You received an invitation to yet another formal event in the mail or perhaps by email. This gets you thinking, maybe your nonprofit could have an event and make loads of cash. Well, maybe, but you might want to think it through a bit.
Events can be tricky. You know that saying about how it takes money to make money? Well, that's usually true when it comes to events. In fact, they also take a lot of time, resources, and energy. And, even if you dedicate all of that to your event, if it isn't a good event or something goes wrong, it can cost you all of those things and more, even existing donors!
Still reading? OK, maybe you have the guts. Let's keep going then. If you want to plan a fundraising event for your organization, here are some key things to consider:
Depending on the type of event you choose to have, you will need to have some money available to put a deposit down for a venue, band (if needed), and caterer. These are the first three things you need to book and it is suggested to do this one year in advance. That said, smaller events, week day events, and events that can have a flexible date could risk it and do it later. Once the place and food are booked, you are done with the planning for a bit while you work on fundraising. You will need to determine your overall budget, set ticket prices, solicit sponsors and start selling tickets. This will give you an idea if there is support for your event and if you can even get close to your goals.
Events take lots of resources. You need to decide if you will plan and run the event with volunteers or professionals. You might hire someone to plan your event (there is a fee), to cater (another fee), to decorate (more fees), to insure (yep, another fee), and so forth. Professionals play important roles that can make or break your outcome. Perhaps you have a large staff that can organize and run your event. That's great! What projects or tasks will they need to put aside in order to do this job right. Can you afford for that work to be put off? If yes, then go for it!
Timing is everything. When you have an event dictates the dress, if a meal is needed, and if people will attend. There is nothing worse than planning a huge event only to find out that your local team has made it into the NCAA final four and one of the games is the same night! Check every calendar. Check with your VIPs. Having key people attend can help enhance an event, not having them there can seem that you lack support. This will reflect poorly. Think about the people you want to invite. Younger people do not like morning events. Seniors aren't fond of events that start at 8 p.m.
Many people select a venue, because it is the perfect fit and price. Later on, they realize parking is limited and the costs to your guests is ridiculous. Or, worse yet, the parking area is not safe. There have also been amazing events that people loved, but quickly forgot how great it was because they had to wait an hour in line for the valet. If you have to provide valet and worry that there might be a wait, consider allowing your guests to turn in their number when they are ready, but to keep enjoying the event. The valet can text them when the car arrives. If this is not an option, consider finding a way to entertain guests while they wait.
This is one of the most important things to consider when planning a fundraising event. Make sure your sponsors and guests understand if there will be things to purchase such as during a silent or live auction, if there will be raffles or a bigger asks for donations at the event. You never want anyone to feel uncomfortable or put out because you invited them to what they thought was a thank you to volunteers and turned out to be a donor fundraiser. Setting expectations also ensures they bring their wallet.
All this said, each year millions of dollars are raised at charity events from golf scrambles and dances to barbecues and carnivals. You CAN make money, just think things through, get lots of people involved, and make sure you are focused on your audience. Oh yes, and have fun!!! It its an event after all.