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How to Plan a Successful Charity Fundraising Event

15 August, 2019

Events are a powerful fundraising tool for charities. They’re also endlessly unique. Take for example how Walk the Night raised a staggering £500,000 in its first year alone by bringing together two leading charities. Or how Macmillian raised an incredible £26 million in 2018 by turning a simple idea into the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning and the charity’s largest fundraising event.

No matter what shape your charity event takes, there are a few basics you should think about to ensure you make the most out of your event, and your investment. From setting clear goals to thanking your donors after it’s all over, please read on for seven tips to maximise the fundraising and the fun!

Steps for Planning a Successful Charity Event

Set Clear Objectives and Goals

Start big! Before you delve into any actual event planning, gather your team and stakeholders to identify the big picture purpose of your charity event. Ask questions like, why is our charity putting on this event? What is our goal? Is it to build general awareness, garner media attention or raise a specific amount of money? The answers to these questions will serve as the foundation for your planning. This information will also help determine a realistic budget for your event. If your charity has hosted other events, review the lessons learned and incorporate these insights into your planning strategy.

Set your Budget

The next step is to determine how much money you have to spend on the event. Keep in mind that in order to be successful, you’ll have to raise more in funds from the event than it costs to produce and run the event itself. You’ll want to identify all potential costs, as well as the deadline for all payments. This might include obvious costs like venue, merchandise, food and music, but should also account for things like photography, AV equipment and additional staff time. In all cases, leave a little extra padding in your budget to account for unplanned or additional expenses. 

If you’ve done previous events, you know that budgeting is a repeatable action, and you can use information from past events to help set a logical budget for future ones. If your charity is new to events, you might consult any number of free event budget templates available online. 

Determine your Target Audience

Think back to your big picture planning. Who will be attending the event? Will your event appeal to a specific subset of supporters, such as parents, athletes or pet owners? For example, Battersea’s Muddy Dog Challenge targets its pet-loving supporters and incorporates their pooches as part of the challenge. The challenge includes an obstacle course for adults, kids and dogs as well as an all-day celebration of music, food and events at multiple locations in the UK. Once you determine your target audience, you’ll be able to pinpoint the most effective – and creative – venue and promotional strategy. 

Muddy Dog Challenge

Are you seeing an emerging thread here? All aspects of the charity event planning process are critical and connected!

Find your Venue

Now it’s time to find the right location! Finding the perfect venue can feel daunting, but it’s also endlessly creative. Keep in mind your target audience, size and budget. These are the key factors to help you narrow down your venue options. If you’re organising a challenge in support of a youth charity, for example, you may want to organise an Olympic-themed sports day in a public park. If you’re interested in a more formal gala event for your VIP donors, look to book a special restaurant or summer rooftop space.  

Other important considerations are weather and access. If you’re planning an outdoor event, what will you do in the event of inclement weather? If you’re planning a public event, is your venue accessible via public transportation? Will you offer parking? Cvent provides a helpful list of London event spaces or consult other online guides for other ideas, from classic venue halls to more unusual venues on ships or in caverns. 

If we can impart one tip here, it’s to start early, as the most popular venues book early. Also, be sure that you have a firm commitment in place before you promote the location of the event!

Create a Theme

Establishing the right theme or focus for your event will go a long way to help you promote it. For example, earlier this year more than 50 National Trust locations held special events in celebration of World Book Day. Throughout World Book Day weekend, little and big bookworms alike could set off on book-themed adventures, enjoy storytelling sessions or explore the homes and tales of beloved British authors. By aligning events under the World Book Day theme, the National Trust encouraged visitors to come explore its unique places, drumming up fundraising through admission fees, merchandise and sales from its second-hand bookstores. 

National Trust World Book Day

When it comes to planning your own event, consider what broader themes might tie in well to your charity. What topics or themes complement your charity’s aims? Are they other charities you could team up with for your event? Choosing the right theme will help set the tone for a successful fundraising event. 

Promote your Event

Once you have a date and venue, start promoting your event! Leverage all existing channels, such as social media, direct mail, newsletters and email. Again, think about your target audience and how best to reach people where they live, work or play. For example, if your event is catered to elderly residents, you might want to budget for radio ads and print materials like posters and brochures in addition to a social media campaign.

Another effective approach is to reach out to partners. What businesses or organisations might be willing to make a financial or in-kind donation? You could offer to co-brand the event to encourage partners to participate in exchange for exposure and positive public relations.  Often, the right partners will also help offset specific costs, such as the venue or catering fee. 

One tip here is to lean on your volunteers! Encourage your volunteers of all ages to help. Provide your volunteers and participants with easy-to-use tools to extend the visibility of the event and encourage peer-to-peer fundraising. Prepare a toolkit that includes FAQs about the challenge, talking points and fundraising forms, like the kits from Cancer Research UK and Walk for Parkinson’s.

Thank your Donors

When your event is over, don’t forget to thank your participants and donors for supporting your cause. A great way to do this is to gift a low-cost, but high-value “goodie bag” filled with practical, creative merchandise. For example, charity walks or runs often give away branded water bottles, bags and running shirts to participants. Collectable or custom medals are another great way to reward efforts and show thanks. 

At Rocket Charities, we offer a popular custom running vest that would be perfect for any athletic event. And don’t forget about your volunteers! Consider a special charity tote bag or keyring as a token of appreciation. You may also want to design a few higher-ticket items to gift to large donors or partners, like bespoke charity cufflinks or fleece jackets.

We hope this post helps you plan an incredible charity event this year! For inspiration, look to what other charities are doing for their own events. Time your event so it doesn’t conflict with holidays or established, well-attended events, and reach out to partners – including us – for help along the way. We’re here to listen to your ideas and offer insights on planning and products for the most successful event possible.

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