How to Set Up a Fundraising Event to Support Your Local Community

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Running a charity fundraising event can be a great way to support the community whilst building trust with customers. But often, you’ll be working with low budgets and limited time, so planning is crucial if you’re going to make the most of the event.

To generate the highest possible level of public interest, attendance and donations, you’ll need to create an event with a clear purpose. Holding an office cake sale is all well and good, but if you want to get people’s attention (for all the right reasons), the key is to refine your event. Here are the factors to consider when setting up a fundraising event. 

How to set up a fundraising event

1. Define your cause and create a mission statement

The first step in any event planning checklist is to work out what you want to achieve. Choose your charity and prepare a paragraph or two about why its cause means so much to you and your business. Having this statement to hand will help you when it comes to promoting the event and talking to potential sponsors. 

If you run a franchise unit, it’s important to consider your franchisor at this stage. Does your choice reflect the values of the franchise, and will the franchisor approve of it? If not, you may need to reconsider or meet with the franchising team to discuss it. 

2. Set a budget

If you know how much you can spend on your fundraising event, you’ll be able to get cracking with the planning stages. Whether your budget is big or small, it’s worth taking the time to consider every detail, from the printing of tickets and marketing material to the venue, catering and entertainment. Always leave a little room for unexpected costs; they’re surprisingly common. 

At this point, you might like to consider approaching other organisations for sponsorship. Think about who might be interested in putting their name to your event and contributing to your cause. 

Once you’ve established your budget, it could be useful to set a fundraising goal too, as this will give you extra motivation to push forward. 

3. Choose a format to suit your budget and the charity 

Fundraising events come in all shapes and sizes, from food stalls to quiz nights and gala dinners. Let your imagination run wild and find the perfect format to suit your goal. Remember to consider your expected attendance numbers. 

To generate more money, you could also think about holding mini events within your main function. A raffle, auction or fun competition could all add precious pennies to your fundraising pot. 

Most importantly, your final choice should be fun. Come up with a quirky theme or unique idea to entice people through the doors. Ideally, it should allow for a visually attractive backdrop, as people will be likely to take photos and spread word of your event on social media. 

4. Identify your target audience

It might be tempting to try to appeal to as many people as possible, but aiming your event at a particular group will give it purpose. If you know what sort of event you’re organising, you should be able to define your target audience fairly easily.

Ask yourself whether your fundraiser will resonate with a particular demographic. You might define your audience as a particular age group, or by their occupation or interests. To give you a couple of ideas, you could organise a black-tie event for business leaders, or an informal social for local university students. 

5. Choose your date 

The main factor you’ll need to consider here is the times your chosen audience will be able to attend your event. It’s no good planning a late quiz session on a week night if many of your guests will be tired after working all day and need to get up early in the morning. 

Always try to plan an event at least six months in advance, as this should mean you avoid being restricted to specific dates by your chosen venue. 

A fundraising night can sound like hard work but if you think about the network of friends you have, and ask those with talent or experience in running events it can suddenly be very easy. Those around you will want to help. - Patricia Doyle, VSO volunteer

6. Book your venue

Find a venue to complement your theme and audience. Think about how your guests will get there and make sure there’s a nearby car park if there aren’t good public transport links. Also, remember to investigate the venue’s accessibility, especially if your chosen charity has ties to people with mobility issues. 

If you’d like to serve food at your event, you could look for somewhere with its own team of caterers. And it’s always worth mentioning your fundraising goal to the venue staff; they may offer you a discount or even give you free use of the space. 

7. Decide how you’ll take ticket money and donations

There are a few options open to you: 

  • Taking cash

  • Using card machines

  • Using contactless methods like Apple Pay

  • Taking online payments 

Although dealing with cash might seem like the easy option, taking payments electronically could save you a lot of time and hassle in the long run. You won’t need to worry about keeping a safety deposit box, cashing in a load of coins or turning away guests who don’t have the right change. Only 28 percent of payments are made with cash now, compared to 60 percent a decade ago, so it’s worth considering an upgrade. 

8. Spread the word early

Don’t leave your promotional campaign to the last minute. Sort your invitations and social media posts well in advance, and aim to launch your ticket sales around payday, usually the last Friday of the month. 

A great way to whip up a buzz about your fundraising event is to use Twitter. According to Eventbrite, each time someone shares an event, it generates an average of over £6 in ticket funds. To ramp up audience engagement, create a hashtag and encourage people to use it. Then, you’ll be able to communicate with your guests ahead of the big day.

9. Sell tickets in advance

There are several advantages to handing out tickets before the event. Firstly, you’re likely to attract more attendees, as people will come along if they’ve already invested their money. If you leave ticket sales till the day, people may forget about your event or make other plans. 

Secondly, you’ll be able to gauge the number of people you can expect to be there, which will help you when it comes to buying supplies. 

10. Thank your donors

When the fundraising event is over and you’ve counted up the donations, don’t forget to thank all the people who contributed to the pot, including the venue staff and any volunteers. It’s likely they’ll be interested to know how their money will help others and appreciative of your kind words. 

Plus, if you put your business website and social media profiles on your thank you note, they may even decide to keep in touch and attend any future events. 

Running your own business

So, there you have it, how to set up a fundraising event to support the local community and enhance your public relations. For more advice on running your own business and succeeding in the franchise world, see our catalogue of informative articles or use the search box to find specific guides. 

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