Planning a good fundraising event needs time, effort and money. Some people will say you need to speculate to accumulate. In reality, your spending will be based on careful planning, not guesswork. You’ll research what’s worked in the past for similar charities, and what hasn’t. Also consider current trends and what’s likely to connect with your audience. To fundraise effectively takes time and commitment – that’s not just money, but great ideas and motivation from you and your team throughout planning.

a. The first step: attracting sponsorship

By budgeting at the start and having funds in place, you’ll be able to pull off an impressive event that’ll encourage donations and on-going support. One of the best ways of doing this is to attract sponsors. Brands and businesses are willing to get involved with charity events in return for their name being associated with a great cause. Typically, you can offer different tiers of sponsorship to attract businesses of all sizes and budgets. Ideas include:

  • Email or social media coverage
  • Banners at the event
  • Sponsorship of tables or activities
  • Sponsorship logos and information online
  • Personal mentions in speeches

But how do you get sponsors? Firstly, you’ve got to be willing to spend time on the phone to explain your cause, and why it would benefit them. When you’re able to speak to someone personally, it’s much easier to put your enthusiasm across and make the emotive connection with the charity clear. To attract sponsors, you have to make their decision easy. To do so, think about the following:

  • Know what they’re looking for from charity sponsorship.
    Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. What makes sponsorship attractive? They’ll want a charity to be close to their heart, and the event to have loads of people attending so their brand gets visibility.
  • Offer different levels of sponsorship.
    Not everyone will be able to sponsor you for thousands of pounds, but they could still want to get involved – so don’t dismiss smaller businesses. In fact, local businesses are more likely to engage with your cause if it has an effect in the community. To target different businesses, offer tiers of sponsorship where everyone gets something in return for financial support.
  • Talk about who else is getting involved.
    At the end of the day, businesses are competitive. Once they hear about other brands getting involved, you’ll have sparked their interest and they could be more receptive to your ideas. But make sure you talk about it naturally.
  • Understand the tax benefits for them.
    Companies can reduce their corporation tax bill by giving money, equipment or stock, land, property or shares, employee time and sponsorship payments to charities. Find out more online, so you understand one of the potential benefits for them.
  • Follow up on your initial enquiry.
    Your first enquiry isn’t always going to be successful. You might not have got through to the right person, or they might have been busy at that time. Don’t be discouraged. Ask who you should reach out to and let them know you’ll be in touch soon.
  • Build a relationship.
    Once a business has agreed to sponsor your event, don’t forget about them. Send an email or letter to say thank you, and outline the sponsorship package they’ll be getting and what they can expect from you. Keep them in the loop with any developments or announcements, as well as reminders when the event is coming up.

More than anything, though, they’ll want to believe your fundraising event will be a success and a day for people to enjoy. Give them a reason to donate and support a great cause. That’s why they’ll want to know you’ve got the basics in place:

  • Knowledge of what funding you require
  • What you’ll be spending the money on
  • The benefits to sponsors in supporting the charity
  • How you’ll be spreading the word
  • What you require from them

b. Budgeting for your fundraising event

Sponsors aren’t the only ones who’ll need to know how much the event will cost – you, of course, will need to know the figures inside out to ensure you make the most money possible for the charity. That requires a budget. Work out your expected incomings from sponsorship or existing allocations, and your spending priorities.

Venues and other suppliers will often do reduced costs for charity events, but you’ll need to state your case well. Some companies – like those which hire large funfair equipment – will come on board on a profit share basis. They’ll set up everything, covered by their insurance, and provide entertainment for everyone attending. They make money by charging people to have a go, but give an agreed percentage to the charity.

When organised well, it’s win-win. But how you manage your resources and budget depends on the activity and what you want to achieve. Not everyone will be pleased to attend a charity event where another company is taking a cut.

To make your budget work for you, we’ve got the following top tips:

Start early

The sooner you start to book and organise things, the more you can save. Early planning means you can shop around and find the best deals for your event. For most major purchases, the more quotes you get, the better your ability to tell what price is reasonable and what's not.

Think about everything you need.

Not all will be relevant, and you might be able to get some for a reduced price, but make sure you allocate for the following costs in your budget:

  • Venue hire
  • Publicity
  • Equipment
  • Decorations
  • Entertainers
  • Prizes
  • Food and refreshments
  • Transport
  • Phone bills, postage and other administrative costs
  • Insurance
  • Volunteers’ expenses
  • First aid equipment and provision
  • Fees for licences and permissions

Source: Gov.uk

Get the balance right when supplying for guests.

You want to increase attendance – but if you overestimate and oversupply, you’ll be wasting money.

Find out what’s included with every cost.

When hiring equipment or booking out a venue, know what you’re paying for. Is insurance included? Does the venue have sound equipment to use, or does it incur an additional cost? Knowing what’s included could save you money.

Be prepared to negotiate.

If you’re unhappy with the deal you’re getting, you’ll have to be ready to haggle. To do so, though, you’ve got to be in a good position. Organisations with the following in place stand a better chance at being offered a deal:

  • A general figure of how much they spend on events each year
  • Valuable sponsorship opportunities
  • Widely publicised event
  • Flexible dates
Make use of volunteers.

There are loads of talented and enthusiastic people, willing to help charitable causes – whether that’s in the planning stages or at the event. But you’ll have to start advertising early.

c. Pre-event planning: what you need to book

What you book will depend on the event type you’ve decided to run with – but there are similarities across the board, including:

  • Venue.
    Finding a location that suits your needs should be top of the list. Check whether they have Public Liability Insurance to cover your event – otherwise this is something else you’ll need to organise.
  • Food.
    Will you be providing food as part of the ticket price, or will there be an additional charge? Either way, you’ll need to book caterers or food stalls ahead of time and give them a rough idea of how many people you expect to turn up.
  • Activities.
    Providing something for your guests to do, or be entertained by, is one of the main purposes of a fundraising event. When people enjoy themselves, they’re more likely to donate – so make sure to arrange a great event. For example, if you’re hosting an auction, you’ll need to book an experienced auctioneer to call out the prices and create a buzz in the atmosphere. Find out what’s included with the venue, as you’ll also need things such as chairs and a stage. The last thing you want is to be paying twice.
  • Money Collection
    However you decide to collect donations, you need it to be secure. Whilst you may trust volunteers with buckets of change, it might be better to take larger donations electronically. Either way, remember you need permission to collect money – whether it’s in a public place or on private property. Contact your local authority for further advice.
  • Additional Entertainment
    The best fundraising events don’t just have one focus point. There are plenty of activities for everyone to get involved with. Family fun days, for example, will have stalls, rides, raffles and more. Think about what you need to book to diversify your event, and have plenty going on.
  • Sound Systems.
    How are you going to keep the energy and momentum of the event going? Sound systems are a great way of getting a message out to all your guests. Whether that’s a speech at a gala, or announcements of team progress on an obstacle course, it’ll keep everyone’s attention.
Handling money at fundraising events
  • Where possible, have two people around when money is being handled and counted
  • Collect cash using a secure container e.g. a sealed container for a collection or a secure cash box for change
  • When carrying money around, use a safe route and always be with someone and/or carry a personal alarm
  • If you’re confronted by someone demanding the money, do not put up a fight. Hand them the money straight away and report the matter to the police
  • Put money in the bank as soon as possible

Source: Cancer Research UK

d. Spreading the word about your event

To maximise attendees, and the amount you raise, you need to spread the word about your event early. The more coverage you can get, the better. It’s important to start early, and create an information pack about the event, including your reasons for organising it. Local newspapers and magazines, for example, tend to publish articles about fundraising events if there’s a touching story behind it.

Typically, it’s easier to get coverage when your fundraiser is unique and has a clear message. In America, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, where men walk one mile in women's high-heeled shoes, started with a small group, and has grown into a worldwide movement. Each event raises invaluable money for local rape crisis centres, domestic violence shelters and other sexualised violence education, prevention and remediation programmes. It encourages communities to talk about something that can be tricky to discuss, and the individuality of the event gets plenty of coverage.

Other successful unique fundraising events include:

  • The London Great Gorilla Run, which saw runners take on an 8km run past key landmarks in the city, dressed in gorilla suits. Registration fees and personal fundraising resulted in £100,000 for The Gorilla Organisation.
  • A few years back, the National Trust launched The Big Family Day out to counter people’s reluctance to give up valuable family time – a major barrier to volunteering. Employers who signed up to the scheme gave their staff one day off a year so they could volunteer with their family. Employers who got involved included Jaguar Land Rover, Marks & Spencer, Barclays, BT and Manchester Airport.

Whatever the focus and nature of your event, you’ll want to use social media to promote it. There’s no denying the reach and influence of platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. As well as sharing news of the event with your existing networks, it’s worth reaching out to people with a large following, and wide influence. If they share the event with followers, you’ll increase your exposure.

Use social media to tell a story, with plenty of reminders for those who are interested – without spamming their feeds. Mix up what you post and make good use of imagery, captions and hashtags to get noticed by a wider audience. Increasingly, people are using video to connect too. We have short attention spans – so often it’s better to show, than tell. Infographics (19%), videos (33.2%) and pictures (44.5%) are best for engagement on social media, according to marketers. However you choose to use social media, make sure you’re not just posting a link to the donation page on its own. Give the post additional value.

For greater online reach, you could see if you qualify for Google Ad Grants. Working with 20,000 non-profits across more than 50 countries, they will give you a monthly budget for search marketing. In other words, you’ll be able to appear near the top of Google search results for some chosen keywords.

Although you’ll be focusing a lot more on digital marketing than in previous years, don’t forget about traditional options. Leaflets, word of mouth, and face-to-face fundraising still work.

e. 10 top tips for the day

1. Work out how long the main activity lasts

Once you’ve got people’s attention, you’ll want to keep it. The last thing you want is a bored audience, who are tempted to leave. In that kind of mood, they’re highly unlikely to donate. To avoid a disaster, figure out your timings – crucially, how long the main activity lasts. If possible, go and test it out elsewhere. For example, before you book a band, go and watch them live and see what the reaction is like. That way, you’ll know if you need to plan more activities to run alongside.

2. Think of all the ways you can make money

Ahead of time, work out where – and how – you’ll be asking for donations. Key ways of raising money include:

  • Entrance fees
  • Voluntary donations
  • Raffles
  • Merchandise
  • Selling food and refreshments
  • Sideshows and stalls
  • Charging stallholders and/or catering suppliers
3. Make it easy to donate on the day and afterwards

Donation should be convenient for your guests. In addition to handing over cash, more charities are making the most of online donations. But you’ve got to get it right. 66% of mobile web users that abandon website pages do so because it takes more than 5 seconds to load. This could cause you to miss out on potential donations, event registrations and volunteer sign-ups.

In addition to making sure your site is mobile-friendly and loading quickly, you could use an online donation platform such as Just Giving, Givey or BT MyDonate. Share links on social media on the day, and consider having a fundraising thermostat at the event. Donations increase by 35% when people can see them displayed in real time. Seeing how much, and how often, others are giving can influence people’s decision to donate.

4. Connect with the cause

Statistical information about the scale of your charity’s problem can be overwhelming. Although it’s good to show how much work is needed, and the difference donations can make, detailed statistics aren’t necessarily the best way of making the connection. After all, we switch off at times. Evidence has found that people are more responsive to charity adverts focused on just one beneficiary.

As an award-winning example, Plan UK created a stop-motion animation film highlighting the importance of education for girls. Narrated by 12-year-old Brendar from Malawi, it follows the reality of her day-to-day life, whilst she talks about her dreams of what she could achieve by staying in school. It ends by explaining, directly to the audience, there’s the opportunity to make her dreams – and the dreams of those like her – come true, by “giving her a chance and letting her take it from here.”

It makes the cause feel more real, and as a result, has more of an impact. Use authentic stories from people your charity helps to make a personal connection. There are, of course, some causes that’ll always be popular, because of how relatable they are.

5. Give everyone clear responsibilities

One person can’t do everything. It’s important to delegate responsibilities for the day, so everyone knows what they should be doing and where. To make sure it runs smoothly, they’ve got to have plenty of details and a way of contacting other staff or volunteers. For example, for those on parking duty, they should have a pre-approved plan of how the cars are being organised and when they can expect someone else to come along to take over.

6. Have essential tools ready

Things break last minute. Suppliers can forget tools. You need to be prepared. You’ll be surprised how many tricky situations things like gaffer tape, cable ties, WD40, a multi-tool and a mallet will get you out of. Whether it’s fixing a sign, marking out step edges or putting together the stage, you’ll be thankful for a handy bag of simple tools.

7. Post live on social media

Digital marketing doesn’t stop once the event has kicked off. You can continue to post updates of what’s happening on social media. Get a hashtag going too, so others can join in and increase the exposure.

8. Have trained first-aiders at the event

It’s important to assess your first aid needs based on the hazards and risks involved with your event. You need to decide how many trained first aiders you’ll need, depending on how many people are attending.

9. Thank everyone who has attended

Sponsors, guests, volunteers – everyone deserves a thank you for attending and supporting your charity. Have a sign at the exit and send a follow-up email to let people know you’re grateful for them coming and making a difference. You can include details on how much everyone raised, as well as highlights from the day. This is also a great way of getting on-going support by adding a link to your donation page.

10. Have fun

Always remember to enjoy yourself. You’ve worked hard to get the event off the ground, so deserve some time to take in the moment and what your team has achieved for a great cause.

f. Health and safety advice

At all stages of your event, health and safety plays a part. Whilst you’re organising, you should consider how people will get to the event, and whether there’s sufficient car parking or its within easy, and safe, reach of public transport. As part of your publicity, you need to provide these details so people know what to expect. On the day, you might also need to put up signs in the surrounding area so it’s easily found.

It’s also worth finding out whether your venue is accessible for people with disabilities – for example, those who use wheelchairs. You should be clear about this in the run-up to the event, to help people plan safely.

Organising a safe event is all about preparation. So whilst you can’t control things like the weather, you can prepare for the worst if you’re holding an event outside. This includes thinking about heavy rain or very hot weather, and what impact this could have. You should provide appropriate shelter, as well as provisions for moving about.

Your responsibility as an organiser extends beyond the planning stages too. You have to manage and monitor the event to make sure workers and the visiting public are not exposed to risks. To make this job easier, other key health and safety tips include:

  • Doing a risk assessment. As always, risk assessments should be proportionate to the scale of the event and the degree of risk. Nevertheless, with every event, one should be carried out. Keep the language simple, and think about different user’s perspectives. Cancer Research UK provide useful guidance to use alongside the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) five steps:
    • Step 1: Identify the hazards
    • Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how
    • Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
    • Step 4: Record your findings and implement them
    • Step 5: Review your assessment and update if necessary
  • Ask contractors to prove their experience. It’s not just immediate staff and volunteers who need to be aware of any risks. Contractors should understand the health and safety considerations associated with their work. HSE suggest asking people the following before you hire them:
    • To demonstrate knowledge and understanding of their work and the health and safety hazards involved
    • To provide evidence of a trained workforce and the competence of key staff for the project
    • To confirm they have sufficient resource levels to do the work
    • To provide evidence of previous successful work that shows they can adopt and develop safe systems of working
    • In the absence of experience of previous work, ask them to demonstrate an appropriate level of technical ability (e.g. being a member of an accreditation scheme, professional organisation or trade association may help with this)
Do you need a license?

The following events don’t need entertainment licences between the hours of 8am and 11pm:

  • Performances of live unamplified music for audiences
  • Performances of live amplified music in licensed premises for audiences of up to 200 people
  • Performances of plays and dance for audiences of up to 500 people
  • Indoor sporting events for audiences up to 1,000 people

Generally, these also don’t require a licence. But if you’re in any doubt, check with the government’s information on entertainment licensing.

  • Karaoke – between 8am and 11pm in licensed premises for audiences of 200 or less if there is any amplification
  • Incidental music - live music that is incidental to other activities that aren’t classed as regulated entertainment