Epic Event Planning for Nonprofit Organizations: 13 Things to Do to Prepare!
It’s a fabulous way to boost nonprofit awareness, build your nonprofit’s email list, raise donations, and so much more!
Of course, we’re talking about fundraising events for nonprofits.
But these events, no matter whether they’re virtual, in-person, or a mix of the two, are no small feat.
They do need plenty of planning and preparation in advance to make sure everything goes smoothly. Not only that, but the purpose of them is to see an ROI!
So, we’re walking you through the ultimate checklist for epic event planning for nonprofit organizations:
Why is Giving Your Team More Time for Nonprofit Event Planning So Important?
Nonprofit professionals are often stuck with “so much to do, so little time to do it,” tasks. That even applies to some of the largest fundraising days of the year.
For example, according to The Nonprofit Times, Giving Tuesday is a significant part of fundraising efforts for 59% of nonprofit leaders.
But only 28% of nonprofit leaders start planning for their fundraising events around Giving Tuesday 3 months ahead of time. On that note, 17% of professionals give themselves less than a month.
Now, we’re not saying it can’t be done! Because obviously, nonprofit professionals are showing off their superpowers by doing so with fundraising events time and time again.
But can you imagine if nonprofit professionals did give themselves more time to plan effectively? What amazing things could they do by starting a little bit earlier?
What Are the Benefits of Event Planning for Nonprofit Organizations?
When nonprofit teams give themselves more time for fundraising event planning, they can accomplish more on the day of. Here are just some of the benefits:
1. Your Nonprofit Provides a Better Guest Experience
With more planning and preparation, nonprofits can streamline their event experiences. Bottlenecks, communication mishaps, and more are then planned for! And that makes the experience, overall, much smoother.
When that happens, guests’ experiences are overwhelmingly positive! Rather than having a negative impact in their minds, they’re thinking of the organization as an incredible entity. And that leaves them wanting more.
2. Give Your Nonprofit More Time for Advertising and Marketing
When you know you’re going to have an event, and you start making preparations for it, then the first thing you can start on is advertising and marketing.
With more time to push out marketing campaigns geared toward selling event tickets, you’re more likely to increase the attendants.
Even if you put a limit on how many people you can feasibly handle at an event, your nonprofit team now has ample time to meet that goal!
3. Reduce Your Stress Levels
Event planning for nonprofit organizations inherently comes with some stress. It’s part of the game, unfortunately.
But by planning and preparing way in advance, you can cut that stress level down to a very bare minimum. You’re buying yourself more time to get everything done on your event planning checklist!
4. Focus Your Time on Making Connections at the Event
Rather than worrying about whether or not things are going off without a hitch at the event, you can plan for just about everything ahead of time.
We know there may be some things that you can’t plan for. That’s life!
But, for the most part, giving your team plenty of time to prepare means you won’t have to worry as much on the day of the event! Instead, you can focus a large portion of your time on making connections that can further support your nonprofit.
How Far in Advance Should Event Planning for Nonprofits Take?
If you know you’re going to have a fundraising event for your nonprofit a year in advance? Then it’s not a bad idea to do some preliminary planning.
For many nonprofit events, 4-6 months is a great time to dive into the event planning process! However, this often depends on the size of the event, the type of event, and the size of your team.
If the event is going to be a major fundraising gala, and you only have a team of 2 working on it? You may need to give yourself more than 4-6 months.
How to Plan a Fundraising Event: The Checklist You Need!
We’re breaking down everything you (more than likely) need to do for your upcoming nonprofit fundraising event.
As Early As Possible:
This is the foundation of your nonprofit fundraising event planning. So you’ll want to get the basics set in stone here.
Give yourself as much time as possible. For some that may be a year, for others, you may only have one or two months.
Either way, these core items should be checked off your list:
1. What’s the Event Goal?
What is the one main purpose of this nonprofit event? Get as specific as possible. Yes, you might be raising funds, but where are those funds going? And how much are you aiming to raise?
You can use both of those goals as messaging within your nonprofit fundraising marketing. That will help people get excited about your event, too!
Once you have your main goal, you can list out some secondary goals. Don’t overwhelm yourself, though! Make sure you think of these as “icing on the cake.” Are you looking to connect with new corporate sponsors or partners? Are you hoping to raise brand awareness among new supporters?
Name your goals so you can always refer back to them throughout the nonprofit event planning process.
2. What Will the Event Type Be?
With an event goal established, you have a better understanding of what type of event will work best to meet those goals. Will this be an in-person fundraising event? A gala? A 5K? Will it be a virtual fundraising event with breakout sessions with experts or leaders in your cause? Could it be a hybrid of the two with a virtual auction?
3. Determine Your Budget –
Before you can do anything else, you need to have your event budget set. Almost every other decision rides on the back of having your budget created.
4. Select Your Event Date –
this far out in advance, you have more freedom to select the best date possible. But establishing it early on is crucial, since you’ll need it for further planning.
5. Find the Event Location –
Will you rent a venue? Is it going to be at a local park? Does your nonprofit space have enough room?
You can also reach out to local businesses or office spaces and see if they’d be willing to sponsor your venue.
6. Prepare Your Nonprofit Event Planning Team –
Who do you need to recruit to help you make sure everything gets done in time? Select your event planning team so you can delegate accordingly.
Try to Have These Done 2-3 Months Ahead of Time:
Early on in the planning process, you’re laying the foundation for the upcoming event. But 2-3 months ahead of the scheduled date, the magic starts taking place. This is the meat and potatoes of your nonprofit event planning process.
7. Plan Out What Will Happen During the Event
Will you have live entertainment? Are you going to have a live or virtual auction? Having these details set makes sure you can determine what tools, equipment, and technology you need to book.
If you are having an auction, then ZGive’s Digital Auction Platform is an excellent tool to have in your repertoire!
You can watch a free training to get a better look at this platform here at Nonprofit Library!
Watch the FREE Training on ZGIVE’s Digital Auction Platform!
8. Book Vendors, Entertainment, and Rentals
Depending on the type of event you’re planning, you may need to book vendors and entertainment. It’s best to do this early on to make sure you have them on hand before they’re booked for other events.
Think of whether or not you need music or a DJ, a caterer, a photographer, or someone who can provide tables and chairs.
9. Start Marketing Your Nonprofit Event
A few months ahead of the scheduled event is a great time to start getting the word out. Create your online donation page for the fundraiser to bring in ticket sales. You might also consider running social media ads to let your ideal supporters know about the upcoming event!
10. Organize Details Based On What You Have Planned:
Will you serve alcohol or food at the event? If so, do you need to have special licenses or permits? Go ahead and get those squared away!
If you’re planning on doing an auction, it’s a great time to start reaching out to corporate sponsors to see if they’d be willing to donate items or packages.
Do you need volunteers to help run the event itself? Get the word out through your volunteer management software to make sure the available shifts are covered!
After the Event:
Although you’ll have the opportunity to sit down and (finally) take a deep breath, the work isn’t quite finished.
Here’s what you need to do after all of your guests leave!
11. Thank Your Attendees and Ask for Feedback
Once the nonprofit fundraising event is completed, there are still a few things you may want to plan for!
To make sure everyone continues to have a great working relationship, you may want to prepare thank you notes to be sent to volunteers and any sponsors you’ve had!
It may also be helpful to get some feedback from your supporters! Quality feedback from those who attended your event means you can create an even better event next time. Try sending out nonprofit surveys to attendees within a week of the event.
Event planning for nonprofit organizations is quite the task! But when you can plan appropriately, you’re sure to have a much smoother experience!
12. Update Your Donor Database and Check In with New Supporters
Hopefully, your nonprofit will have hosted new supporters at the event along with your existing ones. This is the time to make sure your donor database is updated. If everything has been set up correctly, then your DRM should have populated new profile contacts for you. But it’s never a bad idea to double check to make sure everything is good to go!
This is also the time to check in with your new supporters. The first week or so is a crucial point where you can make a lasting impression with them. Send out a separate thank your and/or a welcome email as they’re now part of your community.
13. Review Nonprofit Event Analytics
Remember in the very early stages of planning, you wrote down your nonprofit’s goals for the event? Now’s the time to whip those goals back out!
After it’s all said and done, you’ll want to review event analytics using your event fundraising platform (more on that in a minute). See how your event stacked against the goals you set!
This is an exciting part because no matter what happened, whether the event met the goals or not, this is always a learning experience. You can use these analytics to better understand what worked well for the event and what can be improved.
How Can You Make Your Nonprofit Fundraising Event Better Than Ever?
No matter what type of fundraising event you choose to host, whether it’s in-person or virtual, having the right tools and technology can make the event better than ever.
And a memorable event for your supporters means increased loyalty to your organization!
So here are some of the top fundraising tools we recommend having for your upcoming nonprofit event:
1. Event Landing Page
Before the event takes place, you’ll want a little corner of the internet where supporters can get more information.
That’s your event landing page! Many fantastic event fundraising platforms offer the ability to create a customized landing page based on your nonprofit and the individual event.
But you can even create a landing page using Canva’s “Canva Site” tool if you’re just looking to share information!
2. Ticketing and Event Registration
While many people will also contribute once they’re inside the event, you may not want to count on those contributions as the sole way your event raises money for your mission. Adding a “buy-in” cost by requiring a purchased ticket is another way to raise funds through the event.
Most event landing pages don’t have ticketing and registration capabilities built in. But there are plenty of event fundraising platforms that offer the feature!
3. Digital Auction Platform
If you’re looking for ways to keep your donors engaged, then we highly recommend hosting an auction or a silent auction. It’s an awesome way to excite your guests with incredible goods and services from those in your community that have chosen to donate. Plus, the proceeds go directly to your organization.
All in all, it’s a triple-whammy! Your attendees walk away with something, businesses in the community have another source of marketing, and your nonprofit generates funds.
A digital auction platform can streamline the activity for both in-person attendees and those participating online (if you choose to host a hybrid fundraising event).
And if you’re thinking a virtual event with a digital auction is the way to go, then check out our free webinar on ZGIVE’s digital auction platform!
Watch the FREE Webinar on ZGIVE’S Digital Auction Platform!
4. QR Codes to Accept Donations Quickly and Easily
The great thing about nonprofit events is how much your organization can raise within a single night! But, you need to give your attendees the ability to do so.
Rather than hoping they have your nonprofit’s website pulled up all night, have QR codes placed around the event. Use a fundraising tool that allows you to create a QR code for your event.
Then, print several copies of the code. Frame them according to your nonprofit event’s color scheme and place the frames around the event. We recommend having them on each table, at the auction table, and even where you’re serving food and drinks.
The idea is to not make your attendees look too hard for it. Remind them of why they’re here, and make it as easy as possible for them to support the cause!
5. Event Analytics
After the night is over, you’ll want to see how your nonprofit’s event stood against the goals you set!
Early on in the planning process (as early as possible!), find a fundraising platform that offers event analytics and reports so you know exactly what worked and what didn’t for your organization.
6. Auto Email Responders for New and Existing Supporters
You still want to keep the lasting impression going, even if the event was a smashing success! That’s why it’s so important to promptly send thank you emails to all supporters and welcome emails to new ones.
But depending on the size of your nonprofit event, it might take too long to have the same effect if you send each one out manually.
The right event fundraising software will allow you to draft an automatic email response that thanks your attendees within the platform. Then, you can schedule it to go out as soon as immediately after the event is over! By the time your supporters make it to their cabs or cars, they’ll have a thank you email in their inbox.
Event planning for nonprofit organizations is quite the task! But when you can plan appropriately, you’re sure to have a much smoother experience!
And a nonprofit event fundraising platform can help make the process more streamlined and enjoyable. So, if you’re on the hunt for one, then we recommend trying out Trellis! It’s an all-in-one platform that includes the majority of the fundraising tools we listed.
You can snag your seat in the free training of this nonprofit event planning tool!