How to Plan a Fundraising Event: 10 Steps to Raise More

Your nonprofit depends on a steady flow of revenue to serve your beneficiaries and push your mission forward. One of the best and most effective ways to raise money for your cause is with an engaging fundraising event that your entire community will love!

However, planning a fundraising event involves a lot of moving parts—from developing a compelling marketing campaign to investing in the right fundraising technology to seamlessly manage registrations, communications, and more.

In this article, we’ll go over the 10 most important steps for how to organize a winning fundraising event:

1. Determine your fundraising event goals.
2. Select the right type of fundraising event.
3. Establish your fundraising event budget.
4. Devise a committee for event planning.
5. Set a date and time for your fundraising event.
6. Market your fundraising event effectively.
7. Sell tickets to your fundraising event.
8. Set up for the big day.
9. Enjoy your fundraising event.
10. Follow up with attendees after your event.

By rallying your team around these action steps, you’ll be on your way to hosting a great event that goes off without a hitch.

1. Determine your fundraising event goals.

In order to host a successful event, you’ll first need to determine what success means to your organization. Set strategic goals that follow the SMART model (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound). This gives you a framework for how you’ll achieve these objectives and measure progress.

The SMART goal-setting framework can support you through fundraising event planning.

For example, let’s see what a SMART goal might look like in action for a nonprofit planning a peer-to-peer walkathon:

  • Specific: Our nonprofit will aim to raise $15,000 during our annual walkathon, with all the funds going back toward our mission to find a cure for breast cancer.
  • Measurable: We’ll use our fundraising technology to track incoming donations throughout our peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. We’ll also narrow this down to which donors are new or returning to inform our donor acquisition and retention strategies.
  • Achievable: Our walkathon last year raised $10,000. Since we’ll be elevating our gamification strategy and getting our board members involved in ambassador fundraising, our goal to raise $5,000 seems reasonable and within our grasp.
  • Relevant: The funds raised from our walkathon will directly support our mission to advance research and treatment options for breast cancer patients in our community.
  • Time-bound: We’ll launch the peer-to-peer campaign for our walkathon one month before the event commences and end our fundraiser at midnight following our event. Each week, we’ll check in on our fundraising progress and make adjustments in our strategy as needed to ramp up giving.

In addition to establishing a clear revenue goal, your nonprofit should also consider setting awareness and engagement objectives, including:

  • Acquiring new donors
  • Promoting your cause or gaining publicity
  • Stewarding existing donors
  • Engaging prospective major donors
  • Reconnecting with lapsed supporters
  • Recognizing volunteers or recurring donors
  • Earning a certain number of impressions or likes on your event-related social media content

As you plan out your goals, make sure to identify the point people responsible for executing each project. For example, tap your marketing team to plan out your content calendar and launch an engaging social media campaign. Clearly defining each team member’s responsibilities will increase their sense of ownership over their roles and keep motivations high in the pursuit of your goals.

2. Select the Right Type of Event Fundraiser

Now that you know what you’d like your event to accomplish, you’ll need to figure out what type of event will engage the most supporters. After all, your nonprofit has a much higher chance of increasing turnout (and revenue) for an event that relates to your donors’ interests!

Look to your donor database to get a picture of the kind of event your supporters would most gravitate towards. Ask yourself the following questions to point your nonprofit’s team in the right direction:

  • What past events or fundraisers have received the most enthusiastic participation and support from our donors? Events that resulted in a large turnout are a strong indicator of what your supporters enjoy attending.
  • How do your supporters prefer to get involved? For example, if plenty of your supporters also volunteer, you might plan an event with a community service component. If your cause is health-related and your supporters are passionate about physical fitness, a run/walk/ride event can be a great choice. Think through what gets your supporters the most excited to participate in your cause.
  • Where do your donors live? If your supporters are spread across the country, hosting a virtual or hybrid event will help you include as many people as possible in your activities. For instance, you might host a hybrid auction where your local VIP supporters are invited to participate in person and the rest of your community can join online.
  • Will weather impact your event? An outdoor fundraising event might draw in more attendees in the spring or summer when it’s warm. An indoor charity gala, on the other hand, can be hosted year-round.
  • Does your cause have a specific demographic? If you’re raising money for a school, for example, an all-ages fundraising event such as a family-friendly cookout or field day may be more successful than a parents-only evening event.
  • What feedback or suggestions have our donors provided regarding fundraising events or initiatives? Go right to the source to find out what fundraising events get your community the most amped up.

Your fundraising goals should also heavily inform the kind of event you host. For example, if your goal is to expand your network of donors, you might host an auction with a peer-to-peer component to attract new supporters and form stronger connections with your fundraisers.

Alternatively, let’s say your organization is hoping to raise awareness about a specific issue in your community while also raising funds to support related initiatives. In this case, you might consider hosting a themed fundraising gala or benefit dinner. This fundraising event can include live presentations, keynote speakers, and an auction component to spark giving.

Keep in mind that the type of event you choose to host will also influence the kind of venue you select. While some events like a silent auction work well in several different types of spaces, others require certain parameters. For example, if you’re hosting a talent show or concert, you’ll need a large stage as well as the right lighting and sound equipment for your performers.

Need fundraising inspiration? Check out our list of amazing fundraising event ideas to find an event that aligns perfectly with your audience and goals.

3. Establish your fundraising event budget.

While fundraising events can be major money-makers, let’s not forget that you’ll have to invest some of your own capital in order to make the event happen. Craft a detailed budget before you start planning to ensure you’re on top of all costs.

Every event is different, but here are a few examples of expenses you should include in your budget:

Event fundraising software

Although event fundraising software may seem like a considerable investment, the right tool will provide value to your organization for years to come. Look for a comprehensive event fundraising solution that offers all the features you need to pull off a successful event, including:

The right event fundraising software will make planning your fundraiser a breeze.

Event management

Whether you’re hoping to host an event in-person, online, or as a hybrid combination of the two, your fundraising software should make it simple to run events of all types year-round. Specifically, your software should empower your nonprofit to seamlessly sell custom ticket packages and manage RSVPs, offer contactless check-in and check-out, create table groups and oversee seating, and leverage real-time analytics to enhance your strategy.

Auction Tools

Thinking of hosting an auction? With mobile bidding tools, you can create a streamlined way for your guests to submit bids right from their smartphones. Look for software that also allows your participants to set maximum bids, buy fixed-priced items, and receive automated outbid notifications.

Online Giving

With 63% of donors reporting that ease of giving is the most important factor when it comes to attending an event, you must create a positive online donation experience. Using your fundraising tool, you should be able to create mobile-friendly donation pages branded to your organization, develop engaging fundraising microsites to inspire audiences and drive conversions, and use secure SSL/PCI processing to safeguard your donors’ private information. Plus, your supporters should be able to easily create their own personal fundraising pages.


Want to take your fundraising to the next level? Incorporate text-to-give into your next nonprofit event! This is a great way to bring in extra donations in a way that is easy and convenient for donors. Supporters simply opt into your texts using your keyword and short-code and are sent a mobile-friendly link to your donation page.

Look for software that offers text-to-give so you can easily plan a revenue-generating fundraising event.

The right fundraising software will support your text-to-give efforts by empowering your nonprofit to send compelling calls to action, display fundraising progress with an interactive scoreboard, and seamlessly manage campaigns.

Sponsor Management

Managing your corporate sponsorships shouldn’t be a hassle! Work with event fundraising software that allows your nonprofit to create customizable online sponsor packages and group and size your sponsors’ logos based on contribution level. Plus, you should be able to readily track impressions and engagement to show your sponsors the value of partnering with your organization.

Space-related costs

Consider how much money you can reasonably allocate toward a venue. Keep in mind that you don’t have to reserve the most lavish ballroom in your area! Most fundraising events can be readily adapted to work in spaces you already have access to or even online.

Event perks

Expenses like entertainment and catering can add up! Don’t forget you can always lean on your volunteers for extra support. For example, you might ask talented volunteers to put together a music act or make fresh pastries for the guests to enjoy.


In addition to having the right fundraising software in your toolkit, you might also need sound or lighting equipment, if not already provided by the venue.

Promotional items

Items like branded merchandise can be great incentives to increase attendance or participation. Plus, when your supporters are sporting your nonprofit’s gear following the event, you’ll be able to boost awareness for your cause!

Make a spreadsheet with all the items you’ll need, and do some research to find the average prices for your budget items. You’ll also want to add some padding to your budget for any unexpected costs.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to cover the costs of your event all on your own! Corporate sponsors can help your nonprofit alleviate some or all of its financial burden. For example, you can ask corporate sponsors to provide:

  • Financial support, such as financing the cost of catering or matching all gifts made to your cause during the event.
  • In-kind donations, like allowing your nonprofit to use their office space for your event venue or donating items that can be used for your auction.
  • Skilled volunteers, such as professional graphic designers who can support your marketing strategy.

To secure corporate sponsorships, start by researching local businesses that share similar values and philanthropic interests. Then, write a corporate sponsorship letter that details your needs and how this partnership would benefit the company. For instance, you might include the company’s name and logo on all promotional materials, helping to increase their visibility. 

4. Devise a committee for fundraising event planning.

As mentioned previously in the goal-setting section, you must identify the people who will be in charge of seeing each of your goals through. Form a fundraising event planning committee that will be tasked with tackling specific aspects, such as:

  • Venue/Catering
  • Sponsorships
  • Marketing and promotions
  • Ticket sales or registration
  • Volunteer management
  • Major donor involvement
  • Venue setup
  • Auction item procurement
  • Event follow-up

Along with giving responsibilities to staff members, you should also prioritize recruiting volunteers to help with your event. For example, you might tap well-connected supporters to serve as ambassadors for your cause. With their wide networks, these individuals can help you maximize your reach and bring in more attendees and donors for your event.

Specifying who is in charge of the projects associated with your goals will minimize the risk of miscommunication and ensure everyone knows their role in fueling the success of your event.

5. Set a date and time for your fundraising event.

Before you can start booking entertainment and contacting potential venues, you need to know one more important detail: when your event will take place! Keep the following questions in mind as you consult your calendar:

  • Are we planning far enough in advance? Planning an event too close can make it tough to secure a venue and also gives guests less time to RSVP.
  • Is this an annual event? If you’re hosting an annual event, keep your timing consistent each year so that donors know when to expect it.
  • Does our fundraiser conflict with any other major events? Keep holidays in mind as well as national or local events.
  • Should our event be on a weeknight or weekend? If you’re hosting a daytime event, opt for a weekend when donors are more likely to be free. If your event takes place in the evening, you’ll likely find a better deal on a venue on a weeknight, but donors will be less likely to stay late.

You can also survey your supporters to find out when they’re most likely to attend an event. This will increase the likelihood of selecting a date and time that boosts your attendance and fundraising potential for your nonprofit’s event.

6. Market your fundraising event efficiently.

You’ve started to pin down the details for your perfect event, but something’s missing—your guests! To get the word out to your constituents and guarantee a packed house, you’ll need a strong nonprofit marketing plan.

The most effective promotional plans involve multiple channels of communication, both online and off. Let’s look at a few of the many ways you can spread the word about your upcoming event:

Creating a multichannel marketing plan is a key part of planning your fundraiser.

  • Social media: Share compelling posts, such as graphics outlining your impact and videos from your nonprofit’s staff.
  • Your website: Develop an engaging event landing page or microsite that explains your event’s purpose and shows how to get involved.
  • Email: Highlight your upcoming event in your email newsletter and send standalone promotional messages and invites.
  • Text messaging: Share concise texts that effectively create hype around your event.
  • Direct mail (including invitations): Add a QR code to your mail so supporters can learn more about your event and register online.
  • Flyers: Post well-designed fundraising flyers around your community if your event has a local focus.
  • Print ads in local newspapers: Include all the logistical details of your event, including the name, purpose, fee for attendance if applicable, date, time, and location.
  • Radio or TV slot: Feature one of your nonprofit’s leaders explaining why everyone should attend your event.

To maximize your promotional potential and most efficiently catch supporters’ eyes, prioritize sharing content to the channels your supporters use most often. That way, you are targeting the right donor bases, with the right advertisements, on the right channels.

Additionally, be strategic in how you plan out your approach to each marketing channel. For example, once you develop a fundraising event site, you’ll also need a way to ensure your website is coming up in search engine results.

In addition to improving your search engine optimization using best practices like prioritizing accessibility and creating quality content, it can be helpful to leverage free advertising credits from Google Ad Grants. Google equips eligible nonprofits with $10,000 in ad credits per month, allowing organizations like yours to bid on different keywords and promote specific pages on your site related to your fundraiser.

For example, if you’re hosting a fundraising gala to support oceans, you might create an ad for the keyword “ocean conservation gala” so your event registration page comes up at the top of the search engine results page.

You can also use Google Ads to market your open volunteer roles for your upcoming event. For instance, an animal shelter might target the keyword “animal shelter volunteering” to increase visibility around their event needs to prospective supporters in their community.

Google Ad Grants is a great marketing tool to use as you plan your fundraising event.

To optimize your Google Ad Grants strategy and maximize your advertising credits, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Use specific long-tail keywords to connect with more qualified users.
  • Ensure your ad correctly links to the appropriate page to create a positive user experience.
  • Keep your landing pages in good shape by incorporating your branding and making clear, targeted calls to action.

Don’t feel like you have to invest in a variety of marketing tools to see results! Using free services like Google Ads can help your organization effectively promote its fundraising events without incurring more expenses. 

7. Sell tickets to your fundraising event.

Now that you’ve begun marketing your event, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll handle ticket sales or registrations. You should start selling tickets to your event as soon as possible. However, keep these considerations in mind before opening your sale:

  • Will you charge a flat price or offer different ticket packages? You might sell a VIP ticket option for a higher price or offer discounts for groups or families. Additionally, you could price your tickets by date of purchase to reward those who buy early.
  • Where will you sell tickets? Make sure donors know how to purchase tickets by providing a clear option on your event fundraising site. Clearly lay out prices and packages so that there’s no confusion.
  • How will you manage attendee information? If you’re handling tickets or event registrations online, you’ll be collecting a lot of donor information with each purchase. The best way to manage this data is to integrate your event fundraising software with your CRM so that all data flows seamlessly into your donor database.

Keep in mind that creating an easy registration process will help keep the planning and ticketing seamless for your donors. Make sure you try the ticketing process from your own site, as if you were a guest. That will help you weed out any issues or “gotchas” before you go live!

The right event fundraising software will optimize your ticketing processes with no manual work necessary on your end. Look for a solution that empowers you to customize packages, coupons, and discount codes, allow attendees to submit seating requests, and create an option to add donations at ticket purchase. To bring in even more donations, consider embedding a matching gift widget into your registration page so supporters can research their eligibility. 

8. Set up for the big day.

It’s time to put all your preparation to work on the big day (or night) of your fundraising event. Before you open the doors, put all the final touches in place:

  • Coordinate with entertainment (i.e., when to arrive, where to park, when rehearsals/sound-checks will take place).
  • Decorate the venue.
  • Schedule and organize volunteers.
  • Arrange day-of ticket sales or registration.
  • Place auction item displays.
  • Prepare refreshments.

For complex or large-scale events, make sure you create clear day-of guidelines for everyone involved. A straightforward plan of action will ensure that all members of your team—from full-time staff to event volunteers—are aware of their responsibilities and prepared to pull off a successful event.

Your event team will need to know when and where to arrive, what to wear, what tasks they’ll be performing, and how long they can expect their shift to last. Send out these details well in advance to provide ample time for answering questions or dealing with unforeseen issues.

Remember: the more prep work you put in, the less you’ll have to worry about on the day of your fundraiser!

It might be a good idea to do a practice run-through with your technology and volunteers. That way everyone involved can feel confident that your fundraising event will go off without a hitch, and you can work through any issues before the big day (or night).

9. Enjoy your fundraising event!

By the time your event actually rolls around, you might be tempted to check out or consider all your hard work done. While you can (and should!) relax a little, there are still a few best practices to help you get the most on event day!

During your event, be sure to:

  • Engage with guests. Use your event as an opportunity to get face time with donors and supporters. Check in with them and make sure they’re enjoying the event!
  • Broadcast your event online. For those who couldn’t make it, take the party online! Livestream your event with your online fundraising tools with live chat capabilities and create social media hashtags where people can join in on conversations and posts related to your event.
  • Make live donation appeals. Direct donors to give in the moment so you can maximize on their excitement and increase your event’s fundraising potential. Text-to-give is an easy and effective way for donors to give right away!
  • Have fun! Show your donors how excited you are to have put together such a successful event (and how grateful you are for their attendance!). Smile, have fun, and mix and mingle when you can.

If you notice a dip in engagement levels, ramp up your gamification strategy and add more interactive activities. For example, you might direct your supporters’ attention often to the fundraising leaderboard and offer live polls and chat capabilities for remote supporters. 

10. Follow up with attendees after your fundraising event.

Just because your event is over doesn’t mean the work is! One of the most critical parts of organizing a fundraiser is setting up a plan to keep your supporters engaged in your mission in the post-event follow-up.

Promptly send thank-you notes to everyone who was involved with your event, including sponsors, guests, and volunteers. You might send handwritten notes to the supporters who made a significant difference and share digital eCards with the rest of your attendees.

Don’t forget to update your supporters on your progress, too. They’ll want to know how this fundraising event impacted your cause, so be as detailed as possible.

To get supporters’ feedback on your event, send out a survey to all who attended. Here are some examples of questions you can include in your survey:

  • In what ways was the event successful, and in what ways was it unsuccessful?
  • How did you hear about the event?
  • Do you think this type of event is an appropriate way to raise funds/awareness for this cause?
  • Can you remember any specific details about the event that you feel made you more or less likely to donate?
  • How can we make our next event better?

Gathering feedback from your supporters after each fundraiser ensures that your events will keep improving and your fundraising dollars will keep climbing!

Get Started with OneCause

To plan a successful fundraiser, you need the right tools on your side. The OneCause Fundraising Platform makes giving modern, flexible, and seamless to drive deeper engagement and grow your fundraising.

This unparalleled solution offers a complete suite of event planning and management features guaranteed to take any fundraising event to the next level, including:

  • Integrated ticketing
  • Contactless check-in and out
  • Table and seating management
  • Donor management
  • Dynamic guest communication tools
  • Real-time analytics

Take a look at the versatile all-in-one fundraising software that meets the expectations of today’s donors, supporting any in-person, virtual, or hybrid event.

All New OneCause Fundraising Platform


Wrapping Up

Fundraising events are a powerful way to rally your community around your cause and raise significant funds. With a well-thought-out plan, you can see your goals through and move your mission forward in the process.

Eager to learn more about putting together an inspiring fundraising event? Explore these additional resources: