Madison Yeack


|How to Plan a Nonprofit Event 

Holding a live event is an excellent avenue for reaching your nonprofit goals. You get to raise awareness of your unique cause and it's a great opportunity to meet sponsors, potential donors, or volunteers face-to-face. But what exactly entails a successful nonprofit event? In this article, we break down the key stages of planning for you, step by step.


8 Essential Steps to Creating a Successful Nonprofit Event

1. Set A Goal 

The first thing to outline are your goals for your nonprofit event. Are you trying to raise a certain amount of funding for projects? Are you hoping to build awareness for your cause? Your goals could be large or small, but it's important to know them. Perhaps it is as simple as creating an event to thank your current donors. Or, a valuable networking opportunity for all. Whatever your goal, set it in writing, and keep it as the guiding foundation for all of the next steps.

2. Create a Budget

Take into account all your expenses, and be realistic about what this event will cost you. Professionals suggest that nonprofit galas should bring you a 60 percent profit margin. If you miscalculate expenses and end up losing money, then it's time to rethink your budgeting. Make sure to include all costs. Budget for the venue, décor, food, and drinks. Catering, entertainment, sound equipment, parking fees, or even valets. Galas and catered events can be expensive for nonprofits to pull off. Yet, with smart strategies, you can meet your budget goals as well.

3. Choose the right kind of event for your target audience

Only by defining your audience can you reach your potential market. This is a crucial step for any event planner, and especially for nonprofits' marketing. You will find that certain types of audiences don't mix in these affairs. Who is your target audience? Are they folks who would attend a gala? Is it a black-tie affair? Will they come prepared to spend money at a charity auction? Are they young people who can help your nonprofit raise more awareness? In that case, should you plan fun on-site photo booths that would be Instagrammable?

4. Find Sponsors and Donors

Think about people who would love to sponsor your nonprofit event before the day. These budgeted donations would go towards the costs of the actual event. Then, any proceeds raised on the day/night itself can go straight to your cause. A practical way to do this is by dividing your potential sponsors into four categories:

• Past sponsors: Anyone who has sponsored similar events before.

• Affinity sponsors: Individuals or companies aligned with your mission.

• Activation sponsors: Sponsors to cover extra fees generated from the event.

• Prize/auction sponsors: Raffle off these sponsor's items during the event. Example: A restaurant that sponsors dinner for two as a prize. They don't give in cash, but their in kind gifts will be valued.

5. Find an Appropriate Venue

The single most expensive aspect of your nonprofit event will likely be the venue. If you are holding a charitable gala, choose a place that is already classy and elegant. You don't want to spend more than necessary "fixing up" a space. Ensure that the venue is also accessible for disabled visitors and younger attendees. Some nonprofits who sponsor children choose to have them present. Other times, your sponsors themselves may make the gala a family affair. They bring spouses and children along. Be prepared for this; have a kid-friendly room or area set up. Budget the cost of child entertainment, caretakers, or storytellers. A unique idea or theme will make it more memorable and shareable within social media circles ("Couples Charity Gala" or "Art for Change" are themes; "Giving Money" is not a theme!).

6. Manage Tickets Sales and Donations

Organize both pre-event tickets, or at the door. Will there be different tiers of tickets available? What about several donation methods? An online platform is an easy way to take the stress off of managing ticket sales. Look for providers offering instant payment processing, online payment options, and direct deposits. Consider promos; Early-Bird, and Last-Minute sales make it easier for those with less spending power. If there is an option to donate their choice of gift, make this clear as well.

7. Targeted Promotions

Spend some time planning this essential aspect of marketing. Make sure you are covering all avenues of promotions. Create awareness of your nonprofit event. Get on social media, print out flyers, and contact your local newspaper. Link to other websites, share your event on podcasts, or guest blogs. Don't forget to promote your charity event through email newsletters. Photos of the event can be a great avenue for post-promotion. With guest permission, you can tag guests in photos. Tell them how much you appreciate their presence/contribution at your event. To raise more for your nonprofit, make event photos downloadable for a small price!

8. Say Thank You!

Always show appreciation for attendees, sponsors, donors, and event contributors. Have a comprehensive list of all who made your event possible. Thank them before, after, and during your event. When the nonprofit fundraiser is over, go back to your list. Next, send out personalized thank-you' s–never bulk mail! Give details on how the event turned out, or tidbits from behind-the-scenes. Update them on how you are now using the funding raised. This will help establish your fundraiser to generate interest next year, getting the word out for a possible annual event!

Now that you know all the necessary steps, it is time to put your plan into action. Member.buzz has everything you need to get started. Create event pages, sell tickets, and have a Space to share updates with your attendees and sponsors. You can also show off photos post-event, write articles related to your nonprofit, and create forms to get feedback from your community. Member.buzz is a simple, intuitive, and powerful platform.