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The Complete Step-by-Step Festival Planning Guide for Nonprofits

This guide provides everything you need to know about festival planning for nonprofits.
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The festival industry is booming worldwide. For instance, revenue for the music events market has an expected annual growth rate of 4.17%, leading to a projected market volume of $31.7 billion by 2027.

As a nonprofit event planner, you may be interested in hosting a festival to support your organization’s fundraising efforts and raise awareness for your mission. Whether your event is focused on music, food, comedy, the changing of the seasons or a different theme, you’ll need a clear festival planning checklist to set your event up for success.

This step-by-step festival planning guide should act as a jumping-off point as you begin planning your next festival.

We’ll cover these steps:

  1. Set concrete goals for your festival
  2. Determine your festival’s budget
  3. Secure a festival venue
  4. Book your festival’s lineup and vendors
  5. Build your festival marketing plan
  6. Coordinate volunteers and on-site staff for your festival
  7. Plan your festival’s schedule
  8. Prep for last-minute tasks on event day
  9. Thank participants and follow up with fundraising results

By following these guidelines, you can plan a safe, fun, well-organized event that brings your community together and raises support for your nonprofit.

1. Set concrete goals for your festival

The first step of the festival planning process is setting clear goals.

Your goals will serve as a compass, providing direction for your planning process.

Here is a list of example objectives to help guide you in your goal-setting process:

  • Foster awareness of your nonprofit in your local community
  • Raise money for your nonprofit’s programs or projects
  • Become the premier summer event in your town
  • Offer the most sustainable festival experience possible
  • Implement above-and-beyond health and safety requirements
  • Increase social media engagement and media coverage for your cause

Once you select your overarching aims, nail down specific goals with measurable KPIs. This helps measure progress made toward your objectives. Take the following for example:

  • Increase ticket sales by 20% compared to last year
  • Earn $25,000 in donations through ticket sales
  • Boost social media follower counts by 500 followers
  • Add 500 new subscribers to your email newsletter
  • Achieve a 70% attendee retention rate based on last year’s event
  • Reduce carbon emissions from your event by 90%
  • Increase food and beverage sales by 35%

Make sure your festival planning team is aligned with your goals so they have a clear idea of how they can support your event’s mission.

2. Determine your festival’s budget

Now that you have a clear understanding of your festival goals, allocate a festival budget to bring those goals to fruition.

Festivals have many moving parts that need to be considered and budgeted for in your festival planning. Here is a list of common line items that you should consider as you plan your budget:

  • The venue rental cost
  • Talent or entertainment costs
  • Catering and associated logical costs
  • Sanitary facility costs
  • Staffing and volunteer management 
  • Health and safety measures (cleaning protocols, barriers, security personnel, etc.)
  • Equipment rentals
  • Security and local authority permits

Ensure your budget doesn’t exceed your expected revenue earnings from the event to maintain a positive ROI.

3. Secure a festival venue

The right festival venue can have a major impact on how attendees, performers and vendors perceive the experience. Your venue should be accessible to your target demographic, fit the experience you’re trying to deliver and be large enough to accommodate your audience size.

Ask the following questions when deciding on your venue:

  • Is the venue accessible by public transit? Does it provide ample parking?
  • Can your venue fit your current attendee numbers? Does it also have the capacity for your event to scale year over year?
  • Does it have the required infrastructure, like high voltage capacity?
  • Will you be able to bring all the required vendors and equipment to the venue?

Once you have found the perfect venue, you need to set a date, sign a contract, stay within your budget, and make payments. Don’t forget to also secure the necessary licenses and permits to hold the festival (think zoning and parking).

4. Book your festival’s lineup and vendors

Your lineup and vendors are the elements that will attract potential attendees to your event.

Before you even begin making calls, determine your key attendee demographics and what motivates them to attend your event. This will help guide the catering services, entertainment acts and vendors you book.

Use this checklist to kick-start your lineup booking:

  • Create a list of desired performers and potential ways of reaching them (whether through social media, a connection with one of your staff members, etc.).
  • Seek out a diverse variety of food and beverage vendors to appeal to a wide array of attendee preferences. Local restaurants can be great partners!
  • Build a rough festival schedule and fill gaps with innovative attractions and entertainment.
  • Send artists and entertainment vendors the festival schedule and make changes as required.

When reaching out to performers and vendors, highlight the perks they can receive from participating. These benefits include access to a new audience of potential fans or the opportunity to support a good cause.

5. Build your festival marketing plan

All of your event marketing messages should have a unique sales proposition. Ensure your hook stands out from the competition and inspires people to take action right away to drive event registrations.

For example, you might highlight your festival’s wide array of delicious food options or entertainment lineup that includes multiple up-and-coming artists.

Once you’ve finalized your messaging, consider using the following channels to advertise your festival:

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements. PPC advertising is a targeted marketing technique that allows you to directly reach your desired audience through digital ads. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket—make sure to use multiple PPC channels like social media and Google. This allows you to reach a broader audience and determine which channels are most effective for connecting with your target audience.
  • Social media campaigns. Build social media engagement by creating a unique event hashtag to use on platforms like Instagram. Offer ticket giveaways to a select number of followers who share your content. You can also generate buzz by featuring videos with your event’s talent or sneak peeks at the event schedule.
  • Influencer sponsorships and giveaways. Influencers are individuals who have large social media followings or hold leadership positions in their communities. When an influencer shares information about your festival, they can help you reach a new audience and provide a powerful endorsement for your event.
  • Local media. Contact local newspapers, radio stations and news channels to extend your giveaway and paid promotion to these channels. This is a great way to reach a local audience of potential event attendees.
  • Email marketing. Reach out to past event attendees and offer them exclusive ticket deals and giveaways to get them excited about your event.

Begin marketing your festival several months in advance to put it on supporters’ radars and build excitement. Ramp up the intensity of your event marketing in the last few days before ticket sales close to ensure everyone who wants to attend has the opportunity to do so.

6. Coordinate volunteers and on-site staff for your festival

Your nonprofit’s volunteers and staff will be critical to the success of your festival. Volunteers and staff members help keep your event running smoothly and ensure the safety of your attendees.

Here are some core components of a successful volunteer management strategy:

  • Determine your staffing needs. What tasks need to be completed to set your festival up for success? How many volunteers do you need to complete those tasks?
  • Create detailed volunteer role descriptions. Define the various roles or duties volunteers will need to perform to ensure your festival is well-staffed, clean and safe. These roles might include taking attendees’ tickets when they arrive, managing parking or letting performers know when they’re about to go on stage.
  • Create your volunteer schedule. Determine when, where and what you need volunteers to do leading up to, during and after your event. Then build out a volunteer schedule with shift and volunteer roles that need to be filled.
  • Post shift opportunities on your event website’s volunteer page and promote them through your marketing channels. Volunteers can view and sign up directly for the shifts they want, reducing additional administrative work for your team.
  • Equip your volunteer with a mobile app. Provide your team with quick access to their personal schedules, event maps and a direct communication tool to ask questions and receive updates from festival coordinators.

To effectively and efficiently create and execute a successful event volunteer management strategy in your festival planning, consider investing in an all-in-one volunteer management solution.

For example, Bloomerang’s volunteer management system offers a centralized place to manage volunteer schedules, create customized recruitment flows and personalize volunteer outreach. Volunteers can also access convenient self-sign-up tools and a mobile app that empowers them to communicate with your staff when necessary.

7. Plan your festival’s schedule

After determining your lineup, venue and vendors, you’ll be ready to finalize your event schedule. Event safety is a core component when considering your event schedule and logistics, so consider how people will move from activity to performance safely.

Post a map of your venue on your event’s online landing page. The map should mark all parking areas, restroom facilities, eating areas and emergency exits. Have an emergency plan clearly mapped out as well that includes evacuation routes, emergency procedures and safety instructions.

Promote your event’s schedule on social media, your website and your email newsletter in the weeks leading up to your festival.

8. Prep for last-minute tasks on event day

There is nothing more rewarding than watching your festival planning pay off. However, there are always last-minute things that arise leading up to the event and on the day itself. You should try and plan for these unexpected issues as well.

Here are a few last-minute tasks to anticipate:

  • Equipment reallocation. Be ready to move barriers, tech equipment and even tents in the days leading up to the event. You need to be ready to adjust your festival plans for new circumstances like weather or changing security concerns.
  • Staff scheduling issues and no-shows. Use your volunteer management tool to stay in touch with volunteers and remind them of their festival shifts. Put a plan in place for recruiting additional volunteers if some are no-shows.
  • Ensure security staff members are briefed. Brief your security staff on your event’s security measures, such as specific persons not allowed entrance or prohibited items to look for at the check-in point.

Even the most well-planned festivals face unforeseen obstacles on event day. Remain flexible for whatever circumstances come your way.

9. Thank participants and follow up with fundraising results

After your festival concludes, show appreciation to everyone involved, including your volunteers, attendees, donors, performers and vendors. This sets the foundation for long-lasting relationships and boosts your participant retention rate the next time you host a festival.

Consider the following ideas to thank different supporter groups:

  • Hand-written thank you cards for volunteers
  • Thank you emails for event attendees and donors
  • Gift baskets and other appreciation gifts for performers
  • Social media shout-outs for participating vendors

Also, let all participants know your event’s fundraising results and whether you reached your goal. Describe how you’ll use proceeds to further your mission, whether through purchasing new equipment or using the funds to grow certain projects and programs. Make it clear that you couldn’t have achieved such success without the support of everyone who participated in your festival.

Bonus: How Bloomerang can simplify festival planning

Streamline your volunteer and staff management and increase your capacity to scale up your event operations with the help of Bloomerang. Our robust volunteer management software allows you to reduce your administrative time and increase your ability to manage a growing team of event staff.

Bloomerang’s solution allows nonprofit event planners to:

  • Recruit an exceptional team through a customizable online registration form and organize your team based on skills, qualifications and availability.
  • Set up your schedule and make changes quickly with Bloomerang’s event staff scheduling software using the web or mobile app. That way, you can make sure your event is always appropriately staffed.
  • Support and manage your team from anywhere. No matter where you are, the Bloomerang volunteer mobile app keeps managers and staff connected, informed and empowered to act quickly.

This image shows an example of Bloomerang’s volunteer management app, which can help streamline festival planning and staff management.


Schedule a Bloomerang demo for an inside look at what our solution can do for your festival volunteer management needs.

Wrapping up

With a clear vision, dedicated staff and volunteers and a concrete plan, you can make your nonprofit’s festival the event of the season. A well-planned, engaging festival can boost your fundraising efforts and provide significant support to your mission.

Looking for more volunteer management and event planning advice? Check out these additional resources:

Bloomerang’s volunteer management software helps keep volunteers organized, streamlining your festival planning process. Schedule a demo to learn more.

See How Bloomerang Can Have a Bigger Impact on Your Mission!

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