Nonprofit Fundraising

Guideline to Planning Your Next Event

An important step in almost every organization’s annual calendar is planning one (or more) events. For nonprofits, those are typically fundraising events. The list of to-dos can seem daunting and endless when you’re starting to plan your event, so we’ve put together a planning timeline to help get you started.

Majority of this list applies to general event planning, so it will still be useful whether you’re a nonprofit or for profit organization. Just keep an eye out for any bullet points with a * next to them, as that indicates a task typically applicable to nonprofits.
Here’s a general timeline for planning your next event:

PLANNING

12-8 Months Prior

  • Determine your audience & event type
  • Reserve your venue & event date, pay deposit
  • Set your attendance, fundraising* & budget goals
  • Determine and book your keynote speaker/entertainment
  • Gather people to be on your planning committee or team
  • Begin soliciting funds for event sponsorship
  • Organize your data list segments, so you can reach the right people to come to your event
  • If planning to use video to aid your presentation, establish what you will be using or if a new video needs to be created

7-5 Months Prior

  • Schedule walk-through of venue to visualize flow-through
  • Delegate roles to your planning team (fundraising/sponsorship, event décor, volunteers, marketing/communications)
  • Determine sponsorship amount needed
  • Create event brand & determine collateral needed
  • Continue soliciting funds for sponsorship
  • Determine your A/V needs, book crew if your event requires a team
  • Create décor plans
  • Set-up/update event online registration system
  • Send Save the Date communications via direct mail, social media and email drip campaigns
  • Recruit table captains/hosts or team leads to invite people to the invite

4-2 Months Prior

  • Begin purchasing items needed for décor/set-up
  • Determine your emcee and supporting speaker roles
  • Design marketing collateral
  • Invite guests through your lead team and email communications
  • Periodically track your event registration
  • Stay in consistent communication with your venue, caterer, emcee, keynote, A/V crew
  • Recruit volunteers for day-of-event (set-up, tear-down, greeters, registration table, donation collection)

4-2 Weeks Prior

  • Finalize day of agenda from set-up to tear-down at the end of the event
  • Last final push throughout the weeks to fill your guest list to capacity
  • Send marketing collateral to print
  • Consistently communicate to all individuals involved
  • Continue to promote your event on social media channels
  • Confirm & collect sponsorship pledges
  • Finish décor/centerpieces

Week of Event

  • Connect & confirm with volunteers
  • Finalize guest lists
  • Gather all materials and supplies needed at venue for event
  • Send day-of-agenda and task lists to all individuals necessary
  • Send final email to attendees with info on times, parking, dress code, etc.
  • Prepare materials for registration table
  • Follow-up with table hosts
  • Pull the final guest list night before or morning of event
  • Print name tags
  • Establish contingency plan for no-shows and last-minute attendees
  • Designate individual who will take money/response cards at end of event*

EXECUTION

Day of Event

  • Load-up vehicles with items needed at venue
  • Set-up venue
  • Check-in with A/V, caterer and any speakers or entertainment to make sure they have everything
  • Communicate with day-of volunteers on roles and expectations
  • Sound check all individuals speaking
  • Preview all videos, presentations, music with A/V team
  • Open doors/begin event

After Event

  • Have your board members and committee thank guests for attending
  • Tear-down setup once majority of attendees have started to leave
  • Ensure all checks, cash and response cards have been collected*
  • Give all money to designated person for safe transport back to secured location*
  • Retrieve any personal flashdrives, DVDs,etc given to A/V
  • Verbally thank any volunteers or caterers as you see them
  • Give any final payment or honorarium to speaker/entertainment

FOLLOW-UP

  • Send Thank You’s to attendees, speakers, donors, sponsors, volunteers
  • Debrief within 1-3 days with your planning team
  • Enter donation information within 12-48hrs of event
  • If event will be repeated annually, book venue ASAP to establish prime date & time for next year
  • Notify your donors of how much was raised within a week or less of the event via email or social media*
  • Send out communication to those who didn’t show up with a recap and opportunity to give*
  • Input all event details and new contacts into CRM system within a couple weeks

Did most of this sound familiar? Whether you’re a nonprofit or for-profit organization, event planning can be a big task to take on. When you’re in the trenches of planning an event, big or small, it helps to have someone on the outside provide resources and expertise. Now, take this list and customize it with your other to-dos!

Let us know what you added to this event planning outline!
Hey you! Thanks for checking out our blog. If you have questions, ideas, or have had a spark of genius – let’s make it happen. Contact VSG Marketing to put your ideas into action.

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