing with enhanced options like reserved seating and direct deposits into your bank account.
For at-the-door sales, choose a ticketing provider that provides an app to expedite last-minute sales.
And for those who can’t make the actual event, make it easy to give. Technology called Text to Donate is pretty self-explanatory. You can also set up a donation option on your event page for quick and easy digital giving.
Step 9: Lean on your greater community
Millennials love to express themselves online. Nearly half of them admit to attending live events to have something to share on social. So give them something to share by providing rich online content. And incentivize them to share your cause online with a ticket giveaway.
There are other ways to arm your community with fundraising power, too. With CrowdRise, enable ticket-buyers to create their own fundraising pages to support your cause. Their networks then become an extended fundraising audience for your cause.
Step 10: Automate your charity event technology
Most fundraising and charity events don’t have enormous budgets (see step 4). Any way you can make your operations or marketing more efficient will lower your costs. Today, it’s easy to automate many tasks that humans do repetitively.
Automated emails can give attendees detailed event information upon ticket purchase. Social media management tools can consolidate your posting and tracking efforts across platforms. These are just a few ideas. For in-depth insight, read How to Use Event Automation to Scale Your Events Business.