For nonprofit fundraising professionals, the thought of hosting an EVENT (all capital letters), can be overwhelming. There are so many moving parts – before, during, and after – to plan for and execute. So, similar to how you eat an elephant (one bite at a time), we’ve taken the event fundraising journey and divided it into digestible chucks.

In our webinar this Thursday, we’ll go into the five stages of the event fundraising journey in great detail. In the meantime, here are a few tasty morsels …

1.     PRE-EVENT

Determine fundraising elements – Will you hold a silent auction? A live action, raffle, or donation appeal? All the above? Decide now what direction you’ll take. I usually recommend a combination of all, because the more avenues donors have to donate, the more money you’ll likely raise. In additional, the more entry points you offer at varying dollar amounts (for example, raffle tickets are typically pretty affordable), the more people will be able to participate. Obviously, how much staff and money you have will ultimately drive these decisions.

Create and schedule your donor/event participant communications  You’ll need to develop a series of communications to announce the event, continually promote it, remind those who haven’t registered, and build excitement among those who have. You can get your registrants excited by sharing catering and entertainment information, as well as items that will be up for auction. With the right software, much of your communication campaign can be automated. There’s even mobile auction software that enables your attendees to start bidding on items before the event – from anywhere on any device!

Then, of course you’ll want to use all your other communication channels – such as your organization’s homepage, event page, social media platforms, monthly newsletter, etc. – to promote your event. Industry standard suggests you start promoting your event six months out. If you start any earlier, your event could ultimately loose its luster, and you certainly don’t want that!


Manage online registration ticket sales – First, you’ll want to finalize pricing and benefits for tickets and sponsorships. Then, about six to eight weeks prior to your event, start promoting ticket sales by sending an email or even a text message to potential guests and donors alerting them that tickets are now available for purchase. Send reminders to purchasers to verify additional guest information, as well as reminders regarding the event date and other pertinent details. Lastly, you’ll want to create and finalize your table seating.

Review best practices for event check-in – Scope out the venue and determine check-in location; pre-identify staff members and volunteers and make sure they’re clear on assigned duties; have all handouts printed and ready to distribute to guests; and possibly, most important of all, pre-authorize event goers’ credit cards for a streamlined check-out.

3.     EVENT

Adhere to timeline and communication plan to staff, volunteers and donors – Establish a time for all staff and volunteers to arrive at the event (far in advance of guests). During this time review the event details, timeline, and any changes or important information.

Confirm all AV elements are working and tested – Prior to event start time, allow plenty of time to connect with your AV team and test equipment. Donation Thermometer screens, videos, and sponsor acknowledgements via PowerPoint loop can make a big impact on your event.

Stay up to date on event night totals – Having the ability to see all fundraising activity in one spot can be key to reaching your organization’s fundraising goal. You may use this information in various ways – perhaps you’re only a few hundred dollars from reaching your goal? You can promote this to guests via text message, MC, live auctioneer, etc., to assist you in reaching your goal – whether that’s asking for small donations, extra bids on auction items, or a few more raffle ticket purchases, you would be surprised how quickly guests will jump in to help you hit your goal.


Provide payment instructions to donors – You will always have some attendees who don’t get their credit cards pre-authorized, so be clear about payment instructions for auction items, raffle tickets, and whatever else was available for purchase.    

Offer an organized item redemption process to ensure a good experience for guests – Avoid the dreaded end-of-the-night line! Employ software that enables your guests to conveniently pay by phone and pick up their items without needing to open their wallet or obtain a paper receipt. On the rare occasion one of your guests doesn’t have a smartphone, offer “personal shoppers” equipped with tablets on the auction floor to ensure each donor has a streamlined experience.

5.     POST- EVENT

Thank your donors and volunteers! – The key to turning event attendees into loyal donors is the event follow-up experience. Don’t just send one thank-you communication, create a whole post-event series with impact reports and stories, as well as recommended events and donation opportunities. You can leverage marketing automation to incorporate personalized touches. More than twice as many donors say they prefer personalized content to generic, according to our 2018 Donor Study!

There’s much more where this came from! For a deeper dive into the Event Fundraising Journey, join me and my colleague Rich Dietz this Thursday for our free live webinar.