There are many types of events, and many reasons for staging events, but there is one constant: if your event is supposed to raise money, make sure it makes money. Never EVER run at a loss.
Special events are a fundraising staple of for most not-for-profit organisations.
There are many different types of special events. Each has its own level of complexity and will call on different skills, experience, contacts and capacities.
Some of the more common types of special events are:
- Functions: Balls, trivia nights, concerts, etc.
- Dinners: In one venue, or progressive
- Awards nights: Particularly popular for sporting clubs and schools
- Fetes/fairs: A spring/autumn staple, particularly for schools
- Grand openings/launches: While they’re usually more about publicity than fundraising, they can serve both purposes.
- Record attempts and ’thons: Walkathons, readathons, rideathons, longest ever bellydancing session, most people hula-hooping at one time, etc. These are popular fundraising methods for schools and other groups with a large supporter base.
OUR TIP: Whatever type of event you’re planning on holding, make sure you pile on plenty of secondary fundraisers – if you’re having a trivia night, have a raffle and have a membership sign-up table as well. If you’re having an awards night, charge for entry and sell drinks and Jaffas at the door.
To raise money
Obviously, the first and often most important reason to run a special event is to generate income. In many cases, a fundraising special event is designed or even timed to provide a significant boost to your organisation's coffers so it can undertake a new project or continue operations in the coming year.
To get publicity
Staging a successful and noteworthy special event can also attract positive publicity for your group. That publicity, if used well, can then be turned into more money for your group.
To raise awareness
A well-run and well-publicised special event can raise awareness for your cause that in turn will help you attract more members, supporters and donors.
To improve reputation
A well-run special event can add to your reputation as an efficient, effective, well-organised group. Again, this can help your future fundraising efforts.
To say thanks
Special events can give you the opportunity to recognise staff, volunteers or supporters who have made a significiant contribution, or to mark particular organisational successes or milestones.
OUR TIP: If there is one key ingredient to producing a successful special event, it is planning. Put your most organised, most efficient person in charge, and give them plenty of time to pull it off.
Whatever your reason for staging a special event, it's important to be clear about one major point: If your event is supposed to raise money, make sure it makes money.
Don't throw a lot of effort into staging an event that is only going to break even (or – worse – run at a loss). You'll burn out your volunteers, and exhaust the goodwill of your members.