bbc children in need charity event
17 November 2015

How to get your charity event planning right

With careful and detailed planning a charity event can be an occasion which raises the profile of an organisation whilst bringing in much needed funds and providing a fantastic programme of entertainment.

The key word here is ‘planning’, since the attention to detail required for a successful charity event should match anything which would be applied when organising a professional occasion. If anything, the fact that the event is predicated upon raising money for the charity concerned means that budgeting precisely and with accuracy is even more important than would be the case with any other corporate event.

A charity event which fails to make a profit has missed its’ basic remit. So here is a guide with the tips to make sure you get it right.

  • The first and most important decision you need to make revolves around the specific type of event you wish to stage. Options might include a dinner dance or ball around a particular theme, a programme of entertainment, a family fun day allowing guests to bring their children or a casino night.The fund raising element could revolve around a raffle, a live auction or a variation such as a silent or reverse auction. Investing in a professional auctioneer or, if suitable, some other kind of paid entertainer, will pay off in terms of generating the enthusiasm required to get the money rolling in.In terms of prizes, don’t be afraid of calling in favours or even asking friends and family for donations towards the cause in question. Local business, sports teams and organisations might also be keen to donate in return for the goodwill generated and the chance to associate themselves with a demonstrably worthy occasion.
  • In terms of calculating the budget for the event, the vital step is to pull together as many different funding sources as possible, prioritising the expenses which you can’t possibly cut back on and trying to get as much as possible done for free. People who work for the charity in question are frequently happy to volunteer for various roles during the event itself, and will provide the added bonus of being able to personalise the event, mixing with guests and explaining exactly what it is that they are all there to raise money for.
  • When selecting a venue it should be borne in mind that this one aspect of the event will probably cost more than any other and might have the largest impact on whether it’s a success or not. Key factors include the size of the venue, the facilities it offers and its location. If the venue is difficult to reach then people will be reluctant to attend, and in some cases it may even be worth considering laying on travel for guests to and from a more accessible location. One advantage of having some degree of control over the travel arrangements is that it minimises the risk of people leaving early and perhaps missing the fundraising section of the event.
  • Sponsorship arrangements are another valuable source of funding, and businesses are often happy to cover the costs of a particular part of the event, or indeed the event as a whole, in return for the development and strengthening of their brand and image.
  • Once you’ve established exactly how much you’ve got to spend you should sit down and draw up a detailed list of factors which you know for certain will have to be paid for. These generally include the hire of the venue, the cost of any food and drink, the cost of any entertainment or hosting and the budgeting set aside for marketing purposes. In all cases, ensure that the people you’re buying from are aware that it’s a charity event, and don’t be afraid of asking if they’re able to offer a discount in light of the cause being funded.
  • A detailed and accurate breakdown of the expenses involved can then be used to work out exactly how much you can charge for attendance. In the first instance it should be an amount which is enough to cover the expenses and generate a profit, but it must also be calculated with regard to the audience you wish to attract.
  • For a high end event meant to attract those at the top of the corporate ladder, for example, a steeper ticket price than that which is which necessary in strictly commercial terms might make the event more attractive as a prestige occasion.
  • In terms of marketing, it’s vital that the charitable nature of the event is placed at the front and centre of all the material that you produce. People being asked to attend and donate should be aware not only that a charity is being funded, but exactly what that charity does and why it is so vital that it receives sufficient income.
  • After the event, follow this up with communications – in the form of emails, photographs or even videos – detailing exactly what the money raised was spent on, or what spending is planned for the future. Not only will your guests appreciate this as a gesture, but it’s more likely to make them amenable to any requests for donations you make in the future. Do a post event survey and follow up further letting people know about the charity and politely ask for donations. Maybe offer to view an image library of the night for a donation?
  • The night of the event itself could be recorded on video or in photographs, with students often being willing to handle the logistics of this in return for the experience and the chance to use the results as part of their own portfolio. If you’ve managed to persuade a celebrity such as a local sporting hero to attend, then photographs with the guests could even be taken and sold as part of the fundraising effort.
  • This last is an example of the kind of innovative thinking which can help to turn a charity event into a genuinely special occasion and one which will massively raise the profile of the organisation concerned as well as bringing in much needed funds. Other ideas might include holding it during the day rather than the evening and basing it around a sporting event, working the chance to go backstage and meet the professional entertainers into the fundraising section of the evening and offering dramatic and novel entertainment such as professional dancers and acrobatics.
  • The overall message is to draw up a detailed written charity event plan before investing a penny, and try to ensure that as many factors as possible – things like food and drink, for example – are factored into the ticket price.
  • Try to innovate in terms of entertainment and ambience and make as much use as possible of volunteers. Volunteer sites such as Do It and VInspired are packed with people willing and eager to offer their skills and services in return for nothing more than the experience and the chance to help.
  • Above all, ensure that the practical logistics of the occasion have been considered. Do you need to apply for any licences or gain permission? What are the health and safety requirements of the event, and will you need to take out insurance?
  • Have you got contingency plans in place in case anything goes wrong, and does the budget allow for unforeseen on the day (or night) expenses without cutting excessively into any profit? Make sure that the answers to these and all other practical questions have been answered, included in your plan and budgeted for.

Make sure you get it right, take a look at our event management services here, view our case studies or contact us with your event brief.

Written By Tom