When it comes to the future of your not-for-profit organization, an expertly-planned fundraising event can make an extraordinary difference. Not only do walk/run events, auctions, golf tournaments, and concerts raise significant funds, they also provide an opportunity for staff, volunteers, and donors to mingle, have fun, and renew their dedication to the cause.

And while your event will benefit from being memorable and unique, the main focus should be on raising money. To that end, meticulous planning, execution, and financial management (often involving a professional PR or event planning team) are vital to the success of the event. It’s also very important take into account the following:

Establish goals. – Before the planning gets underway, be sure the purpose of the event is agreed upon and finalized. What are you looking to achieve with the event? What is a realistic dollar amount you plan to raise? Establishing objectives will determine the type of event you should organize, activities to include as well as the budget.

Get started early. – When planning a large fundraising event, it’s important to start planning early (around 11-12 months before the event’s date) to ensure there is enough time to secure the venue, procure auction and raffle items, recruit volunteers and promote the event. Also, begin asking local businesses a year in advance to include your organization in their annual giving budget.

Promote the event. – Get word out through a variety of marketing channels, including social media, local events websites and traditional media outlets. When developing your messaging, remember the news media is more likely to respond to human interest stories—stories of individuals who have dedicated themselves to or benefited from your organization.

Craft event content that educates and motivates. – Activities and scripts should always be mission-focused and engaging. You want to encourage night/day-of donations while leaving a lasting emotional impact on attendees.

Give thanks. – Be sure to thank all who contributed to the event and share how much was raised. This includes vendors, sponsors, volunteers, attendees, individuals and businesses who donated auction items or raffle prizes, and other supporters who were unable to attend. All thank yous should be communicated promptly after the event and personalized if possible.

Final Thoughts

There’s no question about it: Charity fundraisers are a lot of work! To avoid being overwhelmed in the process, a flexible attitude is a must. Events never go as planned. Even with careful preparation, you can expect the unexpected. However, with a cool head, a little bit of creativity and a focus on the aforementioned tips, you’ll be well on your way to a successful event!