How to Plan a Fundraising Event or Activity

Events and activities are an essential and often lucrative part of fundraising for a majority of organisations. As with all fundraising, organising and carrying out fundraising events and activities should be planned strategically. This article outlines some of the key steps to take in planning and carrying out fundraising events and activities.

Why do them?

We can name at least four good reasons for doing fundraising events and activities.

  • Unrestricted Income: The income events and activities can generate often contributes to core work and running costs which cannot be obtained from elsewhere. Most income from events and activities can be used at the discretion of the cause for which it is raised unlike the income from grant-makers, which is usually earmarked for specific purposes.
  • Promoting Awareness: Events and activities are also a way of promoting awareness of the causes and services of the organisations involved. They are also a way of recruiting volunteers, supporters and long-term donors.
  • Developing Staff and Volunteers: Events and activities can also develop the potential of volunteers and staff by providing them with new and exciting challenges.
  • Involving donors: Inviting existing donors to help organise or to simply attend fundraisers is a good way of keeping them involved in your organisation.

The principle reason however for doing a fundraising event or activity must be the amount of funds raised, versus cost and effort, otherwise it is not a fundraising event. The purpose must be underlined to ensure that the primary aim of the event or activity – raising funds –  is not lost.

What for?

As with all fundraising you need to be clear from the beginning what you are fundraising for. You need to communicate and champion the cause.

For example Action Cancer states the following, "You can help us save lives now and into the future. Your donation can help us fund awareness campaigns which promote early detection of cancers which, if caught early can be treated successfully. Your donation can also help us fund world class cancer research at Northern Ireland universities - in recent years Action Cancer researchers have made significant advances in understanding how cancer spreads through the body."

From this statement you can also see that Action Cancer is up front about what the money will be used for and what are the expected outcomes.

How much?

You should set a fundraising target for your event or activity. This target may be the actual cost of completing a project or projects, or it may be an aspirational figure you can aim for. But the target must be both realistically achievable and specific, for example, €350,000 for a new building, €10,000 to meet your annual operating costs or €250 for musical instruments for a local youth group.

It’s often a good idea to create some sort of ‘thermometer’ image to both set your goal and track your progress.

What to do?

Carefully select the event/activity. You may wish to have an event related to the cause you are fundraising for, e.g. a sponsored fast to raise money for Third World famine relief, or a local fête for your community organisation. There need not be any relation between the event/activity and the cause, but be sure there is no perceived ethical conflict between the two.

Something you will need to consider in choosing your event is the number of people you will reach and the amount they will be prepared to give. So, for example, if you have to raise €5,000 and choose:

  • Holding a Raffle - you will have to sell over 5,000 tickets at €1 each to reach your target (+ low expenses).
  • Street Collection - you will have to reach over 25,000 if all give 20 cents each (+ medium expenses).
  • Celebrity Dinner - you will have to sell over 50 tables at €100 (+ high expenses).

Calculating the Yield

The following calculation can help you decide what is the best method to choose:

Expected Number of Donors x Expected Average Donation = Expected Target Amount (d x a = t).

(See the A to Z of Ideas at the end of this leaflet for ideas for fundraising events and activities.)

What to do will also depend upon the resources, volunteers and expertise available to you. Where you don't possess the wherewithal to make certain things happen it may be possible to recruit volunteers, hire resources or pay professionals to undertake certain activities for you.

How to do it?

As with all planning it is important to set objectives for your fundraising events and activities.

The common benchmark for these objectives is that they should be SMARTER: S - Specific, M - Measurable, A - Achievable, R - Realistic, T - Timebound, E - Evaluated, R - Reviewed

When?

The success of your event/activity depends upon its timing, so choose the date and time very carefully.

This will depend upon various factors including

  • The time of year (especially for seasonal events).
  • What other events, activities, collections are happening around the same time (are you trying to fundraise at the same time as Children in Need or Comic Relief?).
  • When did you last hold fundraising events/activities with the same potential donors?
  • When can you organise volunteers, venues, donors and public relations? Always promote the event well in advance, and try to establish it as a regular event to build momentum. It sometimes takes years for an event to become well-established as a substantial aspect of your annual fund.

Fundraising Calendar

It may help to use a wall planner to set out your fundraising calendar, planning your events and activities and keeping a tally against your fundraising target on a month by month basis, until your final deadline or the target is achieved.

Where?

Research and select the appropriate venue. The venue for your event/activity is crucial to its success. In selecting the venue consider the following:

  • Can you get it for free or at a reduced rate? (Do any of your current donors have access to a suitable venue?)
  • Is it accessible?
  • How many people can the venue accommodate? Will it be too big or too small?
  • Will people be able to find it?
  • Is there sufficient car parking?
  • Does it have all appropriate licenses?
  • Is it safe?

Keep records

It is important to keep accurate records for all your fundraising activities in order to:

  • maintain public confidence
  • comply with legal requirements
  • safeguard volunteers and staff
  • prudently manage and monitor your fundraising methods
  • prevent fraud
  • follow good fundraising practice (visit www.wheel.ie for up-to-date information on best practice).
  • report back to donors.

Keep it legal

Public Liability Insurance: Make sure the event is legal and covered by adequate public liability insurance. Activities outside the normal activities of an organisation normally require additional insurance coverage.

Special Activities Legislation: There are legal requirements for collections and raffles, ballots, lotteries or tombolas. It is important that your organisation comply with this legislation. For instance, if you provide entertainment that is a direct attraction of the event, you will need to be at a venue which has an entertainment license.

Use the Media

To maximise the attendance and support for your event/activity, make proper use of PR opportunities locally, regionally and nationally, as appropriate. Consider the main media channels of television, radio and the press.

Who does it?

Involve other people. Fundraising can be a very labour-intensive activity, requiring a diverse range of skills and knowledge. It is unlikely that one person will be able to undertake all the work required. In a strategic approach to fundraising the workload will need to be shared out amongst volunteers, staff and outside agencies as necessary and where available.

We recommend you form a Fundraising Committee. Depending or the number of volunteers and/or staff you have some members may act in dual or many roles:

  • Events Co-ordinator
  • Health and Safety Officer
  • PR Officer
  • Sponsorship Officer
  • Finance Officer
  • Volunteer Co-ordinator

Volunteers

The use of volunteers greatly improves the scope of fundraising activity. A well informed, resourced and supported team of volunteers can greatly multiply the income streams. This is simply exemplified in the use of sponsor forms:

  • The target for each sponsor form is €50
  • There are 20 volunteers. If each volunteer aims to recruit four other volunteers that makes a total of 100 volunteers
  • Sponsorship target = 100 x €50 = €5,000.

The use of volunteers comes into its own for activities such as street collections, as these are made much more profitable with experienced and motivated volunteers.

Partner Organisations

You may consider developing partnerships with other organisations that can bring something extra to your event/activity. This may be expertise or resources that are not available to you, for example:

A choral society could partner with a community centre to hold a musical fundraiser.
The choral society puts on the show while the community centre provides the venue free of charge. Income generated by the event is then divided by prior agreement.

Using a range of organisations for festivals and fêtes can attract a greater number of people and volunteers to enable an event that one organisation on its own could simply not manage.

Professionals

You might consider the use of private businesses to manage your fundraising events/activities for you. A range of profit-making companies offer specialities in different areas such as event management, street collections, overseas expeditions and direct dialogue. They will require payment for their work, but they can bring knowledge and experience that your organisation may not possess.

General Tips

  • Always, always try to get in-kind donations for your events and activities so that your expenses are as low as possible. Remember that fundraising is not all about income generation but also about expenditure reduction.
  • Approach businesses for in-kind donations of products, venues or staff expertise.
  • Ask local papers, radio and television for free publicity. Ask printers to sponsor promotional posters, leaflets and brochures.
  • Enlist as many volunteers as possible, but only as many as you can properly train, support and have confidence in.
  • Take every opportunity to maximise the fundraising potential of your events activities by combining activities, such as holding raffles at your charity concert and charging stall holders a site fee at community festivals.
  • Provide a fundraising pack to people who participate in your event/activity to encourage tax-efficient methods of giving and long-term commitment.
  • Anticipate what might go wrong, and have a plan B for when the unexpected happens.

Can you get funding to help with fundraising costs?

Generally speaking, the answer is no. Occasionally it is possible to get funding from grant-makers for developing fundraising strategies or training for committee members, but fundraising is normally on every funder's list of exclusions.