Planning an event is still one of the most effective ways to raise money for charity. Not only do they lead to more donations, but they help foster community and allow guests and planners to make connections with like-minded people. It also raises awareness for your cause, so people are more likely to keep the donations coming long after the event is over.
Plus giving money to charity has proven psychological benefits – to summarise, giving feels good!
But planning a great charity event can be a daunting task, and no one wants to be responsible for the Fyre Festival of the charity sector.
Here are our top tips about what to consider when you are planning your next event, whether it is the grandest gala event or a modest bake sale.
For large fundraising events, it isn’t enough to start planning the week (or month) before. The first step is to ensure you have enough resources who can dedicate time to planning the event. In other words, you have to plan the event planning itself!
This can be as simple as setting up a planning committee of staff and volunteers, including board members, and working out how much time per week they will be able to dedicate to planning the event.
Once this is set up, this committee can decide to have subcommittees, or ensure they have the mechanisms to plan:
- Event finance and budget
- Speakers and entertainment
- Food, venue and drinks
- Ticket sales and registration (which is where we come in!)
2. Setting up realistic and aligned fundraising goals
The most important thing is to get aligned on your goals. What does this event need to achieve? This will guide all the rest of your decisions, including choices such as venues, food and drink provisions, and even ticketing platform.
Fundraising goal: How much do you want to raise? It’s important to be realistic here, otherwise, you are setting yourself up for failure. It’s a good idea to have a main target and a stretch target to allow some flexibility. And don’t forget to ensure this is a reasonable goal after expenses for the event have been deducted.
Decide on the best type of event: If your goal is to attract big donations, it might be worth holding a more upscale gala-style event (waist coats and ball gowns, anyone?) But if you want to build community and get students involved with fundraising activities, something like a school fete probably makes more sense than a fancy ball.
Making smarter choices: For example, if you want to plan a sustainable event, it probably makes sense to find a caterer who is committed to sustainable and eco-friendly practices, such as biodegradable cutlery.
3. Crack open a spreadsheet – it’s time to budget!
Not everyone loves the nitty-gritty of budgeting, but it will be essential for your event’s success! Otherwise, you run the risk of eating into money that was donated for other purposes, which is not a great look.
It’s important to consider a range of costs, including what would happen if there was a last-minute emergency (or lockdown!)
Other things to keep in mind:
- Venue costs
- Ticketing fees – and whether you’d like these to contribute to a good cause as well.
4. Selecting a date and venue
These decisions will depend on a lot of factors, including the type of event you are hosting. Some things to consider:
- School holidays
- Weather – especially for events outdoors, such as a fundraising swim
- Business schedule – if your event is going to fall during your busiest week of the year, it’s going to be pretty hard for staff and volunteers to enjoy themselves and give it their full attention.
- Important cultural holidays and days of remembrance or mourning – just because in Australia there aren’t public holidays for Chinese New Year and Passover doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take these into consideration when planning your event.
5. Recruit sponsors
Having sponsors for your event is a great way to subsidise costs, but they can be hard to find. Businesses often love the opportunity to support a worthy cause in any way they can, whether that is monetary support or providing their services at a discounted rate.
It’s always a great idea to seek out local sponsors who want to have a direct impact in their community, or businesses who are aligned to your cause and able to provide useful resources – whether that is a venue, a food provider, or a corporate sponsor. Here are our other top tips for finding sponsors for your event.
6. Listing your event
You are going to need a way to have tickets and list the event, making it easy for people to book their place.
If your event is charitable in nature, it makes sense to look for a ticketing platform that is using booking fees to do good (hint: that’s us!)If that isn’t incentive enough, Humanitix also provides the ability for guests to make donations at checkout with automatic deductible gift receipts. This means you can start fundraising even with ticket purchases!
7. Market and promote your event
It is important to know who you want to attract to your event, which will go back to the purpose we discussed in Step 1. Are you looking for generous philanthropists who really enjoy the opera? This will probably require a different approach to marketing than a charity football event.
Develop a marketing strategy that utilises social media, email marketing, and other forms of advertising. Make it consistent with your company values and voice.
8. Decide how to accept donations
With cash on the decline and the idea of a “cheque book” relegated to the pages of our history texts, it’s probably smart to have an alternative way of collecting donations.
One way is to ensure you have a way of taking mobile and digital payments at the event. Another is using a ticketing platform that allows guests to make a donation at the time of ticket purchase (again: we can help with that!)
9. Lead staff and volunteers on the day
Ensure that set-up and the function goes smoothly by delegating clear tasks and defined roles to those helping out on the day. Be cognisant that volunteers have given up their time for a good cause! Ensure there is someone always around to help answer questions and address any problems that arise on the day.
10. Prepare the Venue
Make sure that everything is set up well before the event is due to start. This normally takes longer than anticipated!
Confirm catering, media attendees, and any extra items that have been booked, such as live entertainment. Also, confirm all permits and licensing, and if you are at a venue with neighbours nearby, it can be a good idea to let them know there will be some noise from an event that night.
Tips and reminders
- Have a follow-up plan: Never underestimate the power of a good ‘thank you’ note. This applies to both attendees and volunteers, and of course any sponsors. If you can, use this as an opportunity to get people on a mailing list so you can share the results of your fundraising efforts, and get people to come to more events in the future.
- Accessibility: It’s important to consider making events accessible [link to blog]. This includes choosing venues that are accessible with options other than stairs and ensuring your venue is near public transport. Also, make sure to ask guests about their accessibility requirements in the invitation. At the event, create an atmosphere free from strobe lights and with a hearing loop or space for Auslan interpreters.
Have fun!: After all the hard work, make sure you get to enjoy the event, meeting with like-minded people who have gathered to try and make the world a little bit better.
Humanitix can help you list your next event, we're also 40% more cost-effective for fundraisers and non-for-profits. In as little as two minutes you can make your event live, delight your guests, and change lives through supporting education projects. Plus, it’s easy for guests to make a donation with their ticket purchases.
Em Meller lives and works in Sydney, Australia on the unceded lands of the Gadigal people. Her work has appeared in places like The Lifted Brow, Cordite, and Going Down Swinging. She has studied creative writing at the University of Technology, Sydney, and at Oxford University.