When was the last time you donated to charity? Helping and supporting others is an instinct we all share. People enjoy making a positive difference to the lives of others and, for many, charities are the best way to achieve that. Indeed, the enduring generosity of people around the world has helped charities change, support and improve the lives of so many people and animals.

Whether it’s educational support, scientific research, international aid, animal rescue or any other charitable cause, people have shown they’re willing to give up their time and money to help others. The leading study on global generosity, CAF World Giving Index, ranks the following countries in the top 10 based on their giving behaviours:

1. Myanmar | 2. USA | 3. Australia | 4. New Zealand | 5. Sri Lanka | 6. Canada | 7. Indonesia | 8. UK | 9. Ireland | 10. United Arab Emirates

But these countries are all very different. The populations vary, and the people come from contrasting cultures with various backgrounds. They’ll have their own motivations and interests. But they all share one thing – they want to help others.

Despite international generosity, attracting public support isn’t easy. Whilst some people have an immediate connection with some causes because of personal experiences, charities must connect with a wider audience to maximise awareness, donations and support.

A number of things can affect why – and how much – people choose to donate. For example, at the start of 2017, a survey found that whilst 53% of people intended to donate to a cancer-related charity within the year, people, on average, donated more money in total to foreign aid. This shows how recent events, as well as personal experiences and preferences, can influence when, why and how people choose to give.

Fundraising events are a great way of both boosting awareness of charities and the work they do, and encouraging people to donate and support the cause – whatever it may be.

This guide will outline everything you need to know about planning a fundraising event. From attracting sponsorship and explaining all stages of pre-event planning, to spreading the word about your cause and gaining on-going support, it’ll be your go-to resource for your fundraising efforts. Just as a quick reminder, you’re doing something amazing by planning a fundraising event. Keep up the good work.

a. The importance of fundraising (UK statistics)

The British have a lot to be proud of when it comes to charitable support. In 2016, we donated £9.7 billion. Donation remains the main way in which people engage with charity, according to CAF’s UK Giving Report 2017, with an impressive 61% having made a contribution in the last year.

People are also willing to support charities by giving goods, sponsoring someone or volunteering their time. The future looks bright, with the report suggesting younger people are more likely to volunteer and students the most likely to have done so in the last year (23%).

The following graph shows how people are giving to charity:

Charities need donations and volunteers to be able to carry on making a difference to their chosen cause. In some cases, without charities, people wouldn’t get the support they need. This is especially the case with smaller charities supporting niche causes. Many non-profits are underfunded and understaffed – so it really is true that every little helps.

You only have to read testimonials of those supported by charities, or see the difference in your own community or circle of family and friends, to know how your money is used to help those in need. In fact, people get comfort and enjoyment from knowing how their choice will impact others.

As such, charities will often tell you how much difference your donation makes. For example, when donating to one of the world’s largest charities, Unicef, you’re told a single payment of £25 could provide more than 30 pregnant women with HIV tests to help protect their baby, and a monthly payment of £16 could buy a cold box to keep life-saving vaccines effective.

This tactic is used across different causes. Mind, a leading mental health charity in the UK, for instance, tells supporters a donation of £39 could allow Infoline call handlers to answer five calls from people, often in desperate need of support. Making the direct connection between someone’s donation and what it allows the charity to do, is a great way of engaging supporters. A narrative with personal touch is much more appealing than facts and figures.

Small, local charities can achieve similar results too. Yorkshire Animal Shelter encourage people to join a feed sponsor scheme for either £5 (buys a hay bale), £10 (buys a vegetable box), or as a one-off donation.

b. Why should you organise a charity event?

Charity events are also great at building on the connection between the work a charity does, and its supporters. Organising an event not only allows you to fundraise, but it’s a way to increase engagement and awareness. After all, the two go hand in hand. Greater awareness will help boost donations; an increase in donations and support, and the more engagement the charity will receive.

But how do people give to charity? As the chart from CAF shows, cash is the main way. As you can see, fundraising events are very popular, and account for 22% of the methods used to donate to charity. However, this figure could be higher - it’s impossible to track how many people were influenced to donate after attending an event. The potential of a fundraising event is as limitless as you make it.

As an individual or company, organising a charity event goes beyond donation. It’s not just about saying you care. It shows a commitment to make a difference – and to encourage others to join. If you’re willing to put in some hard work to organise an event for people to enjoy, they’re more likely to put their hand in their pockets. After all, giving is contagious. Research from Harvard has shown that seeing others give makes an individual more likely to also donate. Some gentle encouragement, in the form of an event, is a way of showing your support and hopefully influencing the donation decisions of people who attend. There is, of course, the additional benefit that supporting a charity looks great for your personal or business image.

For charities, fundraising events are a crucial part of annual planning. The benefits are plenty, and include reinforcing relationships with current supporters, as well as gaining new ones, celebrating achievements, and increasing awareness.

Scroll this table
Method used to give in the last 12 months Cash Buying Goods Raffle / Lottery Direct Debit Online Fundraising / Event Membership Debit Card Text Cheque Credit Card Payroll Other
TOTAL (£5,171) 58% 40% 40% 31% 26% 22% 18% 10% 10% 8% 6% 3% 4%

c. Setting goals for your event

Whether you’re an individual, community, business or charity, organising a fundraising event starts with the same brainstorming process. Get everyone in your team together and go through all the ideas, until you’re able to pin down answers to the following questions. Naturally, some will be easier than others.

  • What are we going to do? The main activity or activities your event will be focused around
  • Why do you want to do this? Outline why your objective is important, and the difference it will make.
  • How are you going to pull it off? Think about the budget and additional support you’ll need, whether that’s from sponsors, volunteers or an annual charity budget.
  • When are you planning the event for? Pick out an ideal date that doesn’t clash with key local events.
  • Where will the event be? You don’t need to pin down a venue at this stage, but you should know the location and what facilities you’ll need.
  • Who will it appeal to? Think about what type of sponsors and supporters you’re looking to target.
  • How are you going to raise money? Will you be charging an admission fee or advance tickets, encouraging people to donate for others doing challenges, or paying to take part in activities.
Fundraising event ideas
  • Sporting events such as mud runs or walk-a-thons
  • Family fun days
  • An evening gala
  • An auction
  • Music events or concerts
  • A skills clinic
  • Talent show
  • Fashion show
  • Pop-up restaurants
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Arts and crafts fair

Once you’ve answered these questions, things will be easier. One key thing to keep in mind throughout the planning stages is why you’re doing this, and the impact it will have on the lives of those your chosen charity supports. When you’re sharing out the work, remind others of this too.

Although it can be an emotive task, you’ve also got to set yourself goals. The primary aim is to raise money, so think of a target and use it as motivation. To succeed, you’ve got to balance the head and the heart. Your targets should be based on previous events and engagement with supporters, as well as how much exposure you’re planning to get.