How to Plan a Charity Event in 9 Steps

Maggie Korte

Charity events are an excellent way to raise money for a cause or organization. The amount of money being given to charitable causes has steadily risen since 2016 and 56 percent of donors attend fundraising events regularly, according to Double the Donation. Doing your own research and learning how to plan a charity event will save you time and help you pave the way for success towards your fundraising goals.

Follow our step-by-step guide on how to plan a charity event and you’ll have the basic skeleton of an effective event plan that you can use to flesh out with your own specific needs.

Determine Your Event Goals

While planning a charity event is a noble feat, you need to develop goals for the event first. Getting goals locked in before you start the majority of the planning process will act as a guide for your other decisions, which streamlines the process.

Common goals for charity events include:
• Raising funds for a certain cause, organization, or upcoming expenditure.
• Increasing the visibility of your organization and creating awareness towards an issue or cause
• Cultivating donors or sponsors
• Engaging the community to recruit more volunteers

For example, if fundraising is your primary goal, then it’s important that you determine how much you need to raise. Remember to factor in the cost of holding the event into that amount. Once you’ve assessed your needs, look at your ability to raise money. Past fundraising events and campaigns are an excellent yardstick for assessing how realistic your fundraising goals are.

If your current fundraising goal matches up with your fundraising abilities, you’re in good shape. If there’s a shortfall, you might need to revise your event plans or fine-tune your expectations. Once you have your final fundraising goal, add 20-30 percent to that total. This will give you a little financial wiggle room, as changes and hiccups often arrive when planning charity events.

Develop Your Committees and Subcommittees

With charity event planning, there’s no such thing as too much help. You certainly can’t be expected to organize everything on your own and you’ll need to delegate certain tasks to dedicated committees. However, every well-planned charity event has organized volunteers with clear roles and responsibilities.

Pro-tip: While many organizations have a large pool of existing volunteers, some need to recruit more people before an event. Consider posting volunteer opportunities on websites such as VolunteerMatch to find quality volunteers.

Creating a Volunteer Opportunity on VolunteerMatch Source:VolunteerMatch

While the specific committees you form will depend on your particular event and the number of volunteers at your disposal, here are some suggestions for developing effective committees:

  • The planning committee: The job of the planning committee is to take care of all the behind-the-scenes planning, including event logistics and the planning calendar.
  • The host committee: The host committee is essentially your marketing department. They are responsible for fulfilling your overall fundraising goals and engagement/outreach activities, such as social media posting and awareness activities.
  • The event day committee: The event day committee is responsible for the day-of logistics of running the event, coordinating staff and volunteers, and dealing with any situations that pop up during the day.

Your subcommittees are smaller committees within your larger committees that will cover specific aspects of your event. As with the larger committees, what your subcommittees will cover depends on the specifics of your event.

However, some of the more common aspects delegated to subcommittees include:

  • Theme of the event: These volunteers will decorate the venue according to the theme the entire group has approved.
  • Catering meals and snacks: This group organizes the selection and delivery of any food attendees will enjoy at the event.
  • Advertising and marketing via social media and outreach efforts: Recruit volunteers skilled in social media management and community engagement to raise awareness of your event and market it to your target audience.
  • Sponsor recruitment and engagement: These committee members should have connections in your community to recruit high-level sponsors who will help you reach your fundraising goals.

It’s also an excellent idea to make sure that each of your committees and subcommittees has a designated chairperson who keeps the event on track and who you and all volunteers can contact if questions arise. That way, nothing falls through the cracks and bottlenecks are avoided.

Set Your Budget

Once you have your goals and committees in place, it’s time to set a thorough budget. The last thing you want is to overspend and cut into your fundraising goals. Having a well-planned budget is a great way to avoid over-expenditures. While it’s a good idea to have a firm budget upfront, there should be some flexibility in your budget to enable you to adapt to any issues that crop up and to cut any unnecessary expenses.

Common expenses of a charity event include, but are not limited to:

  • Staffing: This includes the wages of paid staff during the duration of the event, as well as any third-party help, such as delivery drivers and photographers.
  • Permitting: Some event venues will require you to pay for a permit to hold your event in a certain location.
  • Marketing & Advertising: This includes things like printing costs, swag, radio advertisements, and paid social media ads.
  • Meal & Snack Catering: Ideally, you’ll include a budget line to pay a catering company for your event. Alternatively, you’ll still need to budget for snacks and/or meals even if you’re providing them on your own.
  • Entertainment: This includes things like a live DJ, a band, comedian, or anything related to entertaining and engaging your event guests.
  • Decorations: Things like banners, fliers, tablecloths, flowers, and table settings are included in this category.
  • Venue rental: While some public venues are free, most private venues require payment to book it for an event. Don’t forget to ask if they provide a discount for charity organizations.

Pro-tip: Budget for software that helps you plan your event and sell tickets online or in-person. For example, EventSprout makes it simple to create an event online and allow participants to register and pay with the click of a few buttons, so you can focus on what to do best–planning a stellar charity event.

Adding events in EventSprout. Source: EventSprout

Set Your Event Date & Book a Venue

Before you set a date for your event, you’ll need to book the appropriate venue. When booking a venue, there are some common factors that you need to consider, including:

  • Venue size and layout: Consider how many participants you are expecting, any weather conditions for the time of year, and how you plan to set up booths and activities.
  • Accessibility: Ensure you are following ADA best practices and rules to accommodate those living with any disabilities to make it easy for them to participate, including parking.
  • Rental costs: Make sure these align with your budget and stick to it.
  • Venue facilities: Will you need a place to set up audio/visual equipment, vendor booths, tables for meals (if it’s a sit-down event/), or a podium for presenters? Sketch out a plan of what your ideal layout looks like with all of your components included.
  • Distance from public transport: Consider where your event attendees are coming from. If they are traveling in, consider how far it is from the airport. If they are taking public transportation, how far of a walk from your venue is the closest stop?

Once you’ve rented the appropriate venue, set your date. Ideally, you’ll want to have your venue locked in about six months before the event so you can properly prepare and market your event to your target audience.

When it comes to setting up your date, there are many factors you need to consider, such as:

  • Avoiding major holidays
  • Checking the dates of other major charitable events
  • Considering major sporting events
  • The weather forecast, especially if your event is being held outdoors

Create an Event Schedule

Having a detailed event schedule in place lets you fully plan your charity event in advance and allows you to delegate important tasks to your committees and subcommittees. An effective event schedule lists the order of activities and assigns a point person for each one. It also keeps the charity even on track with start and end times.

For example, a 5k race charity event schedule might look like this:

6:00 a.m.: Volunteers arrive and set up water booths, first aid tent, and snack stations
7:00 a.m.: Participants arrive and register
7:30 a.m.: Gold-level sponsor makes opening remarks
7:45 a.m.: Runners/Walkers are given a 15-minute notice to start time. Volunteers move to start and finish line assignments, as well as man water stations
8:00 a.m.: Race begins
8:45 a.m: Volunteers check course for any remaining participants being clearing course
9:15 a.m: Award ceremony begins and medals are given to top finishers
9:30 a.m: Closing remarks by gold level sponsor
9:45 a.m.: Volunteers break down course, return equipment, and drive leftover snacks to local food banks and shelters

Recruit Event Sponsors

Partnering with sponsors helps you reduce the cost of your event, provide necessary supplies, and raise awareness by assisting with your marketing efforts. Establishing good relationships with sponsors also means you may be able to call on them to sponsor your future events.

The first step in recruiting sponsors is to identify local organizations and businesses that both have the capacity to sponsor you and that have a similar outlook or mission. Then, determine your sponsorship levels and work out specific sponsorship packets that highlight the benefits of sponsoring your events.

Examples of sponsorship levels could look like:

  • Contributor: $100 donation (includes ticket to event and t-shirt)
  • Bronze Level: $350 donation (includes five tickets to event and logo on event materials)
  • Silver Level: $500 donation (includes a reserved table for five and logo on table and event materials)
  • Gold Level: $1,000 donation (includes a reserved table for 10, logo on table event materials, and sponsorship announcement in marketing outreach events)
  • Presenting Sponsor: $2,000 donation (one or two sponsors: includes two reserved tables for 10, large logo on table event materials, sponsorship announcement in marketing outreach events, and speaking opportunity at charity event)

Finally, utilize volunteers to send out the sponsorship packets. They should also be followed up with a personal phone call from someone on your host committee.

Even the best event will fail to raise money if people don’t know it’s happening. You need to advertise your event on as many channels as possible. Factors you should take into account when advertising include:

  • Add a crowdfunding campaign to your event to allow for outside donations. For example, GoFundMe is a great platform for raising awareness with an easy, shareable way to collect donations.
Creating Nonprofit Fundraisers with GoFundMe: Source: GoFundMe

Advertise your event through social media, email campaigns and flyers. Use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Furthermore, Canva is a great tool for creating social media graphics and printable advertisements–without having to be tech-savvy.

Customizable Fundraising Poster Templates on Canva Source: Canva
  • Create your own hashtag. Encourage all participants, volunteers, and sponsors to use it in their own social media posts to raise awareness.
  • Create promotional items. These could include things such as t-shirts, buttons, stickers, water bottles, and pens.

8. Prepare for Ticket Sales

The first step in selling tickets to your event is to make it as easy as possible for your guests to purchase tickets. You’ll need to determine the price, design the ticket, and then send out invites to potential guests with a clear link to where they can buy a ticket.

When determining your price, put careful thought into developing a pricing plan. There are many factors that play a part of pricing, but it should be affordable with ticket sales geared towards specific groups, such as your participants and sponsor
s, as well as group sales. To learn more about how to create an effective pricing plan, read our article about creating a dynamic pricing plan.

Tickets can normally be sold through an online platform. For example, you can use an easy, low-cost provider such as EventSprout to sell tickets, event merchandise, share your event on social media, and even live stream your event for those who want to participate virtually.

9. Create & Execute a Follow-Up Plan

Once your event is over, you need to follow up in order to solidify long-lasting benefits. Directly after the event, process any outstanding payments and compare that to your budget to understand if you’ve hit your fundraising goals.

Next, post on social media to update sponsors and participants on how the event went, including how much money you raised for the charity. Furthermore, reach out to volunteers and attendees with personalized messages to thank them for their time and effort.

Feedback is vital to making sure you learn any lessons from how this even went, which you can then apply to future events. Sending out an email event survey lets your attendees give you valuable feedback. For example, you can use SurveyMonkey or Google Surveys to easily send out simple feedback surveys, which can help you learn lessons to plan for your next charity event.

Since your sponsors are effectively your partners in a charity event, it’s also a good idea to prepare a post-event packet for them. This packet is a great way to thank them, provide any data you think is useful for them, highlight the benefits they received from sponsoring the event, and ask them to consider sponsoring future events.

The Bottom Line

Having a solid plan in place can turn a logistical nightmare into a well-run and financially successful event. By following our plan, you have the basic outline of an effective charity event plan that you can then fill in with your own specific needs.