The Ultimate Guide to Event Planning for Nonprofits

12 Key Steps to Nonprofit Event Planning
With Considerations for Virtual and Hybrid Fundraising Events

Creating an unforgettable and engaging fundraising event while exceeding your donation goals is what all nonprofits and charities strive for. But how can you make this dream a reality? Follow our Ultimate Guide to Event Planning for Nonprofits to create an extraordinary fundraiser and turn out an exceptional charity campaign. Every fundraiser is different, but any nonprofit campaign will benefit from applying these steps.

Successful Nonprofit Event Planning

To get the most out of a fundraising campaign, you need to have a solid plan. So if you want to boost your cause’s exposure, generate more donors, and smash your fundraising goals, let’s dive right into nonprofit event planning.

Get Your Event Planning Committee Together

Get Your Event Planning Committee Together

While some fundraising campaigns can be relatively simple to plan, don’t try to go it alone. Start by assembling an event planning committee to handle the various planning tasks. Even if your organization is working with a professional nonprofit event planner, a committee is still needed to direct the planner’s activities. Determine your fundraising goals together and create a roadmap to get there.

If you are unsure of who to ask to join your committee, start with your Board of Directors and network of supporters. Often you will find that not only will some of your team members know who to contact for the benefit of the fundraiser, but they are also local business people or work in offices or businesses where they can ask for donations and spread awareness.

All successful fundraisers rely on the recruitment and action of a strong leadership team. So get a nonprofit event planning committee in place early to help with all of the event logistics and capitalize on your fundraising campaign.

Set Event Fundraising Goals

Before you start a charity campaign, it is vital to set clear fundraising goals by brainstorming both financial and non-financial aims. Bear in mind that you want to bring awareness to your cause, satisfy your supporter’s needs and reach or even exceed your goals.

Here are a few questions that might help you decide what direction you’ll take when planning your event:

  • What are you raising money for? Where will the funding go? A new library, medical equipment. It’s best to be specific here.
  • What is your target fundraising goal? You’ll need a fundraising budget to add in event planning costs.
  • What is your budget? Look for in-kind donations, but be realistic about upfront costs and how they will impact your fundraising event planning.
  • What are your non-financial goals? How do you want to boost audience levels and supporter engagement?

Top Tips For Setting Fundraising Event Goals

  1. Events with fundraising targets raise on average 46% more than those without. So aim high and spread the word!
  2. Create a sense of urgency – Why not challenge your friends to donate by a certain date? By doing this, you can create an incentive to donate sooner, rather than later.

Make sure you don’t overstretch yourself when setting your fundraising goals. You want to generate as much money and awareness as possible for your cause without having your campaign suffer. So remember to be realistic when planning your budget and overhead costs.

Post-Event Wrap-up is Essential to Event Planning for Nonprofits
Host An Unforgettable Event

Host An Unforgettable Event

There’s no doubt about it – people want to take part in a fundraiser that stays in their minds long after the event is over. Creating great memories of a fun, exciting, and engaging campaign while generating money to benefit a great cause is what good nonprofit event planning is all about.

  • Host the event at an interesting venue to grab your supporter’s interest – a theater, private country club, or a themed restaurant.
  • Create an event theme – themes help get everyone in the mood with relevant costumes and attire, decorations, and food and drink.
  • Show a short meaningful video during your fundraising to tell the story behind your cause. Make it personal and touching, so your audience really gets a feel for why you are raising money and awareness.
  • Create personalized merchandise to sell in your eCommerce store. By doing this your supporters will have something to take away with them and remind them of the event, long after it’s finished.

Making a lasting impression in the minds of your supporters is crucial to getting the most out of your fundraiser. Successful fundraising events can turn into signature fundraising campaigns that are looked to year after year by your supporter base. So get creative and make it unforgettable!

Know Your Audience

Event planning for nonprofits goes way beyond the actual event day. If you want to get the best out of your fundraiser, it’s essential to understand your target audience’s needs, preferences, and ability to give. Here are a few important factors to take into consideration when researching your supporters.

Demographics

A great place to start researching your target audience and donors is by looking at the demographics. You will gain valuable insight into your donors by looking at the following indicators:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Life stage
  • Ethnicity
  • Geographical location
  • Employment
  • Income

By researching these points you will be able to determine what direction you want to go with your campaign. For instance, say you have a global audience, connecting from all over the world, you will need to offer a schedule that will suit everyone to participate. The point is, people attending your fundraiser will appreciate you taking their needs into consideration when planning the event. This sensitivity may then demonstrate itself through generous donations, spreading the word about your cause and growing your audience.

Engagement History

Once you have gathered demographics about your target audience, it’s vital to understand their needs and engagement history with your cause and organization. Factors to consider are:

  • What are their motivations and ways of thinking? Likes and dislikes?
  • Do supporters have a history of giving to your cause/organization (one-time, recurrent or major donors)?
  • What is their prior involvement? Have they volunteered or benefited from your organization’s services?
  • How did they first find out about the cause?
  • How have you communicated with them in the past (emails, direct mail, social media)?

Learning about your target audience’s past involvement with your organization or cause will increase the success of your fundraiser by adding a personal and familiar touch to donor engagement.

Lastly, target audience research doesn’t necessarily need to be one-sided. The more your donors know about the cause or organization you’re raising money for, they will be more inclined to give. Using social media to interact with your donors and encouraging them to offer their ideas and opinions is vital to maintain relationships and build new ones.

Know Your Audience’s Needs Inside Out
Make It Simple To Participate And Donate

Make It Simple To Participate And Donate to the Event

Choosing the best event management software is essential to the success of any charity campaign. Opt for our simple, free platform with optimized event registration and donation pages. Our fundraising websites provide nonprofits and charities with dynamic, branded fundraising pages to successfully take online registrations and securely collect event funds.

Here are a few points to consider to simplify donations and online engagement for your supporters:

Mobile Giving

Our Text-To-Donate and mobile giving tools provide great ways to increase donation levels. Text-to-Donate allows your donors to easily give to your organization or charity at any time from anywhere right from their mobile devices.

An Easy-to-Navigate Webpage

Our easy-to-use platform provides a complete fundraising campaign management experience. Sell event tickets, custom printed products, and raffles on a streamlined checkout page. With crowdfunding campaigns, event planners have the ability to customize the software for individuals and teams, using personal fundraising pages. Securely register or import event participants and process donations and pledges for peer to peer and Athon campaigns, allowing your organization to raise more money than ever before.

A Clear Timeline of Events

Make your schedule clear by creating and publishing a campaign timeline on your fundraising site. Post it on social media, your website, and any other communication platforms you are using.

Contingency Plans

Back-up plans are essential for any fundraising event, especially in the uncertain times we live in. Make sure you have plans B, C and D – just in case you need them. Offer virtual and hybrid fundraising options so that your supporters won’t miss out, in the case of an in-person event being canceled or for those that just don’t feel comfortable participating in person.

Recruit Great Event Sponsors

Corporate or community sponsors fulfill a critical role in most successful special event fundraisers. These corporations and local businesses help increase awareness for an event by promoting it to their employees and customers via social media, which is helpful when it is time to attract the attention of local media and recruit participants and volunteers. But, most importantly, sponsors create a financial backbone by helping to offset event costs.

Understanding and articulating the ways in which prospective sponsors benefit from working with your organization is very important to sponsor recruitment. This becomes the foundation for selling sponsorship opportunities. Everyone likes to help out a great cause; however, companies are looking for a win-win relationship when investing in your walkathon. Be sure to explain exactly how sponsoring your charity event will provide value to the local businesses you are prospecting.

Here are some ideas on how to acknowledge your sponsors and thank them:

  • Highlight sponsors’ names and company logos on the event website.
  • Mention their product(s) or services on your fundraising website and social media.
  • Ask your sponsors if they would be willing to provide a gift voucher or gift basket, from their company, as a silent auction or raffle prize. Check out our Killer Prize Donation Letter Template and Thank You Letter Template here to get started.
Recruit Great Sponsors
Generate Hype On Social Media

Generate Hype On Social Media

Marketing and event promotion are an essential part of event management. Social media is a great and often free tool to create hype for your event fundraisers. Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube are just a handful of social media platforms to use to inject a boost of energy into your nonprofit’s event planning process.

By posting fun videos, engaging stories, and interactive polls you will generate interest and awareness around your cause. The more people you can attract, the more likely you are to gain new donors and volunteers.

Why not set up a hashtag challenge to get people participating and familiar with your cause? This has been the trend with a number of charities recently and the global attention that can be reached is staggering. Sharing old photos for #ThrowbackThursday while adding your fundraiser link, will add unique exposure to your campaign and encourage people to get involved. If they enjoy the challenge, the next step will be to join the fundraiser.

Embrace the power of social media by sharing your fundraiser in Facebook and Linkedin groups – the more people that know about your cause, the better. For more ideas and tips, take a look at our top social media trends to smash your fundraising goals.

Optimize Supporter Engagement

The key to attracting supporters to join your events and give generously is engagement. Make your campaign interactive, fun, and visual to get people spreading the word about your fundraiser. This will result in growing your donor network and exceeding your fundraising goals.

Here are a few ideas on how to grab people’s attention, so they want to get involved in giving to your cause:

  • Videos – Post fun and meaningful videos on your fundraising website and social media to get people thinking about the story behind your fundraiser. Videos can have a huge impact on creating awareness of your cause.
  • Live-streaming – Streaming can be another great way to engage your followers. Adding a live-streamed video to your fundraising campaigns allows attendees to join in the fun and start giving. DoJiggy’s live streaming platform allows users to interact with your cause. Why not try live streaming for drawing raffle winners or online auctions, live interviews, and Q& A Sessions with a panel, beneficiaries, or volunteers or for campaign Kick-Offs (especially for P2P campaigns to motivate fundraisers).
  • Send Updates Regularly – Updates and reminders keep your donors in the loop regarding your fundraising campaign. Remember not to inundate your followers with messages, as it might be overwhelming but also don’t leave them in the dark. The idea is that while your supporters are checking their social media accounts or fundraising page for updates about the campaign, remind them that they are simply a click away from donating.

Engage your donors with updates and reminders about:

  • How to donate – Text-to-Donate, through the fundraising website, charity phone number.
  • Any changes to how to donate (number/keyword changes) or to the campaign.
  • The progress of fundraising goals.
  • Popular auction items to engage interest.
  • Any milestones reached during the campaign process.
  • An important webinar or a new story that is scheduled.
Optimize Supporter Engagement
Make Events Fun With Gamification Elements

Make Nonprofit Events Fun With Gamification Elements

Visual online tools to help boost engagement are key to increasing your donor network. Maximum interaction is the goal when attracting donors to your campaign and getting the most out of your fundraising event. A great way to do this is by incorporating gamification tools and elements into your nonprofit event planning.

Here are some top gamification ideas that will bring your supporters together to support a good cause, create a healthy sense of competitiveness and have fun all at the same time:

  • Free fundraising thermometers are used to monitor the progress of funds raised for an online fundraising campaign and are included in all of DoJiggy’s fundraising website templates. Our peer-to-peer crowdfunding platform uses thermometers at the individual fundraiser, group, and campaign levels.
  • Leaderboards build excitement and competitiveness among your P2P crowdfunding campaign participants. Our free leaderboards monitor individual and team fundraising leaders.
  • Trophy widgets will appear on personal and team fundraising pages to showcase a participant’s rank or when they have reached a certain prize level that participants and donors alike will love to see. The function is completely configurable for your prize levels and ideas.
  • Online Polls are a great tool for audience engagement. Find out what your donors are thinking by simply asking them. Twitter and Instagram are two of the social media giants using polls to interact with their followers and it works.
  • Quizzes are another fun gamification element to boost attendee engagement during your fundraising campaign. You can create quizzes through polls or add the latest ‘quiz stickers’ offered by Instagram Stories, which ask a series of questions and give multiple-choice answers.
  • Games – It’s human nature to enjoy a little competitiveness, so why not add some fun, interactive games to your campaign to boost donor engagement? Gamification features often increase the sense of urgency when giving, which is great when you want to go beyond your fundraising goals.

Grabbing the attention of your donors is key to smashing your fundraising goals and utilizing these fun, interactive gamification tools will definitely leave your supporters wanting more.

Stay In Touch With Your Donors

The expression, ‘Good manners may not cost anything, but their worth exceeds any monetary value’, could not be more apt when talking about treating your donors well. Without generous donors, even the most hyped fundraiser of the year will fail to generate proceeds for its cause.

Keep this in mind from the first point of contact. During the online campaign, check in with your supporters with fundraising updates and progress posts and don’t forget to collect all contact details so that you can personally thank them for their donations and participation. Recognition and validation are priceless in maintaining a fruitful relationship with your donors and sponsors. Remember that if your followers have had a great fundraising experience once they are sure to return for your future events so be certain to stay in touch.

Don’t forget to collect contact details from all donors to strengthen relationships and for future events.

Stay In Touch With Your Donors
Offer Hybrid And Virtual Event Options

Offer Hybrid And Virtual Fundraising Options

Now more than ever in the times of COVID, inclusivity is key to getting the most out of event planning. Offer alternative methods of engagement, such as incorporating virtual and hybrid elements, so that all of your supporters can connect to your fundraiser. Also, consider that not everyone is mobile or has access to join an in-person event. Finally, we are still not completely safe from Covid-19 and some supporters may find a live, in-person event daunting. By providing alternative ways to connect, everyone can take part in virtual fundraising events from their garden, sofa, or office.

Remember that you may have donors participating from all sides of the globe with different time zones, so make sure that you choose a timeline that everyone can follow. Don’t forget that hybrid campaigns aren’t limited to a one-day event, so if you think it best suits your supporters’ needs, extend the duration so nobody misses out. However, make sure you have a cut-off date so that you can close your fundraiser properly and don’t lose vital engagement with your event attendees.

Take a look at our guides on virtual and hybrid fundraising.

Show Your Donors How They Are Making An Impact

People love to know the impact of their giving, so let them see exactly how their donation will help. Below are just an example of how your supporters’ money could be used:

If you are raising money for an animal shelter:

  • $15 donation pays for a new litter tray and warm blanket
  • $25 donation pays for a new bed and a dog bowl
  • $50 donation pays for treats, a bed, and toys
  • $100 donation pays for veterinary care, a VIP membership, a bed, and toys.

Make it clear to your audience what you are raising money for so they know how they will personally be making an impact. When people can visualize where their money will go and how it will be used, they often feel more comfortable with giving.

Show Your Donors How They Are Making An Impact

Fundraising Event Planning Timeline and Checklist

If you are planning a nonprofit or charity event, an event timeline and checklist is likely needed to help your team to keep track of all of the details. Many organizations use online tools to keep the event planning committee on track. We have created this sample checklist for a live event and included tips for peer to peer fundraising events. This way, your fundraising team can modify it for your event planning needs.

Event Planning for Nonprofits: 6 Months Up to One Year Prior to the Event

6 Months Up to One Year Prior to the Charity Event

  • Select your event planning committee members
  • Determine your event date and reserve the venue
  • Prepare a fundraising event budget with fundraising goals in mind
  • Set your P2P crowdfunding event theme
  • Review any documentation available from the previous year’s event
  • Identify and contact keynote speakers
  • Reserve necessary vendors and entertainment
  • Set registration fees and tentative event schedule

Event Planning for Nonprofits: 4 to 6 Months Prior to the Event

4 to 6 Months Prior to the Event

  • Prepare sponsor proposals and begin soliciting event sponsorships
  • Start recruiting volunteers
  • Go live with your fundraising event website
  • Create promotional materials
  • Distribute flyer with registration materials
  • Begin selling tickets online

Event Planning for Nonprofits: 3 Months Prior to the Event

3 Months Prior to the Event

  • Set menus and decorations
  • Manage logistics (reserve AV needs for speakers, table rentals, tents, etc.)
  • Determine room set-up (or event map if outdoor event)
  • Confirm event/conference schedules with speakers, volunteers, etc.
  • Send Email campaigns promoting event and ticket sales
  • Social marketing and PR campaigns

Event Planning for Nonprofits: 1 Month Prior to the Event

1 Month Prior to the Event

  • Prepare printed event brochure and event signage
  • Preliminary meal confirmations (based on ticket sales)
  • Social marketing and PR campaigns continue
  • Make a list of contingency plans

Event Planning for Nonprofits: 2 Weeks Prior to the Event

2 Weeks Prior to the Event

  • Final tallies and registration confirmations
  • Send volunteer schedules, sponsor details, and all forms
  • Meeting run-through with employees and volunteers
  • Promotional efforts and registrations continue

Event Planning for Nonprofits: 1 Week Prior to the Event

1 Week Prior to the Event

  • Assemble event or conference packets and goodie bags
  • Print registration forms and name tags
  • Report final quantities to the caterer or vendors
  • Hype the event on social media to attract last-minute participants and donors

Event Planning for Nonprofits: Tips for Event Day

Tips for Event Day

  • Arrive early for event setup
  • Keep a file on hand with all vendors and contracts
  • Have a communication plan for employees and volunteers (mobiles, walkie-talkies, etc)
  • Assign runners that can help as needed, when issues arise
  • Have fun!

Post-Event Wrap-up is Essential to Event Planning for Nonprofits

Post-Event Wrap-up

Our Top Ideas For Fun And Engaging Fundraising Events

Be sure to get started out on the right foot with your fundraising event planning by carefully considering the type of event that you want to host. You’ll want to consider many factors in choosing a nonprofit fundraising strategy that works for your organization and constituents.

Our Top Ideas For Fun And Engaging Event Planning for Nonprofits

An unforgettable fundraiser will stay in the minds of your supporters long after the actual event has finished. Create a stand-out, engaging campaign that triggers emotion amongst your donors, research your target audience and their needs and you will have a profitable and memorable evening.

Here are some ideas for nonprofit event planning when your team has more time and resources:

  • Plan a charity auction with a fund-a-need campaign. These are fun, energetic events that can obtain high proceeds in little time. It’s a win-win! See our specialized auction timeline and planner.
  • Hosting a walk-a-thon fundraiser is a great way to get everyone out into the fresh air and create a sense of togetherness for a common cause. For those that can’t attend in person, think about making it a hybrid event to increase your outreach.
  • Charity golf tournaments are popular for many reasons. See our golf tournament planning resources to get started.

Here are some ideas for nonprofit event planning when your team is small and has less time and resources:

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