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A Mini Guide to Planning Showstopping Nonprofit Events

Which would be a more memorable experience: receiving an email from a local nonprofit thanking you for your support, or going to a big thank-you celebration? Events have an incomparable advantage in reaching people. The memory of an enjoyable event can stay with someone forever and impact their perception of your organization and cause.

Both long-time supporters and newcomers to your cause might enjoy nonprofit events. You’ll want to wow your donors; use events to build relationships with them, encourage donations, and properly honor contributions. As an added bonus, nonprofit events can create a sense of community among your supporters. You’re all on the same team!

For an event to meet all of these goals, it must be thoroughly planned. You’ll need to give yourself plenty of time to check every detail, test donation systems, and plan for follow-ups. The to-do list is long but the benefits are essential. So where do you start with such a high-stakes event? We’ll look at three ways for you to promote, perfect, and prepare for your nonprofit’s big event:

  • Set up an event planning committee.

  • Market your event to your community.

  • Think beyond event day—plan your follow-up activities early.

Comprehensive planning sets up any event for success. The tips in this guide will help you ensure that you don’t miss anything, no matter the size or scope of your event.

Set up an event planning committee,

An event planning committee is a team of individuals with designated responsibilities to help you plan and execute your event successfully. Delegating tasks to individuals on this committee can help organize event details, and ensure that no task is forgotten.

By determining a budget and timeline for your event, the committee can narrow down the details so that you can focus on your day-to-day operations or high-impact decisions, such as choosing a new fundraising platform or event tool to invest in. This team can also identify a target audience and set goals accordingly so that your event reaches its maximum potential.

Your team might consist of the following roles:

  • Committee Chair: The committee chair oversees the committee and coordinates with the nonprofit leaders, ensuring that the committee sticks to the event budget and goals.

  • Event Designer: This individual is responsible for the details of the event, such as the venue, catering, entertainment, decor, and liquor or games-of-chance licenses.

  • Sponsorship Coordinator: The sponsorship coordinator builds relationships with businesses that could sponsor the event, arranges for sponsorships, and ensures that sponsors get the promised benefits from the arrangement. They could also be in charge of ensuring that match-eligible donations received during the event are effectively screened and followed up on.

  • Volunteer Coordinator: This individual helps recruit, train, and manage event volunteers on the day of the event.

  • Communications Manager: The communications manager will lead the promotional activities for the event, inviting supporters to attend, and letting the media know, if necessary.

  • Auction Item Procurement Team: If your event will include some sort of auction, you’ll need an individual or a team of people to work on procuring auction items.

These roles will work together to fine-tune each detail in the event-planning process, from planning to executing, reaching your objectives in the process. They might incorporate digital tools to make the event and activities easily accessible by supporters, especially when planning a virtual event. Check out CharityBids’ Virtual Charity Events Guide for more ideas on designing a tech-savvy experience.

Market your event to your community.

In identifying an audience, your supporters should be your top consideration. After all, a nonprofit event can only be successful if the organization's supporters actually attend it! However, supporters will only be able to attend if the nonprofit has effectively promoted the event well ahead of time.

To do this, promote your event in these phases:

  • Several months before the event: Send out a “save-the-date” message so that supporters know to block out their calendars for your event.

  • The last couple of months and weeks before the event: Lean into promotion of all forms—use direct mail, social media, printed materials, email, radio, and more in a multichannel strategy. Encourage people to register beforehand if needed, and send out an all-call for volunteers.

  • A day or two before the event: Send out final reminders about your event, letting your supporters know that you’re looking forward to them joining you on the big day.

  • The day of: Continue communicating with your attendees on the day of. For example, give them the chance to opt into text message alerts about your auction. Or, live-tweet your event and encourage others to share their experiences on social media using designated hashtags.

Evaluate your communication channels, and use the ones that will best reach your donors. Then, take a multichannel marketing approach by spreading your efforts across multiple channels to reach a wider audience. For example, if you know your supporters interact with you the most on Instagram, you should focus most of your promotional efforts there. Meanwhile, you might also curate content for Facebook, and send out emails to ensure your target supporters will see your event.

Think beyond event day—plan your follow-up activities early.

The days and weeks following a nonprofit event are critical for strengthening relationships with your supporters. Following up is definitely a time-sensitive task, but the good news is that you can plan for this ahead of time! Consider these follow-up activities:

  • Thanking attendees, donors, sponsors, and volunteers

  • Directing new supporters to your nonprofit’s donation page, volunteer program, and educational resources

  • Encouraging supporters to get involved with your nonprofit in new ways, like volunteering

Decide which activity or combination of activities will empower you to thank and recognize your supporters, and prepare this before the event. Kwala suggests numerous donor gifts that you might choose to show your appreciation. You could also put together a newsletter with appropriate resources for your new supporters. This can ensure that the follow-up process happens in a timely manner and, most importantly, shows your appreciation for each contributor.

Your supporters aren’t the only ones that need a follow-up. Reflecting on the event experience internally is also important! Take time to evaluate your event committee’s work, the efficiency of the event, and the overall success. Did you meet your goals? How successful was your event? Which insights have you gained that can help you improve future events?

To create a showstopping experience, you must plan accordingly. These events will promote and raise funds for your cause, strengthen your relationships with your supporters, and allow you to reflect on your organization’s goals.

If the details are overwhelming, consider hiring an expert to handle event production. A company that specializes in nonprofit event production can help take care of the moving parts for you, allowing you the time to better build relationships with your supporters and reach your fundraising goals. Want to learn how HelloFund can help with your next Nonprofit Event?


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