The Secrets to Planning a Successful Charity Event A First Timer’s GuidePlanning a charity fundraising event can be extremely overwhelming, especially to those who have never planned one before. Let’s face it, most charities, especially organizations that are just starting out, don’t have the budget to hire a party planning expert, so we rely on ourselves to plan the big event. Talk about chaotic. Where do you even start? Who do you talk to? How do you make sure people hear about your event? These are all questions lingering on any mind trying to plan a charity fundraising event, and it’s never easy. But, there are a few quirk tips and secrets that may just make planning your first charity event run a little smoother than expected. Here are six steps to help make your first fundraiser a huge success.

Step 1: Determine the Type of Event

The most important detail to determine from the start is what type of fundraiser would be most beneficial to your cause. When planning your first event, consider that some of the most successful events are social gala and dinner events that include charity auctions. These two fundraising events can be very successful for new organizations or chapters because people naturally look for opportunities to mingle and socialize. Also, a charity dinner or auction gives your donors and potential donors the opportunity to mingle in a fun environment, while learning about your charity’s message and goals. Although many organizations also use charity walks and golf tournaments for fundraising purposes, those tend to be most successful for organizations with a following already.

Donations such as food, drinks or auction items can reduce a budget because it’s one less item the charity needs to buy itself.Step 2: Set a Budget

It’s best to set a budget during the early stages of planning to make sure at any point throughout the planning process your charity does not risk losing money. After all, the goal is to raise money, not lose it. There are many ways to scale back a budget. For example, instead of using hired help, use volunteers. Instead of using a restaurant, try looking at a catering hall. Larger catering halls or even conference halls will be less expensive venues than having an event at a restaurant. Also, try to generate as many donations as possible from local venders and members of your community. These donations don’t need to be monetary in order to help out your budget. Donations such as food, drinks or auction items can reduce a budget because it’s one less item the charity needs to buy itself.

Step 3: Find a Target Audience

Although charity events have the power to draw in guests from any type of crowd, there may be a specific target audience your event may more specifically appeal to. Use your charity’s goals, purposes and ambitions to determine if any specific group may be more prominent at your event than others. Say your charity is a children’s foundation — mothers and families may be a more appropriate target audience than your average bachelor. Not to say other people won’t be interested, but if you can hit potential donors in their hearts, your charity fundraiser will have the power to bring in far more guests.

Step 4: Promote your Event

Once you’ve determined your target audience, really start promoting your event wherever possible. Sticking with the children’s foundation example, try advertising near schools or day care centers — places where mothers or people with children will see information about your event. Use social media.
Technology today is one of the strongest forms of publicity a charity (new or old) can use — and it’s free! Social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all entirely free. The only steps required are to make an account and start requesting followers. Post daily about your event, don’t just remind people when it is, but draw them in — tell them about a new donation, upload pictures of the community working together on the event, etc. Also, make the social media sites personal. If someone donated money, food or anything of value, you can tag them and let that person know how thankful you are. Donors love feeling like they’re being recognized. It makes them feel good. And, if you take a personal approach on your social networks, your followers and fans wi ll respond positively. Utilize technology and social media tools to promote your auction items. Post positivity, post success stories you hear, or inspirational messages. Make people feel good about your cause!

Step 5: The Event Itself

Going into the week or day of the event, there is one thing a charity must remember: the event will NOT go 100% smoothly. No matter how much planning has been done, not every detail of your charity fundraising event will go perfectly. The best things to do when your event is approaching is to stay calm and focused. A calm and clear-headed approach will allow you to best deal with whatever is thrown at you. Some of your volunteers are late? Then, change around the tasks you assigned to people, understand that they are volunteers and there to help you, so don’t bite their heads off. Understand that almost everything and anything is fixable or re-workable. Also, make sure the event is organized, if you have a band or any form of music, make sure it’s not too loud where people are talking or eating dinner. If you’re having an auction, make sure your auction items are organized into categories, so way if people are looking for something specific they can look directly in one section. The three keys to the event itself are to stay calm, keep organized, and don’t forget to have fun! If you’re having fun through all the chaos around you,  your energy will transfer to your volunteers and your guests.

Step 6: Say “Thank You”

It's important to say thank you to all the people who made your charity fundraising event possible.This last step, although so simple, can be forgotten so easily. It’s important to say “thank you” to all the people who made your event possible — and, that’s not just the people who donated or volunteered, but also the people who actually attended the event. Saying “thank you” also goes back to our fourth step regarding publicity. Once your event has ended, use your social media sites to thank the community for attending. Another great tool to use on social media is picture tagging. Encourage the community to post any pictures they took at the event onto your pages and tag your charity in them. This allows new prospective supporters to see firsthand what fun your event was. When people feel like they actually contributed to a charity by attending their event, those people are much more likely to continue attending events. They’ll feel welcomed and appreciated, and that’s a great feeling to have.

Planning charity fundraising events is never easy, whether it’s your first event or you’re a seasoned pro, there’s always a glitch or something that won’t go exactly your way. But, that can be the spontaneous beauty of a event fundraising — sometimes when things don’t go your way, the outcome can be better than expected. Madness is genius, and planning an event can be pure madness. Happy Fundraising!

By J’nelle Oxford, Charity Fundraising Specialist