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7 Strategies for Raising More Money at Nonprofit Events


By Terri Harel

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Nonprofit events are an integral part of the fundraiser’s tool kit. From black-tie galas to 5k charity walks, a well planned event can make a valuable contribution to an organization’s top line revenue.

Sure, events may involve more overhead than online campaigns, but the returns from raising your organization’s profile, personally connecting you with new and current donors and raising one-time revenue often have long-term benefits that make the extra costs worth it. Keeping that in mind, we’ve compiled 7 strategies to ensure you maximize your fundraising event’s success.

1. Define Your Objective

It’s essential to clearly define the objective of an event before you start planning for it. Why are you hosting this event? Ideally, all events are opportunities to raise funds, but do you have other goals in mind? Are you looking to educate your audience about the impact of your nonprofit, or perhaps to recognize specific honorees? Chiseling out the main objectives will help you maximize the impact that smaller details have on the event’s overall success.

2. Organize Your Event Committee

Assemble a small, dedicated committee of volunteers to oversee the event. This team will be responsible for planning and coordinating the details and will delegate most of the smaller tasks to other volunteers. When selecting your team, consider their commitment to your organization, attention to detail, and priorities in raising support for your cause.

3. Create a Task List

Now that you have your committee together, its first job will be to create a master task list. This list should include everything from “create a save-the-date email” to “print agendas.” In her book, Fundraising for Social Change, Kim Klein suggests creating a spreadsheet that lists the tasks, assigns a person responsible for each one and sets a date by which each task should be complete. Organizing all of this into a spreadsheet on GoogleDocs or another shared space will help your committee stay on track and informed and easily share progress with other volunteers.

4. Prepare Your Budget

When organizing your special event, start by calculating the initial kick off cost. Klein calls this amount the “front money,” or money readily available for spending. It is also the amount of money your organization can afford to lose if the event is cancelled or put off.

A well thought out task list determines whether or not the budgeting will be well planned and accurate. It literally pays to plan well. Calculate anything on your list that will cost money and add them all up. Make sure to include logistics like transportation, food, drink, entertainment, speakers, and any other utilities.

Once you’ve tallied all of your costs, it’s time to project your revenue. Go through each revenue generating item in your event (tickets, silent auction, fundraising pages, etc) and project how much each will bring in. It’s important to be realistic with these figures (past benchmarks are a great place to start to come up with a conservative estimate). Once you’ve got your projected revenue subtract out all of the costs you tallied up earlier; the resulting amount will be your projected financial goal (it should be a positive number)!

Keep in mind that not all of these costs have to be met by your organization directly. Sponsorships from individuals and local businesses are a great way to save money on different types of expenditures, and media sponsorships can help save costs on advertising. Remember, nonprofit events are an excellent means to raise your organization’s profile because they can attract good media attention – newspapers or local radio stations may be interested in doing a profile on the event or hosting discussions about your cause, so take advantage of these opportunities to reach more people.

5. Create a Timeline

When creating a timeline leading up to your nonprofit event, think backwards. According to Klein, planning your calendar backwards from the target date of the event is the most effective strategy for creating a successful timeline. If your event’s target date is December 3rd, what will need to be done the morning of the 3rd?

To make that possible, what will need to be completed a week before December 3rd? And for that marker to be reached, what will need to be ready by November 1st? This sort of deduction will give you a better idea about whether everything can be completed on time. It will also clarify any tasks or costs you might have missed on your list and budget.

Finally, consider any blacked-out dates in your planning calendar, such as holidays, conflicting events, weekends, or any other times during which your volunteers may not be available to work on the event.

6. Boost Fundraising Benefits

While your event may not include a full-blown fundraising campaign, it is still possible and advantageous to integrate p2p fundraising opportunities for donors. One idea is to have your supporters fundraise for entry – instead of having people buy a ticket or registration fee, attendees can fundraise a certain amount (that you determine) to gain admission. Once they reach the goal, a ticket is automatically e-mailed to them.

Certain events (like runs and walks) lend themselves naturally to peer-to-peer fundraising. Since the average supporter can raise a lot more than they can contribute directly, these events tend to deliver higher returns. Consider inviting event participants to make a fundraising page in the run up to your event even if it’s not a traditional fundraising event like a race or a walk.

7. Follow-Up

Regardless of the campaign, following up with new and old donors is critical to maintaining their support. Make sure to send a thank-you letter to the contributors, volunteers, staff, and vendors that made your nonprofit event possible.

Use this as an opportunity to keep people involved with your organization. Make sure they know how to be involved next. Ask them to subscribe to your newsletter, check out your blog, or let them know how to access your online donation portal. Because your fundraising event helped widen your reach and connect with prospective supporters, keep up the momentum that resulted from it and encourage people to keep coming back.

Image Credit: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

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