As a nonprofit, "scramble mode" sometimes feels like your default setting—particularly when it comes to planning your next fundraising event.
Take Giving Tuesday, for example. While nearly 60% of nonprofit leaders state that Giving Tuesday plays a significant role in their fundraising efforts, half of nonprofits plan for it in 90 days or less. This can prevent drops in communication, botched campaigns, or fewer donations to your cause 👎.
To streamline your efforts and break the scramble-mode cycle, create a fundraising event planning checklist your organization can reuse for each campaign. By creating a system of processes, you spend less time planning, and more time reaching your fundraising goal. Below, we share the ultimate event planning checklist you can use at your next fundraising event.
4–6 months out: Your event planning checklist basics 📆
Depending on the size of your organization, you may want to start planning a major fundraising event up to six months in advance. At this stage, you'll want to make decisions including:
- Event type: Will this be an in-person or virtual event, or a hybrid between the two? Will you be throwing a charity run, a gala, or a local golf tournament?
- Event date: What date and time will this event be held? Be sure it doesn't conflict with any major national holidays or other local events.
- Event venue: If you're doing an in-person event or hybrid, where will this event be held? Double-check to see if the location is available before you set your heart on a location. Lastly, does your location have a strict capacity limit that will reduce the number of in-person attendees?
- Event goals and objectives: Do you have a set dollar amount you would like to raise from this event? To start, look back at what you raised last year, and try to increase your incoming donations by 5–10%.
- Event budget: Do you have a budget in mind for this event? Your set budget will certainly determine future decisions further down your checklist.
3–4 months out: Get your team in place 👯
Once you decide on your date, location, and fundraising goal, it's time to delegate roles and responsibilities to your team. In addition, start collecting bids from local businesses, trying to stay within your budget. Your event planning checklist should encompass:
- Assign roles: How many people (counting both staff and volunteers) are within your team? Start delegating duties to individuals, choosing people to lead marketing, entertainment/food, operations, and individual outreach.
- Create a project plan: With committee roles assigned, ensure you have a project manager who can keep your plans on track. Create a calendar with assigned due dates for specific tasks, weekly check-ins or debrief meetings, and other milestones from present-day to your upcoming event.
- Collect bids: Keeping your budget in mind, what vendors do you need to pull off your event? Start collecting bids from local business owners for catering, bartending, music/DJ, decorations and signage, and other must-have items.
- Seek event sponsorship: To help stay on budget and reach your fundraising goal, consider reaching out to local businesses who might be interested in sponsoring your event. To streamline your efforts, consider creating an email template to send to each recipient.
2–3 months out: Brand your event 💥
With your team in place, you'll need to start branding your event so you can garner attraction from supporters. To start, check these items off your event planning checklist:
- Name your event: Your event needs a name. Write down your name and a 1–2 sentence pitch that can be used across email outreach, social media, and web.
- Create a landing page: You need an event website where new and loyal supporters can arrive and learn more about your event. If you don't already have your own domain, check out Givebutter's free fundraising platform to create a website where you can add images, video, your organization's story, an FAQ section, and a supporter feed.
- Launch ticket sales: You need a way to collect donations and sell tickets prior to your events. Use Givebutter's donation forms to embed forms on your website, or sell early bird tickets to start raising funds.
- Determine which payments are accepted: Select a fundraising platform, like Givebutter, that accepts a wide variety of payment methods. That way, people can donate through Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, text-to-donate, ACH, credit card, or even by mailing a check.
6–12 weeks out: Create an event marketing plan 📣
Now that potential event attendees have somewhere to learn more and sign up for your event, it's time to create a marketing plan. To reach new and recurring supporters alike, consider taking these steps:
- Launch an email campaign: Create a three-part nurturing campaign educating your email list on the importance of your fundraising campaign. Be sure to use Givebutter's built-in email marketing software, Engage, to track open rates, clicks, and other engagement metrics.
- Reach out to local influencers: Consider launching a peer-to-peer marketing campaign where local influencers and loyal supporters reach out to their network to increase event signups.
- Write a press release: Create a short write-up on your event, and email it out to local news outlets. Be sure to leverage Givebutter's built-in CRM platform, Track, so you know when reporters open your emails (thereby giving you the perfect opportunity to follow up).
- Create printed materials: Create signage, posters, and other deliverables you can hang in libraries, coffee shops, and other community bulletins to promote your event. Leverage Givebutter's built-in Canva integration to help design your materials.
- Develop a social media schedule: Increase your posting frequency to all channels—including Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, or TikTok—to assist with event registration. Use Givebutter's one-click social sharing feature to help increase signups for the event.
1–2 weeks out: Last-minute event preparation ⏰
By now, your event planning process is in the home stretch. Within the last 1–2 weeks prior to your event, tackle last-minute items, including:
- Create a seating chart: If you're going to have assigned seating, create a seating chart for your guest list. In addition, create name badges that can guide each supporter to their seat.
- Test your technology: To prevent a technology mishap the day of the event, do a run-through of all your technology. Ensure your Wi-Fi works, test all speakers and microphones, and do a test with Givebutter's live stream function to connect with virtual supporters at home.
- Create and print an itinerary: To ensure you throw a successful event, you'll want to ensure it stays within the allotted time frame. Create an itinerary with estimated timelines attached.
- Do a dress rehearsal: Do a dress rehearsal with any presenters and other key stakeholders, making adjustments to your timeline as needed.
- Send last-minute event reminders: Leverage Givebutter's SMS and email invites to create last-minute RSVPs.
Day of the event: Launch your event 🚀
The day is finally here! To ensure everything goes off without a hitch, be sure to have your event planner check through these items:
- Event check-in: Ensure you have a team member greeting guests at the door, and using Givebutter's check-in feature to scan tickets.
- Greet VIP guests: Create a list of all event sponsors and other VIP guests, and guide them to their reserved seats.
- Double-check all signage: Ensure all decor, signage, and other props are in place and visually appealing for your guests.
- Assist speakers as needed: Assign one person to stand by your "stage" to ensure all presenters follow the itinerary and stay on track.
- Greet the press: Ensure all media personnel have everything they need, and provide contact information for them to follow up with any last-minute questions.
Post-event: Getting ready for next year 👏👏
Congratulations, you got through your fundraising event! Sit tight, because your event isn't quite over. Instead, your event planning checklist should list the following items to get ready for next year:
- Send a post-event survey: Send a survey to all staff, presenters, and volunteers—what improvements could you make next year to help streamline your efforts?
- Thank your supporters: Send out a thank you message to all donors, presenters, and sponsors, thanking them for their contributions. Leverage Givebutter's ThankView integration to send a personalized thank you video to major donors.
- Do an event debrief: Hold a meeting with your committee chairs to see if there are any improvements you can make for next year's event.
- Ensure all data is stored: Keep your event management database up-to-date by ensuring all phone numbers, email addresses, and activities are logged in Givebutter's built-in CRM system, Track.
Check things off your event planning checklist with Givebutter
Many nonprofits are operating on limited resources, which can create tight timelines when it comes to event promotion. To help ensure your next fundraising event goes off without a hitch, create an event planning checklist.
Fortunately, Givebutter's all-in-one fundraising platform can help you complete nearly every item on your checklist. With Givebutter's modern, always-free, donor-centric platform, you can easily stay on-budget for your event. Plus, with built-in marketing automation and a CRM platform, you can streamline your pre-event outreach efforts, and even get ready for next year's event.
Ready to see how Givebutter's 130+ free features can help lead to a successful fundraising event? Take a tour to learn more about the platform.
Kylie thrives on supporting others, making everyone’s jobs easier, and cinnamon in her coffee.