Keeping on the theme of yesterday’s post about checklists, here’s a six-step checklist for planning your next fundraising event:

  1. Clarify your mission: Many of you will already have this part done, but it’s vital nonetheless. You need to be able to tell people what your vision is and how you plan on achieving it if you want them to participate in your event, cover it, donate to you or anything else. The root of failure begins right here with events. If you can’t explicitly and easily express what your mission is, don’t move forward.
  2. Identify your needs: Not all problems can be solved or targeted with an event and all of your problems can’t be solved with one single event. You need to figure out what individual problem you are trying to solve and what you need to do in order to solve it. An event with the goal of increasing advocacy can and should take a much different shape than an event targeted towards raising money.
  3. Set a goal: Articulate in measurable terms what exactly you are trying to accomplish, whether it be money raised or awareness. Make it specific with a total dollar amount or perhaps new addresses acquired. As you continue the planning process for your event you need to be able to refer back to this specific goal in order to see if you are heading in the correct direction.
  4. Assess your resources: Even if you don’t realize it, you have lots of resources at your disposal. Money, your staff and your volunteer network are all resources. Time is a huge resource, which is why you don’t set the date of your event first, because it constricts that resource. Your relationships, the awareness about your cause and your brand are all resources.
  5. Decide upon your scope: Hammer out the overall elements of the event itself. Try composing a simple list with two parts. One is the “must have”, the other is the “nice to have.” You can avoid getting attached to things you cannot afford or things that won’t add any real value. Remember that the event is being held for something; you are not throwing an event just to throw an event.
  6. Set your budget and set your date: As mentioned previously, if you set the date first you eliminate one of your most important resources, time. Keep in mind that your budget is just a shopping list, nothing else. Lots of different things can be achieved, on various scales of usefulness or success for $5,000 or $50,000. Figure out your needs, your goals and how you plan on addressing those first and fit the event to suit that overall strategy. 
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