Planning a fundraising event can be a lot of fun—or it can be wildly stressful. As a nonprofit leader, it’s safe to say you’ve likely experienced both.
Here are six common mistakes to steer clear of when it comes to planning nonprofit events.
1. Waiting Too Long to Start Planning Your Fundraising Event
Nonprofits often underestimate the amount of lead time they’ll need to plan a successful event. Even small gatherings can require months of pre-planning to ensure the best outcome.
A full gala will need six months to as much as a year.
If you're struggling to find the time for advanced planning, reconsider the size or complexity of your event to match the timeline you can give it.
2. Letting Everything Be the Priority
Defining your priorities is the most effective way to ensure a successful event that doesn’t go over budget.
Identify what’s most important to you. Maybe it’s professionally-designed and printed programs to showcase your sponsors... Or a super-talented DJ who will keep everyone on the dance floor creating fun memories.
Whatever your priorities are, it’s important to both define and rank them so you can avoid bloated budgets and extra management tasks that—ultimately—don’t get you closer to your goals.
3. Expecting Free Stuff
Many nonprofit organizations seek donations to make their events happen. While these can be helpful, it’s dangerous to rely too heavily on them from year to year. For example, you never know when a vendor will change their policy or shift their charitable giving elsewhere.
Having nonprofit status entitles your organization to avoid paying taxes—but it doesn’t entitle you to free services. Budget appropriately for everything your event will need, and consider it a happy surprise when a vendor gives you a discount or a free service.
4. Not Getting Detailed With Staff Roles and Responsibilities
Think through all of the things you’ll need done both leading up to the event and on the day of. Break those down into roles, and staff them accordingly.
Don’t shy away from getting granular with your role descriptions. Jobs like the registration table can seem straightforward—but who’s packing up the table materials and transporting them back to the office? Who will collect any cash envelopes or checks? Who’ll be the designated “errand runner” or vendor liaison?
Defining roles and responsibilities ahead of time will save a lot of time, stress, and scrambling during your event.
5. Asking for Sponsorships at the Last Minute
Depending on your sponsors, you may need to give them a number of months to make a commitment to your event. This is especially true for corporate sponsors and large chains, who may have a longer internal process for approving charitable requests.
Giving yourself more time will also allow you to target businesses whose services align with your mission. You’ll have the opportunity to craft a compelling pitch and cultivate strong sponsor relationships.
At the end of the day, sponsors are making a financial investment in your event and in your organization. And no one likes to feel pressured to make that decision at the last minute!
6. Keeping It Serious 100 Percent of the Time
While we always want to honor the gravity of what we do, we should also make room for another very human need—fun.
Think about the energy in the room. How can you keep it high throughout the event? What can you do to make the actual process of giving fun?
People like to feel like part of a team or community… Speak to this by instituting table competitions or using a mobile giving option that’s reflected in real-time on a centrally-located screen.
Enjoy the Experience!
Planning a successful nonprofit event doesn’t have to feel stressful or overwhelming. Give yourself enough time and keep the parameters of the event within the reality of what your organization can handle.
Use the above tips to avoid common pitfalls… And enjoy bringing your community together for a great cause!