people enjoying a nonprofit event

A Nonprofit's Guide to Event Planning: 4 Essential Steps

Holding a fundraising event is a great way for nonprofits to earn support for their cause and attract new donors. For many nonprofit organizations, events play a key role in raising the funds needed to support the organization's projects. Events are definitely a fun way to fundraise; however, they also require a lot of hard work. The most effective fundraising events require thorough planning, collaboration between key staff members, and financial support to be successful.

Before you book an event space or hire a caterer, it's important to do a little planning to ensure that your event will help you meet your fundraising goals. Below we've put together a simple guide to how to plan a nonprofit event.

illustration of a nonprofit staffer's brain with a lightbulb/idea going in on one side and a calendar coming out on the other

1. Set a Goal and Make a Budget

Set a goal that's realistic, measurable, and specific. How much money would you like to raise at this event?

The answer to this question will be important to the overall design of your fundraiser. For example, if you're aiming high, you will have to plan and implement an event that can accommodate many donors or one that demands a higher ticket price.

In addition to your event goal, you should develop a budget. Like the goal, the budget will also need to line up with the ticket price or admission fee.

If you are trying to raise large amounts of money by holding a lavish event, then you'll need to charge more for tickets than you would for a simple event. Your budget will help ensure that you are able to implement each aspect of your event. It also gives you a better idea of whether you will need to recruit corporate sponsors to help fund your event.

2. Choose the Right Type of Event

After you have decided that an event is the right way to raise money for your nonprofit, you'll need to decide what type of event you want to hold. First, consider your audience. What types of events will appeal most to your target donors?

If your donors are health-conscious, they may respond well to exercise- or action-oriented events like walkathons or golf tournaments. If many of your supporters have families, then you might consider a family-friendly event like a carnival or talent show.

In addition to your audience's interests, you'll want to consider your budget and resources. Maybe you are working with a limited budget or don't have many volunteers or team members to staff your event.

If so, then you may want to consider hosting an event that's more affordable and easy to manage, like a game night or car wash. For more interesting and engaging fundraising event suggestions, check out Fundly's 131 Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits.

3. Decide on How You Will Collect Donations and Contact Information

Now that you know what type of event you are hosting, the next step in your event planning is to consider the logistics of raising funds at the event. How will you collect donations? How do you plan to capture the contact information of new donors or supporters?

When it comes to donations, there are a variety of payment and donation processing platforms that you can use to collect funds. The best platform for you will depend on the donation options.


Are you planning to sell tickets to the event? Will participants be collecting their own donations for your nonprofit organization? No matter how you plan to handle donations, there's an online platform that will help you keep the donations secure and organized.

In addition to collecting funds from event attendees, you need to decide how you'll collect contact information from new donors or supporters who attend your event. Here's where a constituent relationship management system, or CRM, will come in handy.


Online donor management software will help you easily collect, manage, and access your current donors' contact information as well as that from new supporters who attend your event. You can later use this information to keep your donors engaged in the cause and solicit further support.

4. Promote Your Event

If you want your event to be successful, you'll need to promote it. One of the best ways to promote your event is to reach out to your current supporters and donors. They are already interested and invested in your organization and its cause.

These advocates can help get the word out about the event by telling their friends, family, and coworkers. Again, a CRM becomes useful here. With donor management software, you have easy access to your donors' contact information and can track new supporters as they sign up for your event.

In addition to utilizing your existing contacts, you can implement digital marketing campaigns to help improve your reach and amplify your event. Digital marketing tactics like social media and email are a great way to reach more potential supporters. Not to mention, these tactics are useful in monitoring success and determining what tactics work best in supporting your event.

Additional Nonprofit Event Planning Resources