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How to Plan a Fundraising Event

Published on Nov 18, 2015

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How to Plan a Fundraising Event

With Emily Williamson & Shannon Hill
Photo by Al_HikesAZ

Should You Do It?

Photo by ilmungo

Evaluating an Event

  • What is your end goal?
  • Staff time
  • Cost vs. Revenue
  • Mission match
  • How does it fit into your overall fundraising plan?
- Events are expensive and time consuming! Really consider whether they're the right focus of your time and energy.

- What is your end goal: You may decide after analyzing your donor base that you need to increase the amount you receive from long-time donors in which case you should scale back on events, which mainly generate publicity, new names, and new volunteers.

- Cost vs. Revenue: If the event is very costly, like a gala, you need to make sure you have the budget up front to cover costs. Make sure you have the capacity to net a significant amount. Is it worth doing it if you're going to raise $100K, but spend $50K? Would all that time and energy be best spent elsewhere?

- So many organizations are doing events, it is important that yours stands out and ties into the story of your organization.

- Events will take time away from other fundraising activities.

Photo by TechCocktail


  • Fundraising (ex. raise $300K)
  • Friendraising (ex. 100 new attendees)
  • Publicity (ex. media hits and coverage)
- Pick ONE measurable, quantifiable goal

- For a fundraising goal, keep in mind that this amount should be what you hope to NET (what you've raised after expenses).

Finding the Right Event

  • Target audience
  • Wow worthy and fun!
  • Mission match
- What does your ideal donor or attendee look like? Are they a young professional? A major donor prospect?

-No matter what type of event you do - it should be fun and unique! Keep your donor as you're planning and think about what they would find compelling, memorable, informative, and FUN!

- What is special about your organization's mission and the people you serve? How can you personalize the event to show off your unique personality? Is there a unique way for your donors to experience your mission? Ways to SHOW them - rather than tell them - where their funds go.

- Mission match: It isn't appropriate for an alcohol-recovery center to sponsor a wine tasting. Or a more subtle example, for an organization that serves low-income African American communities, like KIPP, you want the event to reflect the culture it serves.

- Make sure your event accommodates your target audience. For example, if you have an older constituency, a breakfast or luncheon might be more appropriate.

Different Types of Fundraising

  • Ticket price vs. an ask at the event
  • Corporate sponsorships
  • Program book ads
  • Other ways to fundraise: silent, live, or online auction; raffle; text to give
  • Platforms (eventbrite, square)
Ask the audience: Does anyone else have any experience with other ways of raising money through events?


Photo by ilmungo

A well-developed timeline is key to having a successful - and less stressful - event!

- Make sure you take note of what else is going on in the community on that day. You don't want your event to conflict with another major event, religious holiday, or fundraiser.

- Recommend you begin planning at least six months in advance.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

  • Who owns the event plan?
  • Every possible task should be assigned to someone
  • Which tasks require a hard deadline and what are those?
  • How are you communicating updates?
  • Show Flow

Host Committee

  • A strong host committee can make or break your event.
  • The core of your fundraising network.
  • Should have the capacity to give and a massive network.
  • Provide tools that make it easy for them.


  • Ideally, committee or other donors will cover event cost so everything you raise is net revenue.
  • Be careful about tax deductions in your donor acknowledgement letters.
  • Make sure to consider all costs, such as printing, table linens, marketing collateral, decorations
- tax deductions: The tax-deductible portion of a ticket is the amount over and above the fair market value of any benefits received. It is the responsibility of the organization to determine this and inform participants of the tax-deductible amount. Example, if your ticket is $50 and you receive a $50 gift certificate, that $50 is not tax deductible.


  • Social media
  • Press releases
  • Post-event press (including photographs)
  • Jezebel, Northside Neighbor, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Atlanta Magazine, AJC
- Press release: Stories about members of host committee and why they're fundraising for your cause (great if you have a high-profile committee member), or profile of/interview of someone you're honoring at the event


  • Make sure your sponsorship levels match your overall fundraising goal - but don't sell yourself short!
  • Analyze your giving history to help determine sponsorship levels.
  • Companies give for different reasons.
  • Make sure you demonstrate how sponsorship benefits the company.


  • Send a thank you email, letter, handwritten note, or phone call.
  • Fundraising has no end date. Donors are always in the "donor life cycle."

Museum of KIPP Art

What the event was

Why it fit our target audience and told our organization's story?

How we raised money or met our goal

Are You Smarter Than a KIPPster?

Second Century Circle Breakfast

Mad Hatter


Brainstorm a Wow Worthy Event

  • Identify your nonprofit.
  • What is your event goal?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • How will the event help tell the organization's story.
  • How will you raise money (tickets, ask at the event, etc.?)
  • How will you market your event?