Timing is everything with event fundraising and usually scheduling is your first step (and sometimes scheduling is driven by your venue). I suggest your first step be a survey of your community’s fundraising events. You don’t want a new event to compete.
I encourage you to consider the type of event when scheduling. Check the weather patterns for the time of year. Avoid rainy seasons (even if your event is indoors, people may avoid going out at all in bad weather).
If you hope to make your event an annual occurrence, look for connections to holidays or other community connections to help people remember your event and when it takes place. Have a Costume Ball near Halloween, a Masquerade Ball during Mardi Gras, an outdoor, picnic event during the summer—just a few examples.
You’ll want start and end times reflecting the type of event—a brunch is probably going to be mid-morning to early afternoon; a black-tie dinner/dance is probably going to start in the evening; informal gatherings usually start late afternoon so people can attend after work.
You’ve scheduled your event. You know what type of event. You have a solid mailing list of people with close affinity to your organization. I suggest your next step is developing the invitation.
Here’s a few tips that have worked well for me with my events.
Partner with a printer and fulfillment company (if one company does both, that’s even better).
Find a graphic designer. I had two great designers on the board of the united arts fund where I was the development director. They created an awesome invitation for a masquerade ball. It was an odd size, so it was easy to spot in a pile of mail. It was hot pink and black, eye-catching colors. Finally, it had a mask shaped cut out that folded over the invitation contents, which encouraged people to touch it!
Use the knowledge you have about your mailing list. An invitation to a list of long-time donors will look different than an invitation to people who know nothing about your organization. It’s hard to have one invitation that will speak to both those groups.
And most of all…plan, plan, plan before jumping into a new event.
Here’s some additional resources for planning a successful fundraising event.
Check out Fundly’s Ultimate Fundraising Event Checklist