How to Prepare for Your Nonprofit Fundraiser
Although nonprofit events vary greatly in size and complexity, and although you can adequately pull off successful events in two or three weeks, it would be better to work against a six-month schedule. Here is a scheduling checklist for a tribute dinner. It can easily be modified to fit other types of events.
First three months:
Develop the plan and pick the event’s leadership.
Recruit co-chairs or hosts.
Secure entertainment and a location.
Select a theme and a caterer.
The first three-month period is, not surprisingly, the slowest part of event planning. You can wait for several weeks to hear back from an invited celebrity, and you may need several more weeks to find a replacement if you get turned down.
Last three months:
Recruit an event committee or a core group of volunteers.
Visit the site at which the event will be held, checking out all the regulations and recommendations for its use.
Solicit in-kind contributions of materials you need for the event.
If your event is appropriate for a public relations drive, you should be sending out initial press releases and preparing public service announcements (PSAs) at this point too.
As you come inside the two-month zone, you pass some additional checkpoints:
Two months before the event:
Call all potential committee members and develop your invitation design. All the text on the invitation should be ready for final design and printing by six weeks before the event.
Include a printed list of the final event committee members or core volunteers.
Select your menu and start working on décor ideas.
Four weeks before the event:
Mail or e-mail the invitations.
E-mail a second batch of press releases.
Make phone calls to the press and to invitees to confirm coverage and travel plans.
Design the printed program to be passed out at the event.
Assist honorees with their speeches (if necessary).
Gather the elements — baskets, banners, confetti — needed for décor.
Last week before the event:
Confirm the number of guests that you expect. A few days before the party occurs, call everyone who has made a reservation and confirm whether they’re coming. A few people will have had to change plans, increasing or decreasing the number of guests you expect. You don’t want to pay for uneaten meals or to run out of food.
When ordering food from your caterer, assume that under normal circumstances, 5 percent of your expected guests won’t attend. If the event is free, 10 percent of them won’t attend.
Plan the seating at the event (if necessary).
Prepare place cards and table cards.
Decorate the site.
You may think that nobody can rain on your parade, but you want to have emergency backup plans anyway. What if your performer is ill, a blizzard shuts down roadways, or your permits aren’t approved on time? You need to quickly move, replace, reschedule, or cancel your program. The faster you can communicate any changes, the better your constituents feel about sticking with you and your cause.