5 Simple Steps for Planning Next-Level Fundraising Events
This is a guest post from our friends at BidPal.
Let’s face it: there are probably a million so-called “surefire” ways to improve your event fundraising strategies, but at the end of the day, planning a profitable, memorable fundraising event is no piece of cake.
Fundraising events take hard work, but that doesn’t mean you should hang up the towel on your event before you even start planning!
A successful fundraising event has amazing potential to captivate supporters, promote your cause in your community, and of course, bring in essential fundraising dollars for your campaign.
While planning a great fundraising event will never be a small undertaking, there are steps you can take to streamline the process and propel your event toward success.
In this article, we’ll go through five strategies to take your event to the next level:
- Start with event fundraising software.
- Plan your event around your guests.
- Make event registration intuitive.
- Amp up your event promotions.
- Maximize mobile giving at your event.
Your show-stopping event awaits, so let’s dive in!
1. Start with event fundraising software
You wouldn’t set out to prepare a complicated dessert without a recipe, and you shouldn’t attempt to host a fundraising event without a roadmap to success, either. That’s where your event fundraising tools come into play!
The most crucial tool in your arsenal? Comprehensive event fundraising software that can streamline the planning and execution of any type of event you might desire.
Your event fundraising software offers everything you need to plan, prepare for, and pull off an incredible fundraiser. To get a glimpse of how powerful these tools can be, take a look at this sampling of features:
- Custom event websites. Using your software, you can easily customize a website to house all event information, including online registration, merchandise and/or an auction item catalogs, and of course, date, time, and location. Your software can even highlight your corporate sponsors and provide them with additional exposure.
- Guest management. View attendee data, organize seating charts, group guests based on requests and donation level, create acknowledgments, and more! You’ll be able to comprehensively track and manage important guest information through your software.
- Analyze event data. Your event fundraising software can generate custom reports to measure success based on the metrics that matter to you. Your software’s reporting features can ensure none of the data you collect at your event goes to waste!
While your software helps you put together a game plan, you can focus on pulling all the elements together to create an engaging, exciting event that can be replicated and improved upon for years to come!
2. Plan your event around your guests
No matter what innovative tricks or tech you use, an event’s success really boils down to a few simple questions:
- Did supporters want to attend your event?
- Did supporters enjoy and engage with your event?
- Did supporters deepen their involvement with your organization because of your event?
A successful event (as defined by those metrics) has nothing to do with flashy details or expensive decor, but everything to do with your donors.
So, how can you know what your donors will love before you even start planning? You guessed it: go to the data!
Using information stored in your database to get to know your donors is a worthwhile initiative that can prove invaluable in the long run, especially when it comes to events.
If you find yourself overwhelmed while sifting through pages of donor history with no direction, step back and start with these key questions that can help inform your event strategy:
- Who is your event’s target audience? Determine your target age range, income, location, and donor level to design an event that’s most appropriate. For example, an older, mid-level donor will participate in a different way than a younger, lower-income supporter, and different events will appeal to them.
- What are my donors interested in? Comb through data to see what aspect of your organization excites supporters. Do they enjoy doing hands-on volunteer work? Plan a community-service based event! Are they passionate about online advocacy and social media? Throw an event live-stream or peer-to-peer campaign into the mix!
- What are your supporters’ donation styles? There are a number of giving platforms that pair well with fundraising events. Find out which would be the best fit for your audience by analyzing past transactions.
Sort data based on the fields you’re looking for and use that intel to inform every step of your event planning, from venue selection to auction item procurement and everything in between.
Trust us: you’ll end up with an event that feels custom-fitted to your guests (because it was!).
3. Make event registration intuitive
The first interaction a donor has with your event should be a positive one.
What does that mean for your event-planning team? Make registering for an event as seamless as possible!
Those websites your event fundraising software generates will come in handy in terms of event ticketing, since your software will make it easy to create online registration forms with custom fields to help you collect the data you need from the start.
But don’t stop there. Improve your ticketing and event registration practices by implementing the following tactics:
- Create distinct ticket packages and sponsorship levels. Offer giving tiers during event registration to grant special access to your most generous supporters. You can also create packages to include additional items, like raffle tickets or merchandise.
- Manage table and seating arrangement. Allow guests to input their group information or make table or seat requests when they purchase tickets. These requests will flow directly into your event management software, so you won’t have to manually input any data later on.
- Offer discounts and incentives. You can customize your ticketing so that early RSVPs receive special discounted tickets or additional incentives, such as extra raffle tickets, free products, or early access to online auction items.
The simpler and more intuitive your registration process is, the less likely a donor is to abandon the purchasing process halfway through. That means more guests, more bids, more donations—and much more fun to be had at your event!
4. Amp up your event promotions
No matter how mind-blowing your upcoming event is, all your planning will go to waste if you’re left with an empty ballroom.
To make sure that never happens, create a dedicated event promotions strategy that your supporters can’t resist.
We know marketing can be a tricky topic, so let’s outline some straightforward do’s and don’t’s for a successful event marketing strategy:
- Don’t over-promote your event. Simply put, flooding everyone who has ever interacted with your nonprofit with a hundred emails, calls, and social posts won’t win anyone over.
- Do promote in the right ways. Use your CRM to find out donors’ preferred communication channels and tailor your marketing methods to reflect that. That way, you’ll diversify your promotions in a manageable, strategic way!
- Don’t ignore social media. Your nonprofit should have at least one active social media profile where you can update donors on your event and encourage them to interact with and share your content.
- Do time your social posts wisely. To keep donors intrigued but not overwhelmed, post updates or advertisements no more than twice a week per platform. While you might post on Twitter Monday night, you can post on Facebook Tuesday morning; that way, donors who follow you on both channels won’t feel inundated (but will be reminded).
- Don’t compete against your other marketing efforts. Your organization likely already has scheduled email blasts, social posts, and direct mailings. Check with your marketing department and integrate your message with previously planned communications.
- Do take advantage of your existing methods. If you already have email newsletters or direct mail going out, use those opportunities to insert an advertisement for your upcoming event.
No matter what you do, always spread your communications across multiple channels so you can connect with as many donors as possible. You never know who’ll be interested in your event (and invite all of their friends).
5. Maximize mobile giving at your event
Relying on ticket sales and a general donation booth is so passe! Why not kick your event up a notch by incorporating modern mobile fundraising techniques?
Whether you’re hosting a charity auction with intuitive mobile bidding tools or empowering donors to give on their smartphones via text-to-give software, adding a diverse array of on-site giving options maximizes your ability to accept gifts at your event.
Bottom line: your guests care about your nonprofit, so you should make it easy for them to show their support by making a gift—no cash, checks, or waiting in line required!
Aside from the sheer convenience, here are just a few select benefits of mobile giving software:
- Added opportunities for engagement. Not only will software give your guests more time to interact with each other and your staff, but some tools also have built-in engagement features. For example, mobile bidding software allows the nonprofit to text their guests throughout the night, keeping them updated and engaged with the auction.
- Immediate action. Your live appeal likely inspires a number of donors to spring into action, but if they have to wait in line at the donation booth or wait to get home to log onto your website, they’re likely to lose that momentum. With mobile tools, your guests can instantly make their donation and receive confirmation.
- User-friendly experience. You might think software is only for young, tech-savvy donors, but the truth is that any and all supporters can find these tools simple to understand and use. Because mobile software was designed to be user-friendly, you won’t have to worry about donors wrestling with their phones all night.
Mobile giving software is easy to get started with for the nonprofit, too. The first step is simply locating the right tool and vendor for your needs.
If you’re hosting a silent or live auction, we suggest taking a look at BidPal’s charity auction software to give you an idea of the benefits of mobile bidding (as well as other great features).
Don’t get overwhelmed at the idea of hosting an out-of-this-world fundraising event!
With these tips in mind, we’re confident you’ll be able to determine the best event for your audience and plan your fundraiser with ease.
brings over 14 years of fundraising, volunteer management, and marketing experience to his current role as the Director of Marketing for BidPal. Currently, as a member of the BidPal sales and marketing team, Josh manages all of the firm’s marketing efforts. He has a passion for helping to create positive change and loves that his current role allows him to help nonprofits engage new donors and achieve their fundraising goals.