4 Keys to Planning Successful Nonprofit Fundraising Events

4 Keys to Successful Nonprofit Fundraising Events
  • Benevolent Business
Brynn Brasington

Brynn Brasington

Sr. Growth Specialist
Generate_Impact

If you are a nonprofit development pro, there are a few things we know about you for sure:

The world needs more benevolence creators like you, and you are driven to serve others, ease suffering, and bring hope to the world.

That is a GREAT start. However, to achieve your goal, what else do you need?

  1. an identified need in the community you serve
  2. people who want to help
  3. a revenue goal and budget
  4. the tools to help you do your job

And perhaps you also have a massive event on the horizon. Now what?

Here are 4 keys to help you plan a successful fundraising event.

1. Focus on Experience

In nonprofit event planning, focus on the experience of your attendees.

Your supporters remember how you made them feel. Be sure to focus on experience before anything else. Ask yourself, your leadership, and your trusted lead volunteers to fill in the blank:

At the end of our event, we want our supporters & attendees to leave feeling ________.

  1. Appreciated?
  2. Inspired?
  3. Informed?
  4. Energized?
  5. Entertained?
  6. Cared for?
  7. Compelled to give?
  8. A part of something bigger than themselves?

Ok, you’re likely asking where’s the “all of the above” option?

The good news is there is an invisible string connecting all of these positive experiences above. Growth can be a domino effect of these personal outcomes.

Focusing on experience leads to higher survey scores, more supporters inviting a friend or sharing on social media, greater reach, larger results, and most importantly, more impact generated.

2. Understand Your Audience

In nonprofit event planning, you need to understand your audience and what they want from your fundraiser. You may be surprised to learn how easy it is to find out important participant and donor characteristics through the right tools and data.

How long someone has been supporting your event, how they prefer to be contacted, and the content they’re most likely to interact with are just a few examples of how data helps you reach your supporters where they are. A good CRM like HubSpot or EveryAction can help you do that, or if not, pulling available data into a centralized “source of truth” is a good place to start. Almost anything is better than taking a guess and hoping for the best.

Your data also has the potential to help you better understand how to reward and recognize top fundraisers and volunteers and plan your daily work. Getting a good look at organized data will tell you a story about your supporters’ journey with your organization and the experience you need to create at your event.

3. Have a Robust Communications Plan

One of the key challenges in executing massive events is delivering important news and event updates to a large and growing supporter-base. Regardless of your call to action, the key to maximizing your reach is to be as visible and intentional as possible in the channels where your audience lives. Some tips for communicating well are:

  1. Rally your lead volunteers to develop clear, direct, and mission-centric messaging and assets.
  2. Team up with local tv, radio, and print media partners, popular blogs, and social media influencers that reach and represent your target audiences.
  3. Use information wisely to reach folks with a personal, heartfelt invitation to join the fight your organization began.

4. Create a Volunteer Committee

To get the word out and increase your reach, there is strength in numbers. A volunteer committee can be of immense value to increase your event’s reach, and help with event planning.

Your most passionate volunteers have a lot of useful data floating around in spreadsheets, e-mails, texts, and minds. Not only are they the hands and feet of every organization, but volunteers are also fundamental in achieving the deepest and broadest engagement yet.

If you haven’t already formed a committee, it’s easy to get started and is a surefire way to unlock tremendous potential for your event.


Step 1: Explore your participant data to learn who is already the most involved – frequently volunteering, have an established fundraising/giving history, or just generally the most engaged. Invite each prospective member to join your committee, in whichever capacity suits their strengths and passions.


Step 2: Meet once per month or as regularly as needed timeline. Build out an agenda for each meeting to ensure each challenge is addressed, and each win is celebrated! Be clear on what you are asking and how it will make a difference for your mission. Finally, come prepared with the resources your committee members might need to spring into action.


Step 3: Express your gratitude with rewards and recognition at every turn, not just on event day or at the end of the fiscal year. Remind your committee members specifically and often of the impact they’re making. Ask local businesses if they can help you thank your volunteers by donating gifts or experiences. Give a shout-out to businesses and volunteers by celebrating them on social media and at your event.

Your people, who want to help fuel your mission, need, and deserve to be heard. They will thank you for it by owning their new ambassadorship and driving a positive outcome. Follow these best practices and your event will be geared for success.

► About Brynn

Brynn Brasington has 4 years of experience leading the largest walkathon fundraiser in the US, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, while serving at The American Cancer Society. Brynn currently serves as the Senior Growth Specialist at Generate_Impact, and can be reached at brynn.brasington@generateimpact.com.