Okay, there’s no such thing as perfect, but with a little research, and by following the guidelines in this blog, you should be able to organise a successful charity fundraiser. To allow yourself plenty of time to get it right, start the planning process at least six months in advance. As far as dates go, avoid major school holidays and the middle of the month, as most people get paid at the end.

1.  Set your budget

Whatever type of fundraiser you hold, you’ll have expenses to cover. Unless you’re paying all the bills, you’ll need income from ticket sales and sponsorship. Work out the total cost of holding the event and divide it by the total number of expected guests. Then decide how much profit you’d like to raise from ticket sales and divide that by the number of guests. Add those two figures together and you’ve got the price you need to charge for the ticket. It must be reasonable enough that it’s offering value for money, but not so cheap that it renders the event pointless.

2.  Event type

Bake sales are popular, but unless you’re organising the ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’, the amount you raise will be modest. For a chance of making some real money, be bold! People are willing to pay more if they know they’ll be entertained. The event could be as simple as a ‘curry and quiz night’, or a ‘pie & peas supper with tombola’, but if you really want to push the boat out, offer great food, wine, and the chance for people to strut their stuff on the dance floor. Some of the most popular fundraisers are balls, and while you don’t need to go that far, a fun evening of dinner and dancing could pay dividends.

Three children wearing superhero costumes

3.  Themes

It’s not essential to give your fundraiser a theme, but it adds another element and acts like an ice breaker. Some ideas to consider:

·          Attire/accessory linked to your charity’s brand colours

·          Silly hats

·          60s/70s/80s

·          Hollywood icons or cult films

·          Cuddly toy mascot (great if it’s a children’s charity)

Bear in as mind as you organise the perfect charity fundraiser, that any form of dressing up will deter a percentage of your prospective customers.

4.  Venue

If you’ve got your heart set on an after-dark fundraiser, you need to find a suitable venue. Somewhere that’s easily accessible by public transport is advisable, as it allows people to come from outside the area and not have to rely on taxis to get home. If the venue are supplying the food and drink for quite a few guests, you shouldn’t be asked to pay for room hire as well – especially as it’s for charity. Decide if you’d like a private room or if you’re prepared to mingle with the public. If it’s during the summer, check out venues that have suitable outdoor space. Some will accommodate marquees – but that will escalate costs. Taking photos of the room will help you plan the decorations and layout. Decorations don’t have to break the bank. You can pick up some reasonable bits and bobs from the Pound Shop, eBay, or a cash & carry. A few flowers, ribbon, and candles should suffice, but be creative. Here are some ideas to get you started on Pinterest.

Metal serving dishes of rice and other dishes on a buffet table

5.  Food and drink

Discuss food options and prices with the venue, then arrange to sample the dishes ahead of time. Ensure they can cater for dietary requirements such as gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan. You don’t need to provide a three-course, sit-down dinner; a two-course buffet is more than adequate, with a few pre-dinner nibbles thrown in. Unless everything is finger food, your guests will need to sit down, so arrange for plenty of tables and chairs. You can play it safe and serve typical British buffet staples such as quiche and sausage rolls, or you can be adventurous and provide international cuisine. As not everyone likes  spicy food, stick to medium and mild, or offer an alternative. Ensure the venue has a contingency plan in case the chef is ill on the day. As many people enjoy wine with a meal, find out what varieties can be made available and the cost. If the venue wants to charge £30 a bottle for plonk, ask what the corkage fee would be, and buy the wine from Aldi!

6.  Music

Depending on the venue, you should have the option of a live band or DJ (or both). The band will generally cost more than a DJ, but if you want to organise the perfect charity fundraiser, live music will sell it more. Of course, you could be miserly and use a playlist on your phone, but you’d still need to hire a PA. Make sure there’s an area for dancing where folks won’t be bumping into furniture. If hiring a band, avoid anything too niche. You want something that everyone can enjoy. Funk and soul, pop, and classic rock usually go down well. You might like death metal, but it’s unlikely everyone will. Try to use a local band, as they might be more inclined to give you a discount. Don’t ask for a freebie; it’s not cool.

Wooden gavel and base on a table

7.  Additional ways to raise funds

An auction will break up the evening and is an entertaining way to add more funds to the piggy bank. Find someone with a theatrical side to act as auctioneer, or you could ask your local auction house if they’d participate. Although not as much fun, a silent auction spares people the embarrassment of everyone knowing who bid and who didn’t. But there’s nothing like people showing off after a few drinks and competing to buy that spa day or car valeting. As an alternative, or in addition to the auction, a raffle or tombola is perfect for more modest prizes, allowing everyone to get involved.

You will need to contact every medium-to-large local business in the area well in advance to ask for donations. Write, email, phone, or visit as many as you can. If there aren’t many businesses in the immediate locale, go further afield. Start with companies where you do business; your loyalty should count for something. Quite a few organisations won’t respond to your letter or email, and quite a few more will decline, but hopefully you’ll receive enough prizes for your efforts. Offer to publicise all donations, as free marketing is a good carrot to dangle.

8.  Marketing

Before you confirm anything, conduct some market research on the idea you’ve chosen – even if it just involves asking your colleagues, friends, and family what they think. Ask for honest feedback and suggestions. Once you’re happy to proceed, you’ll need to start marketing. Contact the publicity office for your chosen charity, as they might send you balloons and other publicity materials, plus they should share it on their website. You can create an event on Facebook for free and share it publicly, but to really get the word out, pay a few quid to boost it. More people will see it that way, and you can choose location, age, and interests. You could also consider an Eventbrite landing page for purchasing tickets, but the downside is that you’d have to pay a fee. Several months before the big day, start using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to publicise the event. If you have a LinkedIn profile, post it there as well, as you might get businesses willing to offer sponsorship or buy tickets. Eventbrite have published a ‘how-to’ blog with some great tips.

Man looking through magnifying glass at the camera wearing a striped blazer and sunglasses

9.  Attention to detail

About a week before the event, contact the venue to make sure all the arrangements are still in place, particularly the food for anyone with dietary requirements. They’ll want final numbers by then. Find out what time the room can be accessed on the day for the band or DJ to set up, and for you to decorate, set up the raffle, tombola, auction, etc. Display the prizes attractively and ensure they’re easily seen. If lighting is subdued, buy some clip-on spot lights for the prize table. Ask for a few confident volunteers to push raffle tickets and operate the tombola, as you will be far too busy.

10.                 During the fundraiser.

While it might be a bit hard watching everyone enjoy a drink or five, because you’ll be ‘on duty’ during the event, you’ll need to keep a clear head. If there are elderly or disabled guests, make sure they’re comfortable and have everything they need. Work the room and chat to as many people as possible, and don’t forget to thank them for their support. Your guests need to feel appreciated. If successful, this fundraiser might become an annual event, so you need to schmooze. Hold the auction between courses; this way you’ve got a captive audience, and everyone will have had a drink or two. When selling raffle tickets, take phone numbers in case people with winning tickets have left before the draw takes place.

11.                 Count your money

If you’ve done your homework and followed the above advice, there’s no reason your fundraiser shouldn’t be a success. But if it isn’t, have a debriefing session and try again! Don’t forget to send thank you letters or emails to sponsors, donors, and guests, and let them know the total you raised. Now pat yourself on the back and put your feet up – you’ve earned it!