Non profit event management: The ultimate guide for success

Rosterfy has pulled together a 9 step guide outlining the key steps you need to take in order to plan a successful fundraising event for your non profit.

Events are a great way for non profits to raise vital funds. On top of being a great fundraising activity, events can also help non profits get out there and share the important work they do within the community. Some other major benefits of planning a non profit event are:

  • Acquire donors 
  • Increase awareness
  • Create partnerships with sponsors and suppliers
  • Increase your volunteer database
  • Receive media coverage
  • Publicly thank your sponsors, staff, volunteers and other stakeholders

While it may seem like a lot of fun, non profit event management is also a highly stressful and overwhelming task. In fact, no profit event planning is consistently ranked as one of the most stressful jobs in the world! So before you jump in, it’s important to have a plan in place, and a team of passionate volunteers to lend a hand.

This 9 step guide outlines the key steps you need to take in order to plan a successful fundraising event for your non profit.

How do you plan a non profit event? 9 steps for success 

Step 1: Set goals

Before doing anything else, define your goal for the event. While it's most likely a fundraising event, there may be other goals you want to achieve.

Perhaps you want to grow your donor network? Recruit more volunteers? Launch a new program, venue or service? Get press coverage? Engage the community?

Whatever your goals, as the appointed non profit event coordinator, it’s your job to define them clearly, then make sure everyone knows what they are working towards.

Step 2: Set a budget

How much money do you want to raise? The answer to this question will determine what type of event you run. If you have lofty fundraising goals, you may be looking at running a lavish event such as a gala dinner or concert that can command a high ticket price. While smaller fundraising goals may only require simple events such as guest speaker evenings or a raffle. 

At the same time, you need to work out your internal budget for the event. How much money do you have available to spend, how much do you expect you could get donated, and do you have any sponsors that may be willing to help cover any costs? Always err on the conservative side during these initial estimations, so you don’t have to cancel the event if you are unable to collect as many donations as hoped.

Once you have established your goals, it’s time to start planning.

Step 3: Select a non profit event

Now for the fun part: what type of event will you run?

Start brainstorming potential events that enable you to achieve your overall goals and fundraising goals from step 1 and 2. Remember the old adage, no idea is a bad idea? Well, that also applies here. In the initial round of brainstorming, simply jot down any idea that pops into your mind.

After that, sort through the ideas and eliminate any that don’t fit into your goals from step 1 and 2. Also throw out any ideas that seem unachievable within your timeframe.

Some popular non profit event ideas to get you started are: 

  • A virtual event
  • Gala dinner
  • Silent auction
  • Raffle
  • Mass participation events such as a fun run or bike ride
  • Quiz night
  • Guest speaker
  • Bake sale
  • Music Festival - take a look at our guide to planning a music festival 

Step 4: Recruit your volunteer team

Regardless of the type of non profit event you are planning, you’re going to need a dedicated and passionate organising committee to help everything run smoothly and ensure a successful event. Reach out to your volunteer network, donors and contacts to recruit a team of helpers. 

Don’t know where to start? Why not check out our guide to implementing a successful volunteer recruitment plan

Use a volunteer management tool to identify skill sets and relevant experience so you can get the most out of your volunteer team. Everyone possesses unique skills and may just have a fabulous DJ or an IT wiz within your volunteer network that will be happy to offer their skills for the event. ​​Download our free Volunteer Orientation checklist to ensure that you and your volunteers get the most out of your volunteer management program!

Once you have a team, split the group into subcommittees that will be responsible for certain tasks of the event such as sourcing prizes, marketing and advertising, catering, and entertainment. Make sure to fill each subcommittee with a mix of loyal helpers and new recruits will keep motivation high and share knowledge.

Step 5: Review past event feedback

Take the time to look back on your past non profit event surveys to gain valuable insights into what worked and what didn’t. If you held a silent auction, which types of prizes sold best? If you organised a mass participation event, who were the participants? Perhaps the speeches were too long, the event started too early, or the venue wasn't close to public transport. Whatever the feedback from previous events, take it all on board so you can fix what didn’t work and deliver an even better event this time round.

Step 6: Create a fundraising event planning checklist

With your event team, your goals, your learnings and your budget locked in, now you can start locking in all the other major elements that go into making a great event. With so many elements to consider, you may be wondering how to ensure nothing gets missed. This is where a fundraising event checklist comes in handy.

Your fundraising event planning checklist should include:

  • Date
  • Venue
  • Theme
  • Decor
  • Prizes
  • Fundraising
  • Host or MC
  • Activities
  • Music
  • Catering
  • Ticketing
  • Security
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Itinerary
  • Security 
  • COVID-19 protocols

Detailed checklists and actionable tasks divided into each subcommittee will help get everything finalised in time for the big day. It’s also a good idea to set up regular weekly committee meetings where everyone can share progress.

Step 7: Promote your event

Promoting your event well is critical to success. For best results, identify your target audience and aim promotional content at them. One of the most effective ways to promote your event is through your existing network of supporters and donors. Invite these guests to the event, while also encouraging them to share the details with their wider network.

At the same time, encourage your event management team to share the event with their networks on social media or take flyers or posters to various venues within the community. Well-crafted social media posts and a well-placed blog post will be influential in spreading the word. You might even be able to get coverage in the local media by sending out media releases or inviting them to interview you and share more about the cause. 

If you are struggling to sell tickets, don’t be afraid to follow up once, twice or even three times to turn those Maybes into Yes’s.

Step 8: The big day

Event day has finally come! There will still be lots of moving parts that you will need to keep a close eye on to ensure all your non profit event planning pays off.

Hold a briefing with the entire team before the event gets underway and share as much information as possible to ensure everyone feels confident in their role. Encourage everyone to use this opportunity to ask questions, share information, or double check key details such as times and roles.

Once the event gets underway, you’ll need a way to keep the lines of communication open with the event team. Two-way radios are great, or set up a group message chat on WhatsApp - just remember to keep those phones charged!

Step 9: The wrap up

Once the crowd leaves and the dust settles, make sure you take the time to celebrate your success. Running a non profit event is a huge undertaking, and the entire team deserves a big pat on the back.

It’s important to remember to follow-up with your guests shortly after the event with a quick thank-you email. Remember to share the amount of funds raised during the event (and thank them for donating), links to photos or videos from the event and a survey asking for feedback.

Don’t forget to thank your volunteers too. A little reward and recognition goes a long way when it comes to volunteer retention. Check out these 30 volunteer appreciation ideas that you could try.

It’s also a good idea to sit down with the event team and discuss what worked, what didn’t and what could be improved upon for future events, tracking the progress of your volunteer and workforce program. This information will be invaluable when it comes time to plan your next event.  While there are a number of retrospective frameworks available, the ‘I like, I wish, what if’ structure keeps it simple with just three prompts: What did you like? What did you wish for? What if we tried…?

And last but not least, did you achieve your goals? Were you able to meet your fundraising target and your other goals for the event? If you did, make sure you shout it from the rooftops - social media, email, newsletters and media stories. It’s a big achievement, and those funds will help your non profit create even more impact.

Ready for non profit event planning?

This guide outlines the nine key steps that event managers need to consider in non profit event planning. Of course, there will be hundreds of additional little things to think about along the way. But by having a solid non profit event planning template and a non profit event planning checklist to follow, plus a dedicated event team in place, you will be able to handle anything that crops up along the way.

Non profit events are a fantastic way to raise vital funds, connect with donors and supporters and recruit with passionate volunteers. Using a volunteer management system will help you streamline the volunteer recruitment and onboarding process, freeing up valuable time to focus on more important tasks.

Rosterfy’s purpose built volunteer management software has helped hundreds of non profit event planners run successful events backed by volunteer teams of thousands.

“Rosterfy has changed the face of how we run Daffodil Day,” said Cancer Council Victoria’s national campaigns manager Jacinta Webster. “It enables us to manage the volunteers en-mass in a way that keeps them engaged and keeps them feeling loved.”

Get in touch with us to book a demo to see how Rosterfy can help your non profit organization with scheduling volunteers, recruiting volunteers with certain skills, training, communication, check in and check out and reporting. 

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