Here are 20 steps to follow to ensure your charity event is a big success…
Establish the purpose of the events.
Is this truly a fundraising event? Or does it have other goals? Perhaps your organization may be hoping to raise money at the event, but the main function of the event is to gain publicity, or reach out to a new network. Many charitable events have more than one goal. Having a sentence or two in your head will help you lead the event in the right direction. Are you planning it to educate your community? Persuade potential donors for funds? To celebrate a specific individual or group of individuals? Recruit volunteers? Get as narrow as possible. Whatever you’re doing (be it educating, persuading, celebrating, etc.), why are you doing it?
What exactly do you want to accomplish? Not how many people do you want to show up, not the actual fact that the event is even happening — what do you want to come out of this? 5 people to walk away a new part of your organization? €500 raised? Minds changed? People excited? Ideally, knowing what your goals are will help inform decisions about the venue, invitation lists, ticket price, media involvement and promotion as well as resources needed to organize and carry out the event. When you plan an event which has several goals you should prioritize them so that everyone is clear which is the primary objective and which are secondary.
If this is truly a fundraising event, then everything in the event plan will be geared to raising this specific amount of money. The amount you choose should be what you hope to net, that is, the amount you plan to raise after expenses are deducted. Let this inform your budget.
Pick your team.
The success of your event will be down to having a good committee. Choose people who are enthusiastic about the cause, able to dedicate the amount of time required and have the expertise in the area in which you need them to work. Gather everyone together and choose the chairperson first. Give everyone defined roles playing to their strengths e.g. catering, treasurer, marketing, sponsorship etc. Outline what is expected in terms of time commitment and schedule regular briefings. Consider setting up group messaging so all committee members will be kept up to speed on progress.
Set your budget.
Every fundraising event plan should contain a complete budget listing all of the expenses that will be required to hold the event. Your budget should include staff, invitations, space rental, catering, entertainment, transportation, security, utilities, and anything else that will be required to make the event a success. Your budget should take into account your fundraising goal, ensuring that you raise that amount above and beyond all expenses. Be sure to leave a little extra room in your budget for unforeseen costs. Keep all receipt and note all donations given in the run up to the event. Events offer a range of advantages and promotional opportunities that can attract sponsorship which will significantly reduce your risk and defray costs. It can also be an opportunity to recruit corporate sponsors who may become involved with your organisation beyond the event itself. The best events can be those which are fully sponsored, resulting in no cost to your organisation. In approaching potential sponsors, have a clear idea as to how much money you are expecting from them and what you can give in return.
Figure out your target market.
Start with an understanding of who you want to attract and who is likely to want to come – in other words, your target market.
If the event is of general interest, begin by targeting your existing warm contacts to see if they would be likely to support it. If your friends don’t want to come, why should strangers?
One way of helping with promotion is to feature celebrities who may be willing to attend. For many individuals the attraction of a special event is to be seen with celebrities. Alternatively, you can invite a celebrity to act as compere, to open the event, or to present awards. This may be a celebrity who is already supporting your cause or who may be persuaded to do so if properly approached.
Decide on a time and place.
This is the most important thing when it comes to your event. What time and what place will make people say, “Yeah, I’ll go to that!”? You want a time when everyone will be free and a place that’s a convenient location. And something you can afford to book!
Check the InspireMe calendar that there is nothing similar in your area already planned and consider your audience. If you are planning a coffee morning, during the day in somebody’s home will work. If you are organizing a family funday, obviously weekends in a great outdoor location would be best. Contact and book your venue as soon as possible. Once you have decided on your time and place, upload your information onto InspireMe so that other event organizers will be aware that date is taken!
Think about logistics.
Logistics for everything. What will parking be like? What about wheelchair accessibility? What can you do with the size of your space? What equipment will you need? What extra items (drinking water for speakers, badges, brochures) will you need that will be extra expenses? How many people are needed to truly make it run smoothly? It’s important to sit down for a minute with your team and consider all sides of the story. Is there any obstacle that can be foreseen and prevented? Any special guests that need to be accommodated? Any exceptions that need to be made? By catering for all groups and abilities your event will attract the biggest audience
Think about legal, planning and official responsibilities.
Does your event require insurance, planning permission, Garda vetting for volunteers, official registration of your event with your charity?
Think about marketing and advertising.
You will need to draw up a marketing plan. Prepare a poster. It should include the tentative date, time, venue, chief guest, name of the event, and a theme or tag-line for the event. Think about other ways to get the word out, too. E-mail blasts? Snail mail? Facebook, Twitter. Maybe you want to set up a website? What do you need before the event to get people there and what do you need at the event to keep them?
Once you market your event, there must be a procedure in place for making the actual ticket sales, or accepting donations for the event. Selling tickets can be extremely hard work and a complete non-starter if you have not already identified your audience and are confident that they will be interested in attending. There is little point in securing high value prizes for an auction if the audience can’t afford to bid for them! Make sure you are presenting a really attractive event, to an identifiable audience, at an appropriately pitched ticket price. You must decide who will sell the tickets, how they will be shipped or delivered, and who will be responsible for organizing the incoming information. Try and recruit plenty of ticket sellers.
Delegate work to different people and let an experienced person coordinate all activities.
Prepare a draft schedule of the activities in the event. Make a few spreadsheets to organize your thoughts. Prepare a time line (with deadlines) for each activity. Write down everyone’s names and where they’re needed when. That way you can organize yourself and field any future questions from others.
If the event is a mega-event, let different people coordinate different activities, under the supervision of one person. The team leader should be trusted by the team members. It’s a good idea to have one or two people dedicating their time to meeting and greeting and talking up the event as people filter in and the event gets started. Basically they’re a reception committee, boosting morale and letting people know they’re in good hands.
Make sure to update any websites connected to the event.
Post news on Facebook and Twitter, get your friends to share the event on InspireMe to improve its profile.
Gather items needed for the event.
These items might include medals, games, mementos, prizes, or certificates. Think about first-aid kits, batteries, extension cords, etc. Make a list and have someone else go though it with you as they might think of something you’ve forgotten.
Make arrangements for everything.
Make arrangements for photos and videos. Make arrangements for guests’ transportation. Make arrangements for and refreshments. This is also a good time to prepare for special accommodation such as for those who have disabilities etc. Check for participants who are vegetarian or have other specific dietary needs. Make arrangements for chairs, tables, backdrops, microphones, speakers, computers, LCD projectors, podiums — anything that needs to be set up at the venue.
Prepare a contact list.
You’ll need all relevant phone numbers, addresses and emails of team members. Also, make a similar contact list for VIPs and suppliers of any goods or services. When someone doesn’t show up or is running late, this will be what you refer to.
Check the venue.
Is the room clean and available? Is all the electronic equipment set up and does it seem to be working? Look around the place and evaluate parking, toilets, green rooms, arrangements, various entrances and exits. Look for places nearby where you can buy any things in case of emergency. Set up everything inside and out. Make sure you have plenty of signs and welcome banners. You want your guests to know where to go. Make a reception area and have someone welcome your guests. Maybe put on some music to get an atmosphere going.
At the event.
Keep all members of your team informed of any issues. Take plenty of photos, maybe even get a professional photographer to do this for you.
After the event.
Check the electric meter, remove the banners, tables, etc. You want to leave the place as good as when you found it — especially if you paid for the venue and want to ever come back. They may charge fees that could otherwise be avoided. Allocate jobs so it all goes as quick and painlessly as possible. Don’t forget to remove any signage around the locality.
Have a post event review with your team. Were there were any problems that could be avoided next time? What was a success? Would you ever choose to organise an event again? What have you learned?
Thank the all team members, especially sponsors and volunteers. You couldn’t have done it without them! Keep your donors happy… you’re probably going to be asking them for another donation sometime down the road. Post the photos on your website and maybe send some to your local press
Finalize and settle the accounts. Try and give any funds raise to your charity as quickly as possible.