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How to Organize Donor Events in 10 Steps

Non-profit organizations and charities alike often host donor events to advocate their cause in a creative and interactive manner. Although supporters of such organizations often donate on a regular basis, donor events are an innovative and proven way for supporters to engage with the community.  Moreover, donor events encourage donations with greater emotional intent and conviction. Whether an event is conducted online or in-person, organizing it can be rather daunting and requires a great amount of effort, resources and motivation. Regardless of the size and scale of the donor event, here are 10 steps on how to organize it more successfully.

#1. Define the purpose and cause of the donor event

Before starting any preparations for a donor event, it is vital for the organizing committee to define the purpose and cause of the event. By understanding what cause is being promoted to raise funds. This helps to establish cohesion and a central vision within the organizing committee. Donor events with a concrete vision of their purpose and cause hold greater impact in the long run as they help donors and supporters of the non-profit organization to connect with the cause on a more intimate level.

#2. Establish a fundraising goal

Setting a clear fundraising goal will help to establish the scope and scale of the donor event. It will also put the ambitions of the event into context. Although most fundraising goals revolve around a specific monetary value that is set as a target, non-profit organizations and charities can also set more qualitative goals to help guide their purpose. For instance, organizing committees can set a goal of retaining 50 new recurring donors or a goal to gain greater public presence, measured by increases in social media engagement. However, since the main purpose of a donor event is to raise funds for a certain cause, organizing committees should aim to collect donations that are over 30% of the upfront costs and expenses associated with hosting the donor event.

#3. Establish a budget

Hosting donor events, regardless of the size and scope, are costly endeavors that require a budget. As non-profit organizations and charities often have tight budgets to begin with, establishing a comprehensive budget is crucial for the organizing committee to ensure they do not overspend and waste unnecessary funds. One important rule of budgeting is for organizing committees to set aside unanticipated expenses within their budget in order to allocate a financial buffer in the case unexpected issues or costs arise. Afterwards, the organizing committee should take time to formulate ideas on how to keep expenses to a minimum, such as adopting a donor event volunteer program to reduce labor costs or choosing to host the event through an online medium.

#4. Define the target audience

Although some may consider inviting the maximum possible amount of people to the event, non-profit organizations and charities should instead concentrate efforts towards appealing to a specific audience. Focusing advocacy efforts on a niche audience ultimately changes the nature of the message the organizing committee wants to convey to their audience and will have a huge impact on the outreach of the event.

#5. Select an appropriate venue and date

After determining the budget, the purpose and the target audience of the donor event, the organizing committee should consider the logistical aspects of the event in order to bring the fundraiser to life. It will be integral for the organizing committee to select a venue that fits the vision and theme. Moreover, the venue needs to be appropriate for the number of people who will attend. Typically, organizing committees should aim to decide the date and venue of a donor event around 6 months prior to the event so that prospective donors can mark the fundraiser in their calendars early in advance.

#6. Determine how donations will be collected

As the primary purpose of a donor event is to raise as much funds as possible, it will be important for the organizing committee to determine how donations will be collected at the event. Although ticket sales may be the main source of collecting funds, organizing committees should also look towards creating opportunities to gather donations throughout the event. While traditional cash donations continue to be a major source of fundraising income, contactless and cashless money transfer systems have gained more popularity in recent years.

#7. Arrange guest speakers and entertainment

A donor event would be bland and boring without guest speakers and some form of information or entertainment. Organizing committees should determine guest speakers at least 3 months prior to the event in order include them in promotional materials when advertising the event. Guest speakers should be individuals who have a close connection to the non-profit organization or are renowned within the sector you are choosing to promote. The speakers should be prepared to inspire prospective donors and attendees and encourage them to donate more towards the cause. Similarly, the organizing committee should reserve information and entertainment in order to keep the event lively – live bands, theatre groups, artists, vocalists and string quartets are common options.

#8. Event promotion

Once much of the logistical aspects of the event are set, it is time for the organizing committee to promote the event to the greater public. Promotional tactics should be mindful of the target audience they have chosen to focus upon, as this will influence the ways prospective attendees will interact with the invitation. While using social media platforms such as Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are good starts towards promoting the event, organizing committees should also look towards personalizing invitations to prospective donors. Oftentimes, prospective donors prefer receiving personalized invitations via email or letters and organizing committees should cater promotional materials in tandem with the targeted audience demographic.

#9. Run a dress rehearsal of the event

To ensure there are no logistical gaps within the event, the organizing committee should run a dress rehearsal of the donor event at the designated venue before the event. This way, volunteers, staff and guest speakers alike will have a general understanding of the flow of the donor event and can determine what worked and what did not work before logistical issues emerge. As a result, it will be important for the organizing committee to book the venue for at least 2 days in order to rehearse the event and prepare all staff involved to dedicate an entire day rehearsing for the event.

#10. Feedback forms and letters of appreciation

Following the donor event, it will be crucial for organizing committees to follow up with attendees and donors who participated in the event. Whether it be emails or direct phone calls, thanking donors for their time and support will encourage them to donate more in the future and make them feel valued. Similarly, in order to better donor events in the future, organizing committees should look towards collecting feedback from attendees in order to have an outside perspective of how the event ran and what attendees considered was successful and unsuccessful. The evaluation is a valuable resource for organizing the next event. Finally, let’s look into why donor events are important.

Why Are Donor Events Important?

Given the logistical hurdles and the amount of planning donor events, non-profit organizations and charities may wonder why they should dedicate the time to host such events. Here are 3 major reasons as to why organizations should periodically host fundraising events.

A) Strengthens relationships and support within the non-profit organization and attendees

As donor events are characterized by a multitude of moving parts and logistics, individuals involved in the planning and execution of the donor event will find a greater sense of community. Organizing the event will strengthen the relationships they have and be a team building exercise.

B) Spreads awareness of the chosen cause

Although logistical aspects may be overwhelming at times, organizing committees must remember to keep their initial purpose and vision in mind throughout the organizational process in order to spread awareness of the chosen cause. As donor events are centred around a specific cause, any outreach and advocacy efforts will help to spread awareness of the issue to not only donors, but the public at large. Because donor events are personal experiences, they are a powerful tool that participants will remember.

C) Builds a solid donor base through recognition

One of the most effective ways of retaining a donor base is to give donors and attendees the spotlight. Recognizing their philanthropic activities and contributions towards the non-profit organization, is a great way to ensure they feel valued for their important contributions. Awards, event participation and naming certain tables, prizes and aspects of the event after invested donors can be a way to highlight the most loyal donors. Doing this will also help donor retention in future events and donation programs. It will also pave the way towards new and innovative ways of fundraising and engagement with donors in the future.

About the author

Kaori Higa

Kaori Higa is a freelance writer based in Vancouver, Canada. She has worked extensively in the human rights sector, public relations consulting and within state governments across three continents. As part of her work, Kaori has coordinated logistics for governmental press conferences and proposed strategies that encourage governmental and legal institutions to adopt human rights-based policies and legislation. Aside from her political endeavors and human rights advocacy, Kaori is an avid classical violinist, having been invited to perform a violin solo in Carnegie Hall.