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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
You want to increase attendance – but if you overestimate and oversupply, you’ll be wasting money.
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.
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:
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.
What you book will depend on the event type you’ve decided to run with – but there are similarities across the board, including:
Source: Cancer Research UK
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:
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.
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.
Ahead of time, work out where – and how – you’ll be asking for donations. Key ways of raising money include:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The following events don’t need entertainment licences between the hours of 8am and 11pm:
Generally, these also don’t require a licence. But if you’re in any doubt, check with the government’s information on entertainment licensing.