Strategies for Non-Profit Event Planning

Since we founded the Caroline Symmes Cancer Endowment, we’ve learned a lot about what it’s like to run a non-profit. Ours was founded with the goal of raising money to support pediatric cancer researchers on their path toward finding new treatments and innovating toward a cure. We’ve grown to lean on the support of the community around us, especially when planning a fundraising event.

Coordinating big fundraising events isn’t a walk in the park—we know this first hand. We’ve even packed people into our backyard for the annual Par-Tee for two years now! However, when you’re working to support a good cause, all the effort is worth it. For those out there starting to plan your own non-profit events, we hope this will be a valuable resource


Envisioning the Event

Raising funds can be an exciting time for you and your supporters, but the challenge is attracting attendees and ultimately, donations. Different events will work to promote both the brand of your organization and its mission. Our Caroline Classic Golf Outing is a big annual event for us, and we draw in a crowd because attendees can rally around a cause while having a good time. Consider hosting entertainment, like concerts or comedians, while simultaneously holding a silent auction. If your event will be outdoors, provide engaging activities for all ability levels like a scavenger hunt or obstacle course. Coordinating exclusive dinners with local restaurants can appeal to those potential donors looking for new and unique experiences.

Sometimes, outside organizations might choose to host a fundraising event and designate your non-profit as the beneficiary of their efforts. These events are fantastic! It is important, however, to be in communication about the nature of these events and ensure they don’t clash with your organizations’ standards in any way.

Finding Sponsors

Acquiring sponsorships is a big part of non-profit event planning. When the focus is to raise funds for a cause, reducing overhead costs allows more of the funds donated to go toward your designated cause. Corporations and businesses in your community may jump at the chance to sponsor your event through either funding or services offered. It’s great PR for them, but also a way to support local causes.  Look for elements of your event that you can offer up for sponsorships, like food and beverage, tables, entertainment, auction items, souvenirs, photo booths, and more. A local chef, magician, or photographer might be willing to contribute their services at reduced cost to support the cause.

Getting the Word Out

Even with a great event planned, your success will be tied to the number of donors who attend, so spreading the word is a crucial part of event planning. Social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, are awesome for creating events and sharing information with your followers, but you can’t rely on them alone if you’re looking to pack the house. Consider contacting any local newspapers or radio stations to see if they will cover or promote your event. You can also use Facebook Ads Manager to set up paid advertisements at a relatively low cost. Hang flyers in places like grocery stores, libraries, coffee shops, community centers, and more. For your sponsors and high-level supporters, mailing out personal invitations can go a long way to showing your appreciation and acknowledgement of their support. And don’t forget to coordinate with any sponsors’ marketing teams too!

As a non-profit, it’s important to allow yourself to rest on your foundation, the help of those supporting the mission. When there’s something to stand up for, there will be folks who want to contribute and rally around you. Have fun and remember the reason for the event!

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