How to plan a charity event is something we get asked a lot. What makes charity events so challenging?
Charity event organisers have to think about all the same things as other event organisers…and then some.
Not only do you have to think about budget constraints and fundraising goals. You also have to ensure that all party interests align with each other.
Unfortunately, it’s often not enough to ask people to donate to a charitable cause. They want an experience, to be seen, and to feel special.
In this article you’ll learn how to:
- Formulate your event’s purpose
- Set a specific goal
- Create a realistic budget
- Find your target audience
- Create a theme that resonates with them
- Find a venue and vendors that fit with the theme
- Assemble a team of staff and sponsors
- Decide how to accept donations
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get right into it!
1. Define the purpose of your event
Starts by defining one or more goals. Your efforts will be much more focused if you begin by formulating the purpose of your event.
An obvious goal of most charity events is to raise money for a cause. But it could also be to increase awareness and reach new people.
2. Set a measurable target
Once you’ve established the purpose of your event you need to set a measurable target. Depending on your purpose, this target could be related to:
- Money raised
- Tickets sold
- Members signed up
- Partnerships formed
- Sponsorships secured
- Awareness spread
The most important part is to be SMART about setting your goal. That way you’ll know if the event was a success or not.
SMART goals are:
Finally, it’s wise to create a timeline for planning the event and reaching your goals.
3. Create a realistic budget
This is the part where we slip in the cliche that “it takes money to make money” — because it’s true!
The spreadsheet with your budget for the charity event will be a living document. You will start with a rough estimate, which will then become increasingly more specific as the event progresses.
A budget will help you understand how much money you have to allocate for:
- Food and drinks
It’s crucial to leave yourself a buffer in case of unforeseen expenses.
Read how to minimise your costs here.
4. Decide on a target audience
You should decide on who the event is aimed at. The target audience your event is important to know because it will influence many other decisions you make.
Some of the factors you should take into consideration are their age, gender, background, profession, and personal interests.
Once you know who your target audience is, you will know…
- What event theme would appeal to them
- How to market the event to them
- Which sponsors would be a good fit
- What kind of entertainment to organise
Refer back to the audience every time you’re in doubt about something related to your event.
5. Assemble a team
Many hands make light work, so you’ll want a team to help you out with the logistics. If possible, try to secure a host committee of local celebrities or wealthy donors to help lead the way.
6. Establish an event theme
The theme of your charity event will be one of the major factors that get people to sign up. Decide on a theme based on what your cause is and which audience you want to target.
Stuck for ideas?
Remember that a charity event is still an event, but with a charitable element. Use other events for inspiration and see if you can work your cause into them.
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
- Singles night out
- 5K run in the city
- Dress up party
- Live music concert
- Comedy night
The theme will have an impact on your budget and choice of venue, so it requires a lot of thought.
7. Find a venue
Once you have a theme in place, it’s time to find a venue for the event. The venue should be able to hold the number of people you expect to register, but also match your budget.
Don’t be afraid to use the fact that you’re organising a charity event when negotiating with venues. You’d be surprised how many are willing to give you a discount—if not outright donate the venue.
- How much it’ll cost
- What’s included in the price
- How many people it accommodates
- Whether or not you can get a discount
Remember that the venue doesn’t have to be traditional, it just has to be appropriate. You can host a comedy night in an airport hangar, as long as there are seating and a sound system.
8. Approach sponsors
The aim of your charity event is to raise money. The majority of that will come from attendees.
But there’s no reason you shouldn’t get some sponsors in on it as well.
Once you’ve got a target, a budget, a team, a theme, and a venue, you can approach potential partners.
Find businesses that align with your cause and who want to reach your target audience. A good place to start is with businesses that already sponsor charity events in your area.
Read more on how to get sponsors for your charity event here.
9. Find a way to accept donations
There are many ways you can accept donations at a charity event. You could focus on promoting one way to donate or give people more options to choose from.
Here are some of the ways you can accept donations:
- Ticket sales
- Merchandise sales
- “Text to Donate”
You should find a ticketing system that is user-friendly and works on all devices. Make it as easy as possible for people to register for your event.
10. Select vendors
If you’ve decided on a dinner party or similar, you will need to source some vendors. Use your event theme and target audience to guide your efforts here.
Some vendors you might need for your event include:
- Media planners
- Equipment rentals
As with the venues, see if you can get a discount from the vendors and suppliers. See if you can secure some vendors who have worked with charities in the past.
CharityComms has an excellent directory of charity-friendly vendors.
… you have to put it all together. By now you should have…
- Measurable fundraising targets
- A realistic budget for your event
- Target audience
- A theme for your event
- Venue and entertainment
- Team and sponsors
- Vendors and ticketing
You need to ensure that everyone works together and everything runs smoothly. Make a floor plan of the event and run through the logistics a few times in advance.
Communicate clearly with your team, your sponsors, the venue, and the vendors. Make backup plans in case anything goes wrong last minute.
Good luck with your charity event. Let us know in the comments if you have anything to add to our list!