Love them or hate them, fundraising events are a vital element of most nonprofits’ efforts to raise money. After all the planning and financial investment, they can rattle even the most experienced fundraiser. To help you stay sane, here a few techniques to keep your fundraising event as stress free as possible.
1. Create a Content Calendar for Your Event
That doesn’t mean schedule your marketing and promotion plans on your general content calendar (although you should do that too) – it means make a separate calendar only for this event. Don’t worry, this isn’t about thinking up extra work for yourself, it’s a means to stay organized and coordinate your promotional efforts across departments.
Having one schedule for the weeks leading up to an event is helpful because it puts everything in one place and you don’t have to sort through all the other activities on your calendar. This calendar is also a good place to put deadlines for different elements of the fundraiser. For example, you can aim to have printed materials like programs and menus ready a week in advance or reserve a caterer by X date.
2. Recruit More Volunteers Than You Think You Need
After determining how many volunteers you will definitely need for the event, try to sign up a couple of more people. It’s better to have too many helping hands than not enough. If your original estimation was correct, having a couple of extra people will allow you to give breaks to your volunteers so they can enjoy themselves too.
Having a “runner” can also be a life saver. While most of your staff and volunteers will have specific tasks to perform, the runner can deal with small issues as they occur, whether it’s grabbing more plates for the buffet, jumping in if registration gets swamped, or just helping guests find their seats. Having a runner means that when something unexpected comes up (and it will), you have someone who can help without short-handing another area of the event.
3. Rehearse the Day Before
There’s a very good reason that nearly everyone has a rehearsal the day before their wedding. Walking through the proceedings of an event can help you tie up loose ends that have gone unnoticed along the way. Better to realize the night before that a speaker’s table is too far from the podium or that you need more lighting in a dim room, rather than waiting for a guest to point it out.
4. Keep Everyone Updated with Micro-Meetings
Even if you are in charge of planning a fundraising event, other staff will still need to help out and by communicating along the way, you can make sure that everyone will be ready. But to keep from cutting into other responsibilities, limit the meetings to 10 or 15 minutes. You can gather everyone once a week as the event approaches and then even every day during the final week.
Your goal with these micro-meetings is to identify issues and questions before they become a problem. The best way to do this is by simply asking your staff, “What challenges is this event bringing up for you?” Not only can you clarify any confusion, but some quick input from other departments can offer great solutions.
5. Have a Back-Up Plan
No matter how well you prepare for an event, there are circumstances that you simply cannot control. That is why you need a back-up plan. The most obvious example of this would be rain during an outdoor event. But what if your guest of honor or auctioneer gets stuck in traffic? Are there other parts of the program you can move up during that time?
Setting a course of actions for unexpected hiccups will keep you calm and cool when things don’t go according to Plan A.
6. Know the Neighborhood
We don’t need to tell you the importance of choosing an appropriate venue, but you may not realize the value in knowing the neighborhood around it. Being very familiar with the area will help relieve worry about: where to go for last minute supplies, suggesting directions to guests, plan for parking, or mitigate potential noise or distractions.
7. Where’d You Put the Donations?
While a gala or auction can be a great way to build relationships and honor your supporters, the goal of most events is to raise money for the organization. It makes sense then, to have a thorough plan for collecting donations and making sure they all are accounted for at the end of the day. To keep it simple, have specific places for collecting donations and make sure all volunteers and staff know where they are. Emphasize to workers the importance of keeping track of donations.
As for security, it is a good idea to have locked boxes and if you want to be extra careful, you can have a staff member collect donations from the boxes periodically. That way, if a box is stolen or lost, you can minimize the loss. At the end of the event, one of your first priorities should be gathering all donations and recording your results.
Remember, there are also a lot of options for collecting donations via credit card! Whether you use a StayClassy mobile donation page or a mobile payment processor, there are a lot of ways to utilize the energy and excitement of the event to drive on-the-spot donations.
8. Test All Equipment
Alright, dinner is over and it’s time for your discussion panel on the importance of art education. The host introduces the experts on stage, but when the teacher with 25 years’ experience tries to answer a question, no one can hear her. The psychologist specializing in art therapy offers her microphone but it doesn’t work either. The host looks over at you for instructions.
Spending a few minutes testing ALL your electronics and technical equipment can avoid embarrassing and distracting situations like this. If you have to plug it in, test it. If it uses batteries, test it. If it’s more complicated than a paperweight, test it. Your rehearsal is the perfect time to work out technical issues, but you can also set aside time for this when you are decorating the venue.
9. Plan, But Don’t Panic
You may have noticed that many of these tips are about anticipating and preventing problems that could come up. But when it comes to stress and worry, you may be your own worst enemy. If you are driving yourself crazy with “what ifs”, it might be time for a reality check.
Ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? And, Realistically, is that likely?
This is an especially effective grounding technique when you share your answers with someone. It’s easier to identify an irrational fear when you say it out loud. If you have taken the other steps listed in this blog post than you have already put yourself in a position to succeed. When your event finally arrives, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself on all the hard work.
Plan a Charity Run/Walk Like a Pro
Image Credit: Flickr user WenzDay01
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