How to Create a Fundraising Event Plan


The first step to planning a successful fundraising event is to take a step that is so tempting to skip:  Clearly articulate your grand plan.

To create a useful fundraising event plan, ask yourself:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What venues are the best to reach them?
  • What do I want them to do?
  • Is an event the best way to get my audience to take the action I desire?
  • Is an event an ideal complement to my organziation’s other engagement efforts?
  • Where is the best place to stage the event given the audience and purpose?

Set a Goal for Your Event

Once you’ve answered these basic questions, set one overarching goal. ONE! Focus is your best bet for success. Then, define metrics and success measures for that goal. This exercise will ensure you are smart at every step of planning and execution.

Depending on the purpose of your event, you may be measuring very different things – for example, impact on local policy or growth of your supporter lists or dollars raised. Here is an example:


Raise money by exposing existing donors to our impact and recruiting their friends/family/colleagues to our cause via the event and event-related outreach


  • Dollars raised
  • % existing donors attending
  • % new contacts created


  • Raise $150,000 from 500 individuals and 5 corporate sponsors
  • Get 10% of our top donors to attend
  • Increase giving from attendees by 25% over the course of the next year
  • Get 15% of attendees to also give an additional donation

Note: If your goal is to “raise awareness,” please think twice about your goal. Is awareness your top goal as an organization? Or dollars? Is awareness what you most need right now to achieve your mission? Challenge yourself to set goals and success measures that truly advance your mission and meet the most critical needs of your organization. Your event is not a free-standing, one-off endeavor – it should be part of your overall strategic engagement and fundraising efforts. (Download our free Fundraising Plan template to map out your development strategy.)


Set a Realistic Budget

You know how much you want the event to raise. What will you spend to bring in those dollars? Even super-sophisticated nonprofits sometimes forget to track exactly how much they are spending on an event and critically compare that figure to the donations the event generates. This exercise will ensure your event will ultimately be worth the effort – and that you’ll end up not only in a fancy black dress but also in the financial black.


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