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The Ultimate Nonprofit Event Planning Checklist for Success

How to identify and secure sponsors for nonprofit events
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Great Fundraising Events: From Experience to Transformation.

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Most nonprofits rely on a few fundraising events a year to bring in much-needed donations and to raise awareness for their cause. There are so many forms of fundraising events, from charity runs to fundraising festivals. No matter what event format your nonprofit is considering, you will need to take key event planning steps to make your fundraising event a success.

Bloomerang Volunteer has had the privilege of working with dozens of nonprofits during their event planning processes. Based on our experience, this article will offer an end-to-end event planning checklist, complete with best practices to help set your nonprofit event up for success.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. The Benefits of Sufficient Event Planning for Nonprofit Organizations
  2. COVID-19 Nonprofit Event Safety Considerations
  3. 8 Key Steps for Successful Nonprofit Event Planning
  4. Tips for Better Nonprofit Event Planning

To learn more about the Bloomerang Volunteer event volunteer management solution, click here to schedule a demo. 

The Benefits of Sufficient Event Planning for Nonprofit Organizations

An event offers a nonprofit the opportunity to bring people together who are all committed to a specific cause. For example, a charity walkathon, bikeathon, or runathon to raise money for cancer research brings together everyone who has been touched by cancer, including all their friends and family. This serves as a great fundraising event and enables individuals to act on something they believe in by participating.
Woman writing in a planning journal
A well-planned fundraising event can leave a lasting impression on all the people who attend, which can, in turn, result in greater long-term support for a nonprofit organization.

Here are some benefits of planning a successful nonprofit event:

  • Raise meaningful awareness to your cause
  • Collect donations from event tickets/participation
  • Gain long-term donors
  • Connect with new volunteers who are committed to your cause
  • Grow brand recognition
  • Gain support from event sponsors 

While each organization may have its unique goals, a well-planned nonprofit event comes with a range of added benefits. The above are just a handful of many advantages that you can expect, and the extra effort upfront will be well worth it in the end.

COVID-19 Nonprofit Event Safety Considerations

While the distribution of  COVID-19 vaccines offers a glimmer of hope for nonprofit event planning, it is still important to check in with local health and safety authorities on what the rules and regulations are for events. There are plenty of health and safety measures that can be taken to ensure your participants, staff, and volunteers are safe during your nonprofit’s event.

8 Key Steps for Successful Nonprofit Event Planning

There are a lot of elements that go into planning a successful nonprofit event. From securing your vendor to recruiting enough volunteers, keeping track of all these elements is essential. No matter what type of fundraising event you are planning—whether it’s a golf tournament or a gala—many core elements need to be secured to ensure your event is successful.

Let’s walk through a checklist of 8 nonprofit event planning steps to help you begin your event planning journey.

Step 1) Set Your Goals.

First, you need to determine your key goals for the event and include them in your checklist. These goals will help you plan your event with a specific mission and target in mind. They will also help you assess how successful your event was once it’s over. Essential objectives to consider:

  • What is the purpose of the event?
  • What cause are we promoting with this event?
  • What type of event is this? (Party, Dinner, Get-Together, Conference)
  • What is our goal for the event? (Raise awareness, Fundraising)
  • What expectations will the guests have for this event?

Step 2) Create a Budget.

Once you finalize your goals for the event, it’s time to set up an event budget. It’s important to remember that the budget is constantly evolving as things are added or taken away. Setting up your budget in a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel can help you keep track of all the expenses and details and ultimately avoid worst-case scenarios, like losing money during your event.

Make sure the list is detailed and includes all the expenses for the event, such as:

  • Venue Costs
  • Catering Expenses
  • Decoration Expenses
  • Rental Expenses
  • Food and Drink Costs
  • Entertainment Costs

Step 3) Fundraise and Line Up Sponsorships.

After you have a detailed budget set-up, it’s time to look into funding for the event. Verifying costs and funds available before the big day can help you amp up your fundraising efforts to make sure you meet your fundraising target. Some fundraising questions to consider:

  • Will you be using crowdfunding?
  • Will you be getting sponsors for the event?
  • Will you be selling tickets to the event? (Determine pricing and where to sell the tickets.)

What software will your team use to streamline all the information, donations, and data you will be collecting?

Step 4) Design Your Event.

This step will include all your event details, which are extremely crucial to include in your nonprofit event planning checklist. In this step, you will list and decide everything, including location, theme, and decorations. It’s best to make separate categories for each detail, as each topic contains a lot of information.

Making detailed checklists for this step will help you finalize all the features that are extremely important to the big day. Here are some vital categories to consider:

  • What venue will you be using?
  • What will be the date and time for the event?
  • What type of theme will you be incorporating?
  • What type of decor will you be using? (This includes decorations, music, smells, visual background elements, entertainment, and guest speakers.)
  • What food and drinks will you be serving?
  • How will the floor layout be for the big day?
  • What will the specific roles be for your volunteers and staff?
  • How will you handle registration and security during the event?
  • What transportation options will you have? Will there be parking available?
  • How will you handle emergencies? (Medical, Power Outage)
  • Will you have a specific itinerary?

Step 5) Recruit Volunteers.

Volunteers are the main workforce behind most nonprofit organizations, which makes them an obvious choice for nonprofit events as well. From participant registration to garbage pick-up, a well-planned and executed volunteer program is essential. Many nonprofit organizations will need to recruit additional volunteers to work their fundraising events.

Bloomerang Volunteer offers a volunteer management solution that can be used for both day-to-day programs and events, which offers nonprofits the ability to manage all their volunteers in one place.

Here is a quick checklist to bear in mind when recruiting new volunteers for your event:

  • Create volunteer roles with detailed descriptions.
  • Create accessible volunteer schedules with shift and assigned roles.
  • Offer volunteers easy online registration and allow them to self-sign up for shifts.
  • Provide the volunteer with an event day app for real-time communication, shift check-in, and access to event documents.
  • Show appreciation to your volunteers during the event and after the event.
  • Evaluate the success of your nonprofit’s event and make required changes to improve year over year.

Step 6) Market Your Event.

Advertising is a key step for any nonprofit event. The easiest way to execute this scheme is to come up with a detailed marketing agenda and checklist and make sure your team understands their role in this plan.

Here are a few details to consider when building out your marketing plan:

  • How will you promote the event? (Social Media, Flyers, Radio, Local News, etc.)
  • What promotional materials will you be using? (Decals, Logos, T-shirts)

Step 7) Host the Event.

On the big event day, there will still be a great number of tasks and logistics to manage to ensure all your nonprofit event planning pays off. While hosting an event can be very rewarding, it’s important to keep your eyes on the prize to ensure all your volunteers, staff, vendors, and entertainers are set up for success.

Communication is absolutely essential to keeping everyone on the same page. A mobile app with real-time communication can really help ensure everyone has a discrete way to ask questions and keep track of what is going on. As long as your team is on the same page, your event should go off without a hitch.

Step 8) Follow Up Afterward.

After the event has come and gone, it’s a good idea to follow-up with your guests, send thank you notes, and ask for any feedback. It will also be a good time to sit down with your team and create a comprehensive post-event checklist. Doing this will help you see what areas you need to work on for future events, what went wrong, what steps didn’t work, and what aspects of the event worked great. These follow-up steps will also be a good way to determine if you meet your event objectives.

Tips for Better Nonprofit Event Planning

There is a lot that goes into nonprofit event planning, and sometimes, making your event stand out from the crowd requires a little more attention to detail. Now that you understand all the basics required for nonprofit event planning, here are some tips to take your event from good to great.

Learn From Your Previous Events.

There are always areas in which you can improve, and the only way to do that is to reflect on past events. Reviewing surveys from participants, volunteers, and vendors from your previous events will allow you to understand where you went wrong and what elements of the event are worth duplicating. Consider all those elements, and then make sure to include them in your current nonprofit event planning process.

Use A Volunteer Management Solution.

Volunteers are an obvious choice for staffing a nonprofit event, but there is a lot that needs to be taken into consideration when setting your volunteers up for success. Streamline your event volunteer management operations, reduce your administrative time, and increase your ability to manage a growing team of event volunteers.

Bloomerang’s volunteer management solution allows nonprofit to:

  • Recruit an exceptional team of volunteers through a customizable online registration form and roster your team based on skills, qualifications, and availability in half the time.
  • Set up your schedule and make changes fast with Bloomerang’s volunteer shift 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 event day app keeps managers and staff connected, informed, and empowered to act quickly.
  • Manage your event volunteer data your way with the most flexible and user-friendly event staff management software on the market.

Click here to schedule a demo to learn more. 

Survey Your Donors and Past Participants For What They Want to See.

If you have run a nonprofit event in the past, that means you have a tremendous resource at your disposal. All your contact data can be leveraged to simply ask people what experiences they would like to see or which options they prefer for your nonprofit’s event.

There is no harm in asking what theme, activities, or performers your supporters are most interested in for your upcoming event. In fact, taking this step can really help solidify your event’s success.

Explore additional event planning tips!

Additional Nonprofit Event Planning Resources

Now that you are more prepared to begin planning your nonprofit event, it’s time to start checking off some items on that checklist. Following the steps and implementing the best practices we covered in this guide will set any type of event up for success. That extra effort upfront will end with noteworthy results for your team!

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