Fundraise Smarter

Planning a Perfect Fundraising Event in 5 Steps

Posted by Andrew Hurley on Mar 28, 2017 10:00:00 AM


Fundraising events are some of the most rewarding fundraising strategies that nonprofits can implement. An event is an opportunity to work with social cues to inspire more fundraising and learn more about your donor base. 

But fundraising events can also be risky and taxing. Your organization is putting time, money, and resources on the line, often in a months-long process.

To help ensure that your event is the smashing success that it can be, you’ll need to plan accordingly. Start with these 5 simple steps:

  1. Set clear goals.
  2. Brand your event.
  3. Invite your attendees.
  4. Invest in the right software.
  5. Sell promotional products.

Let's break each of these down; 


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When hosting a fundraising event, it’s vital that you know exactly what you’re setting out to accomplish.

The two most important goals you’ll need to consider will be fundraising goals and stewardship goals.

Fundraising goals

Your fundraising goals will include the amount of money that you want to raise from your event. You may have a single, overall goal or individual fundraising goals for peer-to-peer fundraising teams.

This Booster guide breaks down the process of determining fundraising goals for walkathons:

  • Determine your financial need.
  • Aim for about 30% more than you need.
  • (To set individual fundraising goals) Divide your overall goal by around 70% of your active supporters.

With this process, you can create a reasonable fundraising goal that leaves some wiggle room (in the event that you don’t raise as much as you need).

To determine your need, you’ll want to pair your fundraising event with a specific project (i.e. raise $10,000 to build a house). Once you have your goal and your cause, make your goal known, early and often.

Use fundraising thermometers on online donation pages and peer-to-peer platforms so that all of your supporters can track their progress toward your goal. Launch your campaign at least 4-5 months in advance of your event so that you can start collecting donations.

When supporters know how much your organization needs, they’ll be more willing to rise to the challenge and provide you with the necessary funds.

Stewardship goals

Unlike your organization’s fundraising goals, your stewardship goals will remain behind closed doors.

Events are the perfect chance to speak to your donors in-person, assess their giving potential, and build stronger relationships.

Your stewardship goals will vary depending on your nonprofit’s needs, but here are a few examples:

  • Engage ten major donors with frontline fundraisers.
  • Increase mailing list sign-ups by 15%.

No matter what kind of goals you’re setting, try to be as specific as possible so that you can measure your progress.

Ultimately, your goals will guide the course of your event strategy, so take the time to set actionable, specific objectives.


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A “brand” may seem like a corporate buzzword, but it’s much more applicable to nonprofits and fundraising events than you might think.

Your brand is simply how you present yourself to your donors and how your donors recognize your organization.

Branding your fundraising event helps ensure that donors see and remember the details of your event, which encourages them to attend.

Your brand includes:

  • The fundraising event’s name and logo.
  • The theme and decor.
  • The color palette.
  • The font and font size.
  • Images and videos.
  • Promotional t-shirts and products.
  • Your hashtag.
  • Your message.

While all of these details may seem minor, keeping them consistent across the board ensures that your supporters recognize your marketing materials.

Your brand should be clearly represented on both social media and print marketing to create a cohesive message about the purpose of your fundraising event.

A press kit for your marketing team can easily set the guidelines that they’ll need to be be successful. Press kits include all of the standardized style choices that your marketing team makes.

You can also create toolkits with suggested fundraising copy and approved photos or videos, so that your individual supporters can spread the word about your message while staying on-brand.

The key to staying on-brand and appealing to your supporters is to keep your promotions cause-centric.

That means that everyone who sees your marketing materials should easily be able to understand how their attendance and donations help people in need.

Creating promotional videos to show how your nonprofit serves your cause can also keep your message succinct and targeted, as donors simply have to watch the video (and share it with their friends!) to understand what your event is all about.

These campaigns earned 22% more supporters when they included video on their online pages — and your organization can, too!

Ultimately, branding your event will keep your message consistent across your marketing channels and help donors recognize and remember your event.


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Your event attendees are more likely to give if they feel like valued members of your organization.

Inviting your attendees means sending them targeted appeals that make them feel special, instead of sending advertisements en masse.

Use the donor’s name, and emphasize how much your organization would love for them to attend.

Pairing personal invitations with prospect research can even help you convert your online donors to major donors, as you identify supporters with the most giving potential. Your event can then be the forum through which you engage an online donor more deeply, learning about how they’d like to partner with your organization.

You can send personal invitations by using your CRM, which should have email integration features (if not, you can look into Gmail’s mail merge tool, which allows you to send personalized emails en masse based on databases that you can create in Excel).

You should also segment your donor database to send VIP invitations to major donors, members, and sponsors.

These VIP invitations should detail all of the perks of being invited to this special, exclusive group. You don’t want these important guests to feel like an afterthought.

Ultimately, framing your advertisements as invitations shows your donors that you care about them as individuals and want each and every one of them to attend your event.


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Using technology to plan, host, and follow up after your event can ultimately lead to more funds for your nonprofit.

There are two main aspects of nonprofit technology that are relevant to fundraising events: software and mobile optimization.


Though event software will be an initial expense that your nonprofit will have to front, the benefits far outweigh the literal costs.

Nonprofit event software will help streamline your event planning and execution.

Many CRMs already have event planning features that link up with your donor database. Your CRM should allow you to create guest lists and seating charts, send targeted email promotions, and keep track of your advertisements.

While most nonprofits may already have a CRM to help plan their event, you’ll want to consider additional software to open more donation channels.

For example, you may need:

  • On-site giving kiosks. On-site giving kiosks allow donors to give donations in-person or purchase promotional products like t-shirts. These kiosks vary, but in general, they allow donors to go cashless and swipe their cards to give. Since people are carrying cash less and less, on-site kiosks can greatly increase the donations that you’ll receive during the event.
  • Text-to-give software. With this software, donors simply text their donation amounts to a designated number and receive a link to an email in response. The email confirms the donation amount. Once donors press send, the donation is processed. Text-to-give pulls in an average gift of $107 according to this Qgiv source.
  • Event-specific software. Some events will require niche software to help them operate more smoothly. Silent auctions, for example, can benefit from mobile bidding software, which allows attendees to send their bids via their phones.

Investing in the right software can greatly increase the donations that you’ll be able to receive during the course of your event.

Mobile optimization

19.4% of event registrations occur on a mobile device, and mobile-responsive donation forms yield 34% more donations, according to this Nonprofit Tech for Good source.

Mobile optimization is especially important for events because most attendees will have access to their mobile devices.

Additionally, mobile devices can keep your event moving smoothly because they’re such a convenient giving channel. Instead of waiting in lines or filling out pledge cards, donors can give directly from their phones, on their own time.

To ensure that your donation pages are optimized for mobile devices, you can:

  • Use a large, readable font.
  • Create buttons that are easy to click.
  • Ensure that text and images make sense when lined up vertically.
  • Keep the mobile page simple and minimize copy.

Though many online donation page platforms automatically format pages for mobile devices (like WeDidIt’s does), you’ll still want to double check that your page is easy to use on a phone.

Ultimately, technology can allow you to accept more donations through different channels and make the giving process more convenient and intuitive for donors.

For more information, @Pay’s guide to online donation forms can be a helpful resource.


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Promotional products are important aspects of fundraising events. They offer many benefits, including:

  • Incentive to donate. Offering products and merchandise that supporters enjoy can boost donations during your event. You can receive further contributions by allowing donors to include an extra donation in addition to the cost of the item; since supporters will already be in the processing of paying, many may accept the offer.
  • Additional advertising. When your products are branded, they advertise your nonprofit whenever your donors wear them or use them in public. Causewear, or branded clothing products, is especially effective at advertising. Donors can simply wear your nonprofit’s t-shirts to spread awareness about your cause.
  • Brand recognition. Donors who purchase items that they love will have a tangible connection to your fundraising event. Promotional products are the perfect memorabilia to keep your cause at the front of your attendees’ minds long after the event is over.

To sell the most effective promo products, you’ll want to select items that are useful and relevant to your fundraising event and theme.

For example, a popular school fundraising idea is selling custom, branded t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, water bottles, and other gear that students can wear and use on a regular basis. These items appeal to students, teachers, and alumni alike.

Determining promotional products based upon your event’s audience and theme will be key to retrieving the most sales.

Ultimately, promotional products allow you to engage your donors and build stronger donor relations when the products are used after the event is over. 

Planning a fundraising event is no easy task, but following these 5 simple steps can help you prioritize everything that needs to get done.


Topics: Fundraising, Software, mobile giving, Data-Driven Fundraising,, event fundraising, donor research, branding

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