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For many nonprofits, hosting fundraising events is the most effective strategy for raising money throughout the year. But these events must be executed properly for them to be successful. Without the right planning, your big event could end up costing you more than it brings in.

So, what’s the secret to planning the perfect fundraiser for your organization?

While every nonprofit is unique, there are some fundamental strategies that can help make your event a success. Use these tips to help ensure your event not only brings in more money, but also builds loyalty among your donors.

  • Start with a budget
    Every fundraising event should be thoroughly planned out. The largest nonprofits plan their events schedule a year in advance. While smaller organizations may not have the time or resources to be so well prepared, it’s critical that they set a budget, at bare minimum.

    Having a budget ensures that your event plans are realistic and viable. It sets spending limits for things like food, entertainment, venue and staffing, so that you don’t go overboard.

    Without a budget in place, you’re likely to significantly overspend. This will potentially negate any fundraising that takes place at the event and make it difficult to execute your other fundraising activities for the rest of the year.

    How do I?Set a budget for fundraising events

  • Rally your staff and volunteers
    Don’t do it all on your own. To pull off the perfect fundraising event, you’re going to need a lot of help. Rely on your staff or volunteers to take on key roles. Consider setting up a committee and putting people in charge of the most critical aspects of the event: venue rental, food, invitations and so on.

    How do I?Form an event committee

  • Set a fundraising goal
    Set a realistic goal for how much money your event should raise. This is useful for numerous reasons.

    It helps make your fundraising efforts more realistic and tangible. It gives you and your team a specific number to strive for, which ultimately impacts the unique efforts that everyone puts into the event. If you decide to share this goal with supporters and guests (and you should), then it will make it clear how much you need to raise and will encourage some people to donate more.

    How do I?Create a smart fundraising goal

  • Think beyond the “donation box”
    You can certainly set up a table to collect donations at the event and charge for admission. But these should not be the only means for people to contribute. Many supporters – especially those who won’t be able to attend – will want to donate in the weeks leading up to the event. Also, at the event, not everyone will have cash or a checkbook to make a contribution.

    For these reasons, it’s crucial that guests and supporters can donate online. By accepting donations on your website, you’ll raise significantly more money from the event.

    Remember to follow up with guests and supporters after the event, too! This is a good time to thank them for attending (or for their support), and it also gives them one last chance to donate. Consider teasing your current fundraising total so far to let them know how close you are to your goal.

    How do I?Accept donations on my website

  • Provide value and reinforce your mission
    There are two things that your guests will expect at your event: a good time and evidence that their money is going to a good cause. If you want people to attend your event (and come to the next one, too), then you need to provide an experience. Consider adding entertainment, raffles, games – anything to make the event more enjoyable.

    But don’t lose sight of why everyone is there in the first place: to support your mission. Remind guests how their contributions directly impact the issues that matter to them.

    How do I?Bring my fundraiser to life

Remember, in the eyes of your guests, your event isn’t just raising money for your organization. It’s raising money for the causes, people, research or activities that your organization supports. Even if, by some stroke of bad luck, your entire event doesn’t go as planned, it will still be a success if guests feel that their money is going to the right place.

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