Fundraising Basics: How To Plan a Successful Fundraiser

woman illustrating fundraising concept in notebook

About 77 percent of Americans believe that everyone can make a difference in the world by supporting causes. Every year, tens of millions of them donate their money, time, energy, and talents to support charitable events. This is good news for you if you're looking to raise money soon.

Currently, there are numerous ideas you can use to raise money, from text campaigns to social media. But perhaps the most exciting and engaging methods to raise funds is by organizing a successful fundraiser. 

But while a fundraiser can be a very effective way of getting money for your cause, it can also prove expensive and time-consuming. Ensuring that yours is a winner takes a lot of careful planning.

In this definitive guide, we’ll tell you all you need to know about organizing a fundraiser. Read on to learn more.

Steps to a Successful Fundraiser

So what goes into fundraiser planning? In the following section, we’ll break down the entire process into ten steps to make things more manageable for you.

Define the Purpose of the Event

Before you do anything else, you need to know what the primary purpose of the event is. Is this purely a fundraising event, or does it also have other goals? Many organizations plan to raise money at events but aim at gaining publicity or reaching to new networks as well.

There's nothing wrong with having more than one goal. The important thing is to know what you want to achieve, so it's easier to figure things out.

Write Down Your Goals

Once you’ve defined the purpose of your event, the next step should be to write down goals that will enable you to measure the success of the fundraiser. The primary goal, of course, will be the amount of money you want to raise.

Make a list of the donors you anticipate will attend your event, and then make an educated guess of the dollar amount each of these donors will give. In case your event has other goals, note them down as well. 

Once the event is over, you can go through your list of goals and determine which ones you met and which ones you didn’t. This move will give you valuable insights for your subsequent fundraisers.

Decide the Type of Event That Will Work Best

The next essential tip on how to organize a fundraiser is to determine the nature of the actual event you’re going to host. Not all fundraisers look alike. Evaluate the donors who’ll attend your event to know what kind of event will interest them most.

For instance, the best event for a fundraiser with a strong volunteer base is one that has a community service component. Where most supporters are millennials, you want a less formal event. If you're targeting major corporate donors, then consider a formal dinner, a charity gala, or an auction.  

Create an Event Budget

All events require some capital to raise money. With excellent persuasive skills, you may be able to get many essentials donated towards your event. For instance, you may be able to get an event space, food, entertainment, and so on.

However, you’ll still need some money for other expenses, such as transportation, fundraising pins, and meals for your staff and volunteers. That's why you need to have a good grasp of your financials and create a budget for your event. Ensure you have some extra cash for any unexpected expenses.

Assemble a Team of Leaders

Another valuable tip on how to create a fundraiser that achieves its goals is to work with a capable team of leaders. Your event will have lots of components, and it’s vital to have people in charge of each of those components. Designate someone to lead such duties as:

  • Soliciting sponsorships
  • Tickets, registration, and checkout
  • Marketing 
  • Volunteer management
  • Venue setup 
  • Auction items procurement
  • Event follow-up

Set a Specific Date for the Event

Before you book a venue or hire entertainment, you should establish the specific day your event will take place. While selecting a date, make sure there’s enough time for you to secure a suitable venue and for your guests to prepare for it.

Don't plan the event around major sports games, holidays, or national events, as this might cause conflicts. If you've been hosting the event annually, you want to keep the date consistent with previous years so your donors will be expecting it.

Market the Event

The only way to maximize attendance to your event is by promoting it as much as possible. The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can economically do so. Use social media, your website, email, print media, direct mail, and so on.

Come up with attractive promotion materials to create as much hype for your event as possible. As soon as people start to generate interest, begin selling tickets right away. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that your supporters know how to purchase tickets, whether online or offline.       

Set up for the Event

With everything set, now's the time to put all the final touches in the planning process. Call the entertainment to confirm their arrival, sound checks, and rehearsals. Make sure that the venue is appropriately decorated.

In case you have volunteers, schedule, and organize them. Confirm catering too, and if there are auction items, make sure they're properly displayed.

Enjoy Your Event 

As your guests arrive, focus on engaging with them. Ensure everyone's enjoying the event and keep gathering media. If you can, live stream the fundraiser on social media and create a hashtag to make things even more exciting.


The final tip on how to host a fundraiser involves following up on your guests, volunteers, and vendors once your event is over. Personally reach out to everyone who took part in your event and express your gratitude for their support. You can send an email to them, or make a handwritten note, and they'll be sure to remember your appreciation when you invite them for your next event.

You Can Make Your Fundraiser a Roaring Success

It takes a lot of dedication and hard work to plan a successful fundraiser, but you can make things easier through careful planning. By following the steps we’ve laid out above, you can ensure your event reaches its goals.

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