How to Organise a Charity Event

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Getting people to show up is one of the battles for a charity event organiser.  The second is maximising the amount of money made.  Consequently, when you are planning a charity event, you want a little pizzazz balanced with cost-effectivity.  So, although wholesale balloons might not be at the top of your list of priorities, remember they can add these moments of glitz and glamour at a low cost.  This is precisely the sort of decision that underpins what is required to make your event a success.

With this fundamental decision-making rule in mind, we will guide through the necessary steps for producing the best fundraiser possible.  Our aim: to help you exceed your goals and expectations.

What is your cause?

You need to be clear on your goals.  You may have chosen your charity before deciding on an event.  However, you might not have decided on your message or purpose.  You want to raise money, but you also may want to use the opportunity to educate and communicate a powerful message.  The clearer you are on your promotional message the easier it will be to define your strategy.

Your first exercise should be to write a mission statement.  Your statement should define your aspirations.  From these hopes, you can start to draw up the beginnings of a plan of action.

You should also decide how much money you want to raise.  It is always a good idea to set a target and communicate this to your target audience.  People will try their best to stretch towards a goal, giving a little more than they would have otherwise.  Remember though that seeking donations is not the only way to make your event a success. You can also raise awareness and increase your networking power — factor in all the benefits when considering the amount you want to invest in the event.

Set your budget

Decision number one is the amount you are willing to spend.  Everything you spend will need to be deducted from the amount that you raise.  However, you cannot scrimp too much and produce an uninspiring event where no-one feels they want to donate.  It is better to over-estimate your costs at the beginning.  You will likely need to budget for the hire of a venue, equipment hire, publicity, entertainment, food and drink, decorations and insurances.  You would hope that the helpers would be volunteers but consider staff costs too.

Deciding if this is going to be a relaxed or formal event will contribute to the pricing of your event, as will the scale and theme.  Therefore, when setting your budget, you need to make these initial choices.

When setting your budget, be sure to leave room for issues.  You need a fund for contingencies – making sure you can meet any unforeseen circumstances.

Who will be interested in your event?

Making the most of your budget means you must be smart.  You need to be highly targeted with your marketing and recruitment efforts.  You cannot hope to appeal to a broad market – so the better you know your audience then more likely you will be successful.  The sort of event that will appeal to a millennial generation will be different from those in the baby boomer era.

The choice of the audience will not only impact your marketing but the choice of an event in its entirety.  Whether you go invite-only for a corporate audience, a black-tie affair for an older audience or something louder and more exciting for a youth audience, everything you do from this moment on will be dictated by who you hope will attend.


Booking the venue

There are a few options for booking inexpensive sites.  First, you can choose a place that offers a minimum spend.  What this means is that there is no upfront cost for hiring the space but that the guests at the event will need to reach a set amount in food and alcohol spend.  If the sale of food and drink is part of the fundraising, then this will not be the best option.  However, if you are running a sporting event, quiz, auction, etc. then the minimum spend will allow you to have the venue for free.

A cheap alternative venue would be a community space.  Places like sports or church halls will rent out the room for a small amount of money.  If the event is for charity, they may be persuaded to offer the place for free – particularly the church hall.  However, these venues will have restrictions on what can happen in terms of noise and alcohol levels.

Finally, you could book university and college room – but again there may be restrictions.

If you want to be more imaginative, you can organise venues for free.  A street or garden party, if the weather is good, would be perfect and free.  Alternatively, you may choose an event that doesn’t require people to gather at all – it could be an online extravaganza such as a lottery.

Alternatively, your event could be venue-free because it is a sponsorship activity.  You could ask people to abstain from alcohol or chocolate for a set period.  You could encourage people to go for a swim on New Year’s Day or Boxing Day. What about a running event or a walkathon, a cycle or a treasure hunt?  A venue can be a significant drag on your funds, so any trick you can use to avoid having to hire somewhere will make a big difference.


What about your entertainment?

If you have an event where people gather, you need to entertain on a budget.  You could hire a photo booth, which always boosts excitement and provide shareable images.  This can garner more support and awareness after the event.  Alternatively, you could hire a karaoke machine and get people to entertain each other.  The machines are affordable and offer infinite value.

However, again you need to consider your audience and your goal.  If you need a professional outcome and a strong sense of awareness, you may wish to hire a professional entertainment and events company.  Although the initial investment might be higher, the returns might be proportionally more impressive than something more amateur.

Choose your theme

People want experiences nowadays.  Millennials mainly want to create memories while they are raising money.  Therefore, your theme can’t be to raise money.  You need a hook, the clickbait, that will get people sharing images of social media feeds.

When building up to the event, you need to think about what will get people excited.  What will you be able to share that will create anticipation and shares? You should definitely post regularly, making use of Instagram stories to get behind the scenes and develop a sense of personality to your organisation as well as the event.  Document everything in photographs and videos, getting people behind the scenes.

Market Aggressively

You cannot be too pushy when you are marketing a charity event.  It is not like you are selling a product, where you can be too aggressive and force people to walk away.  You don’t want to make people feel intimidation or anxious, but you do want to make it impossible for them to miss your point.  How much you can spread the word will have a direct impact on how well you meet your goals.

You can use traditional approaches, from invitations to phoning people and using an email sales journey.  However, you should also make thorough use of digital channels – connecting this with your other advertising methods.  Twitter has been proven the more powerful channel for persuading people to engage with events, increasing the price people will pay for tickets with just a single post.

Decide a structure on how you will receive your money

You need to decide how you are going to gather in all the money.  The easier you make this, the more you will make.  If you have only one donation method, then you will lose vast swathes of your market.  You can begin with online donations, maybe mobile payments – but also perhaps direct transfers to a bank account and cash sales on the night.  The more options available, the more you grease the wheel of donations.

You can maximise on the FOMO of your event by having a text-to-donate option for people spotting the exciting Tweets and posts coming out of your event.

However, you need also to make sure all the legal logistics are in place too.  Fundraising is regulated.  You need to be clear on the Code of Fundraising Practice.  The sort of issues you should cover include health and safety, completing a risk assessment, meet your expected numbers, have the proper permits and licenses in place for your venue and have somebody first aid trained available.

Find your core community

Your ideal would be for your community of core supporters to be excited and to share and raise awareness for you.  Seek out your core group who will be swept along with you and then lean on them for additional support.  You can incentivise their participation with free ticket giveaways for each share and comment they offer.  You can also use crowdfunding websites to encourage even greater participation.

The more you can automate the communication with this core group, the easier it will be to create this buzz.  Therefore, use technology to its full to help your fundraising respond immediately to the interest of your potential audience.  You can also automate your social media posting, maximising your timing with your target audience.

By automating communication, especially with this core community, will leave you time to scale your event in other, more logistical areas.


There is a lot to consider when organising a charity event. It is essential to get the foundations in place first.  You need to be sure of your hopes and goals and from this set your budget.  You need to know how you are going to measure your success, whether this is a target financial goal – or whether it is to have a set number of new followers on social media or an increased awareness with your target group.

As with any event, it is essential to be creative and unique when conceiving your plans.  There is a lot of competition for attention out there – so you are going to have to find your way above the noise.

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