Whether you’re new to organizing fundraising events or just seeking innovative ideas to deliver a successful event, fundraisers should always try to follow the preferred experience of their constituents – including donors, sponsors, and volunteers. You’ll want to create a plan, that encompasses pre-, during, and post-event activities and tasks. Read below for questions and answers you should consider when creating a fundraising event.

PRE-EVENT PLAN

As you begin the planning process, ask yourself these questions to help build a successful plan: 

Q. What are our goals for the event?

A. Before you can get into planning the event itself, you need to determine your goals, including the amount of money you want to raise for your organization. By setting goals and getting stakeholder approval, you’ll be able to successfully direct the course of your event. Here are a few ideas to help you with goal setting:

  • Review past fundraising events and campaigns to determine the average amount raised. Ideally, you’ll want to set a goal higher than your previous event goal, but be realistic based upon your donor and sponsor base.
  • Set sponsor, individual, and auction goals. For sponsors, decide the levels and quantity of sponsors per level.
  • Calculate your fundraising goal and add 20 percent more for unexpected expenses.
  • Add goals that are non-monetary, too, such as stewardship goals. Strive to meet with your donors and learn more about them in one-on-one conversations. Also, determine what you’re hoping for in their partnership and support.

By finalizing your goals upfront, you’ll help your organization stay on target during the event planning process and assess the success of your event once it’s over.

Q. What is our budget for the event?

A. Ideally, if this isn’t your first fundraising event, you’ve been keeping accurate records of your previous costs to best calculate a ratio of revenue to cost. When planning your event, it’s good practice to have a detailed budget estimate of the expenses you’ll incur. If this is your first event, then determine a budget amount based on the goals. The industry average for a budget or investment is typically 10 to 20 percent of goal. If possible, formulate a plan that predicts registrations, donations, and sponsor fees against budget scenarios. A formula will give you a predictable outcome of revenue to cost ratio and provide a foundation for which to get an approval from board members and executive staff.

Q. Who are we targeting for the event?

A. It’s crucial to segment your contact data records. If you’re not already collecting demographics (for example, age and income ranges) about your contacts, then it will be nearly impossible to segment properly. In our 2018 Donor Experience Study, it’s apparently clear that age and income impact how donors like to give. Think through and plan – what are you asking for, what type of gift, and who are you asking. Your collected data will help you segment and make the right ask, to the right people, in the right way. 

*63 percent of donors say they are more likely to give to an organization after having a positive experience at an event. (Source: 2018 Donor Experience Study)

DURING THE EVENT

Once you have your attendees at the event, how will we ensure their experience is positive and memorable? Are you clear about their preferences for communications prior to an event? Ask yourself:

Q. What experience are donors expecting from our fundraising event?

A. The best way to provide an optimal experience for donors is to use technology for enhancing the fundraising event and auction process. See table below for how donors rated their experience with each area of a fundraising event:

Fundraising Event 1

Mobile technology is great way to reach your donors pre, during, and post event! Regardless of geographic location or the timing of your event, mobile communications via text, SMS, and/or video are great touchpoints. Also, be sure to set up your donation pages, text-to-give, and mobile silent auctions and raffles in a mobile-friendly environment. It’s more efficient and accurate and helps you reach those who may not be able to attend in person.

*71 percent of donors have donated on a mobile device (Source: 2018 Donor Experience Study)

Q. What are the top reasons donors donate at events?

A. Events are likely to make donors feel more engaged with their organization, and donors report that a positive experience makes them more likely to donate. See below chart for what is important to donors to feel a positive experience.

Fundraising Event 2

Q. What are some of the best ways to amplify our fundraising event?

A. We’ve talked about the importance of Incorporating technology into your fundraising event, such as mobile bidding, or digital ticketing and check in, but it’s also important to identify opportunities to improve the connection between offline and online experiences.

In your marketing plan, be sure to take advantage of all channels to get your event message out to your audience. Your checklist should include PR, social media, email, community boards, direct mail, outbound calls, sponsor websites, and even in-store materials if appropriate. Use the least expensive channels first, then use your budget to expand the reach from there. The keys are reach and frequency of message.

POST-EVENT PLAN

After all the planning, budgeting, and promoting of your event, you’re still not done. Post-event tactics are the easiest to forget or drop, but they’re the most important part of leading a successful fundraising event. And, by making the investment of time into post-event tasks, your organization will stand out in the crowd and be rewarded. Ask yourself:

Q. How do we ensure retention and loyalty from our donors, sponsors, and volunteers?

A. Incorporate impact reports into your post-event communication. The key to turning event attendees into loyal donors is the event follow-up experience. Don’t just send one thank-you communication. Instead, 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. See the below table for follow-up preferences by age:

Fundraising Event 3

*More than twice as many donors say they prefer personalized content than say they prefer generic content. (Source: 2018 Donor Experience Study)

Q. What criteria should we use to measure the success of our event?

A. Following every event, organizers should assess monetary and non-monetary metrics. From total sales (tickets, auction purchases, etc.) to total experience, the best way to optimize future events is to take stock in the recent event. See below for a few items you can easily measure:

    • Website traffic – Seek conversion and abandon metrics. Are you meeting industry averages?
    • Donation pages – Are you asking for maximum donation amounts? There’s always the opportunity to ask for large donations online – with 32 percent of donors saying they would give a $10,000 donation online, so don’t be afraid to ask for those or encourage with your online forms.
    • Mobile auction participation – Ideally, you have a mobile friendly dashboard to track and assess the participation you had via your mobile auction. Look for number of items reviewed, time spent per user, and repeat visits.

Q. Should we conduct a post-event action plan?

A. After every event, you should bring the key team members together and discuss what worked and what didn’t. Record items per area so you can apply them to your next event. Also, I would encourage you to bring these folks in a room or comfortable place versus requesting input/feedback via email. It really puts people in a more relaxed setting and inspires them to think about things they wouldn’t typically think about without the synergy in the room. Lastly, be sure to thank everyone involved and take note of those you know will be beneficial to your organization in the future. The most passionate team members make the best advocates!