Fall Fundraising Events: What to Do to Get Ready

Fundraising Events

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How is it already time for me to write this article? Fall fundraising season is right around the corner, and it’s already time to start planning your fall fundraising events. After you’ve taken a minute to absorb that information (wasn’t it JUST time for spring fundraising??), we’ll jump into a few different steps you can take to ensure your fundraising events go as smoothly as possible.

Okay. Are you ready?

Here we go.

Pick ONE Leader for Your Fall Fundraising Event

It’s important to make sure that you’ve designated one person to be the head of your event planning. Not a committee of people… one person. That doesn’t mean they should be the only person working on it! Your fall fundraiser will take lots of hands and brains to plan and execute. But I promise that planning will be easier if one person is in charge of organizing and tracking the team’s progress.

Before you start planning, make sure that everyone involved in planning and executing your fall fundraising event knows their roles and responsibilities. Janet needs to know that she’s in charge of the vendors. Katherine needs to know that she’s in charge of identifying and inviting VIPs or donors. David needs to know that he’s responsible for filming and editing the client video, etc. Then, make sure everyone knows who’s leading the project and what their expectations are.

Establishing roles, responsibilities, and expectations before you start planning is the best way to make sure your whole team is on the same page. It’s also useful to set deadlines and check-in meetings for team members! Meeting regularly on your progress will prevent procrastination (let’s be serious—we’ve all been there) and miscommunication.

Decide on a Tracking Process

Keeping track of who’s doing what, when they’re doing it, and when it should be done is a lot of work. Once you’ve got your project lead and team put together, take some time to figure out how you’ll keep track of everything.

Your tracking processes will be unique to you. But here are some ideas for inspiration!

  • Have periodic meetings where everyone can share their progress and get new instructions. Try to meet regularly and resist the temptation to put off meetings!
  • Use a big binder. Even in 2018, there’s something satisfying about a binder full of receipts, emails, and to-do lists. This is especially handy for keeping track of expenses and vendors.
  • Try a task management system. Tools like Asana or Trello are great for assigning tasks to team members and tracking progress online. You could also set up a Google Docs folder or something similar where you keep to-do lists, calendar updates, and more.
  • Put together a big bulletin or whiteboard tracker. Divide your board into columns like “Planned,” “In Progress,” and “Completed,” and use sticky notes with tasks and their owners written on them. You can move the sticky notes through the different phases so everyone knows the status of every task.

Your organization will put together the process that works best for your staff and event—but tracking is important!

Set Your Goals

Set concrete goals for your fall fundraising event! Don’t fall into the trap of throwing an event just for the heck of it. And don’t let yourself throw an event just because your nonprofit has thrown it every year! If your event isn’t goal-driven, you risk spending a ton of time and money on something that doesn’t give you anything back.

Decide what goals you want to achieve with this year’s fall fundraising event. Do you want to recruit new donors? Should you focus on inspiring existing donors to increase their annual gift? Is this an event for your major gifts team to start building relationships with potential major donors?

Be as specific with your goals as possible. It makes tracking your success much easier! For example:

  • Instead of just saying you want to raise money, set a specific amount. It’s easier to evaluate your success when you say “We want to raise $60,000 at this event” than it is when you say “We want to raise money!”
  • If this event’s goal is to identify major donors, try setting goals around the number of meetings you can set. “We want to build relationships with potential major donors” is okay. “We want to have appointments set with 3 potential donors” is better.
  • “Finding new donors” is an admirable goal, but you’ll have a better time gauging your success if you define how many new donors you’d like to engage.

Once you define clear goals, work with your team to come up with a series of action steps that will get you there.

Set Up and Test Fundraising Tools

Any tools you plan on using to process event registrations and donations should be set up and tested well before your event. Nothing will wreak havoc at your event quite like malfunctioning or incorrectly configured tools.

If your donors can register for your fall fundraising event online, set up and test your event registration form. Running through the registration process will help you double-check settings like the kinds of packages you set up and help you make sure you haven’t forgotten to ask important questions.

It’s also helpful to test any other digital giving methods ahead of time! Check your online donation forms on multiple devices—both desktop and mobile—to make sure your graphics display properly. If you’re using text giving, make sure your keyword is easy to type and that it’s properly displayed in your event materials. If you’re using your own card readers for on-site options, double-check that they work properly. Volunteers who are using their own devices to accept donations on-site should run through the process before the event starts.

When you’re busy planning a major event, it’s easy to overlook testing the small things. But knowing ahead of time that your registration and donation processes are working will save you time and trouble later on.

Create a Follow-Up Plan

A great follow-up plan is 100% necessary when you’re throwing a fundraising event. Or donor discovery event. Or just about any other kind of event.

Your follow-up plan will depend heavily on the kind of event you throw, the goal of your event, your event’s timing, etc. But some elements you might want to consider including are:

  • A thank-you email/ receipt: you’ll want separate receipts for people who register to attend your event and for people who donate before or during the event.
  • A day-after email: update attendees and donors about how much they raised this year. Now’s the time to celebrate their generosity and say a sincere thank-you. Make this piece easier on your team by drafting the email ahead of time and updating the total raised right before you send it out.
  • An impact report: how did your donors’ money make a difference? Let them know! This is where you thank them again.
  • An additional appeal: do you need volunteers for the holiday season? Do you want your donors to consider giving to your end-of-year campaign? Are you looking for one-time donors to commit to making a sustaining gift? Your previous communications have already showed them that you value their involvement and are a good steward of their money. Now’s the time to make another ask!

Ask, thank, report, and ask again. It’s a powerful formula that will help you turn your fall fundraising event attendees/donors into long-time donors.

Start Promoting Your Fall Fundraising Event

Once you’ve run through the planning stages, you’re finally ready to start promoting your event to your donors and other supporters. Different event styles and audiences will determine how you promote your event to your constituents. You probably wouldn’t use fancy printed invitations to promote an informal fall festival, and you’ll probably want to avoid social media invitations for a major donors’ gala. Feel out what will work for you!

Use your goals you established earlier to inform who you invite and how you invite them. Do you want to draw a huge crowd? Build a Facebook event page and blast it to your followers, and back it up with an email to your lists. Do you want to identify potential major gifts donors? Identify your promising prospects and send targeted invitations.

However you decide to promote your fall fundraising event, make sure you’ve got realistic expectations about when people will register to attend. People tend to procrastinate—account for that behavior in your planning!


There’s more to throwing a fantastic fall fundraising event than picking a caterer and inviting your supporters. Make your event as successful as possible by keeping the process organized, goal-oriented, and establishing roles and responsibilities early in the game. Testing, troubleshooting, and setting up your follow-up process early will help ensure a smooth event and happy donors!

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