Planning An Event for your Nonprofit

Posted on
8 Jul 2019
by Jayne Tennyson

Over the past few years, I have been lucky enough to run hundreds of events with The Wheel. We have ran large national awards, smaller local community fairs and everything in between. Running a successful event is not rocket science but there are a few important factors to check off to ensure your event runs as smooth as possible. 

Event Management

When you are starting to plan your event there are a few important questions to answer. Firstly, What does success look like for you? Is your goal to have a full room, empty dinner plates, or a standing ovation?

Second, Why are you hosting this event? Do you want to educate, inspire, inform, connect or motivate those attending?

The answers to these questions will inform the type of event you want to host. When planning the event, put yourself in the shoes of those attending. If you create an event that you would want to attend your on the right track.


Finding the right venue is not as easy as you would think. For us, it is important that all the venues we use are fully accessible. Community centres, family resource centres and meeting spaces in other charity venues are somethings overlooked but they offer a relaxed and charming space, plus there is a wider value in supporting these community spaces. Most venues will be happy to show you around before you book the space. Bring your checklist which you and ask about things like seating, accessibility, catering, parking, public transport links, PA systems, air-con/heating, projector, podium, lighting, loop sound systems and Wi-Fi. Check if there is a room hire charge for the space or will it just be the cost of catering? Don’t be afraid to ask about a charity rate!


Maybe its Irish hospitality but I always think it's nice to offer tea and coffee at each event. It also gives those who arrive early an opportunity to network. Relationships can be built over that first tea and coffee.

Depending on the time of day your catering needs will change. Always ask your guests if have any dietary requirement. Check if your caterer can offer gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and vegetarian options. Don’t forget to have water available for your speakers. Avoid using single-use plastics. Ask your caterers to use reusables, ceramic cups, plates and reusable cutlery. 


If you are booking a photographer or videographer for your event, don’t forget to let those attending know about it. You should give people the option not to be photographed.

Social media and Promotion

Before the event takes place you should be sharing it on social media and via your promotion channels. Don’t forget to add a call to action in your posts, “Book Now” or “Secure your place now”.

You can start using your event hashtag at this point to start building a conversation around the event. Search the hashtag you are thinking of using as there might be another event that has used it before. Be consistent with your hashtag and encourage those attending to use it.

Event technology

Don’t shy away from new event technology. There are plenty of ways to integrate new technology and event management. Tools like Eventbrite offer easy to use booking platform for guests.

Slido is a cool audience interaction tool for meetings, events and conferences. Your guest can log into the Slido platform and answer live polls, vote on questions or create a word cloud.

Surveys tools are an effective way to gather feedback after the event.

If you decide to incorporate unfamiliar technology into your event, make sure you have someone on staff who understands the new technology inside and out. Put this person in charge of troubleshooting issues during the event.


It's important to remind those attending about the event. We send a reminder the week before the event and a second reminder the day before the event.  In the reminder provide details such as registration time, start and end times, agenda, dress code, venue details, directions and ticket information.

During the event

During big events its all hands on deck. Often staff or volunteers who are new to the event are roped in to help on the night. Brief everyone who will be working at your event. Assign specific roles to individuals and create a detailed running order. The staff should be able to look to the running order for answers about what is happening next instead of relying on you for direction during the event. Brief speakers, Master of Ceremony or presenters in advance. Always test all the technology you are using before the event.

Say Thank You

Always thank those who attend, spoke, or participated in any way. Don’t forget to thank the venue, vendors, caterers. If your event was successful you will want to run it again, it's important to value the relationship you are building when managing these events.

Learn from every event

Take time to debrief with your team after each event. Discuss what went well and what didn’t with a group made up of critical staff, all staff, or both staff and volunteers. These debriefing sessions are a great way to get people’s impressions and suggestions while the event is still fresh in their minds. Send out a survey for feedback and look at the social media around the event to see if the comments are positive. Be open to feedback, is not a criticism but an opportunity to make the next event even better.