A 6 point checklist for running phenomenal fundraising events

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A 6 point checklist for running phenomenal fundraising events

A 6 point checklist for running phenomenal fundraising events

Want to run a great fundraising event? Tom Dixon, chair of the IoF’s Event Fundraising Conference, shares his all time top tips for planning and delivering a successful event.


Events bring so much more to an organisation over and above money, but they are riskier than some fundraising streams and take a great deal of planning and preparation. That being said, it is THE way to engage people with your organisation/cause and can give you so much more.

Organising a fundraising event requires a combination of disciplines – innovation, project management, marketing, supporter journeys, logistical arrangements and corporate sponsorship negotiations, among others.

The following should help you to plan and run your fundraising event and look at how this income stream can benefit your organisation as a whole.


Put together your team

Having the right people in the right job is crucial. The best events people tend to be enthusiastic, bubbly and outgoing, and will put their hands up to do almost anything. They are willing to put in the long hours and hard graft on event days, but also to do the groundwork of research, audience analysis and planning that is required.


Decide what you want to achieve

This is a key question in deciding the type of event you will be putting on. If you want purely to make money, you will look at events with great ‘cost:income’ ratios, like community events. If it’s to network with major donor prospects, you may want to host a special event with a fundraising and cultivation element. If you want to make a splash in the press and get some great brand awareness while raising money, you could put on a running event.

Whatever you want to achieve, you will still need to follow a similar process.


Plan and research

Once you’ve identified what type of event you will be putting on, you'll need to do some thorough research.

  • Look at the audience you want to attract: ages, gender, geography, how you will reach them, what they like to do. Put together your marketing plan. 
  • Do some competitor research: what are other charities doing? What similar things are there in the marketplace from professional events companies? 
  • Crunch the numbers: is it just about ROI, or can you let this suffer a bit in order to meet other objectives? Can you use external agencies, or can you do it all in-house? 
  • Do your project plan: put a Gantt chart together to highlight what needs to be done and when, and who will do what. 
  • Consider your networks: who would be useful to you when staging the event? Put the feelers out and don’t be afraid to ask – especially for free stuff! For example, what corporates can you engage for gifts in kind or sponsorship?


Market your event

This is the most crucial phase of your entire campaign. Get this wrong, and there will be no one at your event. Use your unique selling point as much as you can, whether this is your cause, the type of event you’re putting on, or an innovative twist that you can sell.

You will need to time things carefully, taking into account what's happening in the external world. For example, if you’re selling running event places, tie this in when the buzz around running is high – for example, when the London Marathon is on TV.


Plan your supporter journeys

Once people are signed up to your event, you want to achieve two key things:

  • Give them an amazing experience so they come back again and sell the event for you by word of mouth 
  • Raise as much money as possible 

Consider how you will communicate (email, phone, text etc) and how often. Ask yourself what you can do to give them a nice surprise, delight them, and keep them motivated and enthused throughout their journey – for example, by offering prizes or incentives. Don’t forget the post-event experience! This is key to bringing them back and giving them a lasting experience.


Give people a great day

'On the day' is what it’s all about. People expect a great experience, and will be looking for you to deliver. Look at the Sheffield Half Marathon recently: they had to cancel minutes from the start due to health and safety concerns. No one will do that event again. You need contingency plans, risk assessments and above all, help – so get staff from other teams involved, or volunteers.


Tom Dixon is chair of the Institute of Fundraising’s Event Fundraising Conference, taking place on Monday 19 May. Join as an IoF member when you book and benefit from discounted first year membership and conference attendance at member rate.

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