Fundraising events are a great way to raise awareness of your cause.  However, there are many costs associated with them  including paying for the venue, advertising, equipment rental and loads volunteer time. There also also lots of variables which make these events high risk. Many nonprofits quote the top line revenue that an event made “We raised $10,000!”, but fail to factor in these costs.  Also, it’s hard to predict attendance, weather, local events that may put a damper on your event and even if you will get your pricing right.  And what is your follow-up strategy for what are you going to do after the event?  Here are six things to think about when planning an event to encourage it’s success;

One: Factor In True Expenses

When you hold an event, you need to not only consider hard costs, but also your resources. The cost of your paid staff and board should be factored in. Your event business case should consider not only venue costs, equipment rentals for sound/lighting etc. but also staffing, and insurance. At least plan to break-even on your true costs, so that you can still benefit from the event awareness and donor base growth.

Two: Collect E-mail Addresses

Speaking of donors, you must be sure to follow-up on your attendees! Collect e-mail addresses and phone numbers at least! If you offer a raffle or contest, this is an even better way to have them leave behind contact details which you can follow up on. Add them to your newsletter, or list for upcoming events or volunteer recruitment drives.

Three: Silent Auctions Are Great

Silent auctions are a really great way for making a little extra money to pay event expenses. Items are donated at no charge, and you get to keep all the proceeds! You can also offer massages by donation, get a magician to show up for kids activities and offer food and beverage sales to add to your kitty. Use any chance you can get to collect that valuable e-mail address or phone number to follow up on.  Then be sure to add them to your newsletter or website blog updates.

Four: Have Contingency Plans

What if your guest speaker doesn’t show up?  This happened to me when we had a huge snowstorm and our airport closed.  We ended up having to cancel the event, but the good news was that we still got coverage from the media.  This also built awareness for the rescheduled event which went off even better than expected! But have a plan if it’s terrible weather for an outdoor event (rent a tent!) or if you can get a refund on the venue within a certain time-period.

Five: Deal With Safety Issues

If there is an accident with an attendee, your event can go sideways in a hurry.  Be sure to have a plan for a medical emergency, fire or even power outage.  Confirm if you are covered by existing insurance, or need to buy some. Sand those icy steps, have volunteers with First Aid training attend and keep flashlights at the ready!

Six: Get Your Pricing Right

If you are charging for your event, you need to know what the market will bear and what your break-even point is.  In some cases, charging by donation or a sliding scale can be surprising lucrative if you are throwing a popular event.  If you expect small numbers, charging a premium price maybe the only way to make it work.  Find out what other similar events in your area charged, and what their attendance was like. Survey a sample of attendees and ask if they would pay the price you have in mind, or if it is too high or too low.

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