Special event do's and don'ts for the novice fundraiser

publication date: Feb 6, 2018
author/source: Renae Mohammed

From galas to golfing, special events are frequently held to raise funds for non-profit organizations. What's interesting about hosting a fundraising special event of your own is discovering just how much time and effort is put in to organizing and executing it, from the conception of the idea, to its wrap-up.

From the outside looking in, most people do not realize how much time preparing for a special event can take. There are key do's and don'ts to running successful special events that I have learned over the past five years, through hosting my own walkathon fundraisers in support of The Pulmonary Hypertension Association of Canada.

Do plan the when and where of your special event as early as possible. There are several benefits to planning your special event a full year in advance, if possible. By planning in advance you will have a higher likelihood of securing your date of choice, more time to complete the permit application and coordinate liability insurance, if required, ample time to acquire sponsors, and more time to recruit and coordinate volunteers, to name a few key areas. Allotting yourself more time to plan your special event means that you can ensure it is everything you want it to be.

What is a special event without prizes? Whether they are raffle prizes, door prizes, or auction prizes, prizes are important to any special event fundraiser. Your guests won't likely be attending your special event to win a prize, but it is nice to go the extra mile to show them that you are grateful for their support.

Do use prizes as added incentive for participants to raise more money for your cause. For example, three of the more prestigious prizes donated to your special event can be awarded to your top three fundraisers - just make sure you communicate this challenge with your guests well before your event!

In securing your prize donations, don't be afraid to reach out to people and companies - exhaust all your options. People generally want to help other people, and the worst they can say is no! If given the choice, do approach your potential sponsors in person. This approach shows to them that you are enthusiastic and passionate about your special event and the cause. Another benefit to asking in person is that the sponsor is more likely to remember you, so when your next special event comes around, perhaps they will want to give to you again. Do recognize your sponsors at your event, be it on a banner or in a pamphlet, and make sure potential sponsors are aware of this opportunity.

Whether you invite your guests to your special event fundraiser through e-mail, social media, or word- of-mouth, it is imperative to remind your guests about your event. Guests will likely not read all the details about your special event, and if they do, don't be surprised if they forget about it.

Do be thorough with your reminders to guests about when and where your special event is taking place. After sending out your initial invite, send a one-month reminder, a two-week reminder and a day before reminder. It may seem unnecessary, but you will be surprised how many guests respond to your invitation when prompted with these reminders.

The day of your special event would not run smoothly without help and commitment from your volunteers. Do recruit your volunteers as early as possible so everyone knows their role. It is important to meet with your volunteers in the days leading up to your special event, to ensure everyone knows where they need to be, when they need to be there, and what they need to do. Don't forget to recognize your volunteers at your event. There are many ways to do this including acknowledging volunteers and their roles in a speech, taking pictures of volunteers at the event, and, distinguishing the volunteers from everyone else at the event with special volunteer t-shirts or nametags.

Your event is done, but you aren't! After your event, thank your supporters and let them know how much money your special event has raised. Don't wait too long, your guests deserve to know in a timely manner, as they are the ones who helped you to achieve this accomplishment! Do let your supporters know where the funds raised will be allocated to, for example, research, scholarships, educational programs, or patient programs.

Bear in mind your thanks don't end with your guests. Be sure to send your volunteers thank-you cards and offer to provide them with reference letters detailing the work they have done for you. Do mail out thank-you cards to your sponsors, as well. Overall, the key ingredient to a successful fundraising special event is gratitude - to volunteers, participants and sponsors, for without them, your event would not be possible.

Events are a lot of work and a lot of fun. By following these steps, you will be well on your way to success.

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