Learn how to effectively plan a school fundraising event

When planned and executed correctly, school fundraisers are a win-win situation - people like to get involved in activities that help others, especially children, and because of that, lots of worthy causes are able to raise funds. There are tons of reasons to raise money, and there are just as many types of fundraisers.

Raising money requires careful organizing, but if you have a clear plan, the money should flow. If you’ve chosen to host a fundraiser event, here’s an outline of some very important steps for you to follow.

Define the cause. Clarify your goals and determine who will get the money you raise. In this case, the more details, the better – explain how many new books are needed by second grade classrooms, how short on supplies the art department finds itself, or how badly the school needs a new playground. People want to help but it’s important to let them know their money will be used for tangible solutions.

Decide on the type of event. In this case, you’ve chosen an event, however, you can plan a low-key event such as a pancake breakfast, a car wash, or a bake sale or you can hold a large-scale event such as an auction, a gala or a run/walk. Regardless of the type of event you choose, be sure to allow yourself ample time to plan and execute your event; remember organization is key.

Set the date. Choose a date far enough in advance to give you plenty of time to prepare. Be conscious of conflicting local and/or national events, as well as holidays and school vacations when people are likely to be out of town or booked.

Get help. Put out a call for volunteers and utilize their areas of expertise and/or connections. Be upfront and honest about the time and energy this event will take to pull off and make sure your volunteers have the necessary bandwidth before they commit. Create committees and subcommittees, if the event size calls for it, and delegate carefully. Be sure to hold periodic meetings to monitor the progress of your preparations and keep in active touch with your volunteers.

Set a budget. Draw up a budget that will keep operating costs at a minimum so you can make a profit. Estimate attendance, cost of decorations, refreshments, printing, mailing expenses and so on. Set the cost of expenses per person and then set the ticket prices.

Get seed money. If appropriate, ask businesses to underwrite certain aspects of the event such as the venue rental, printing of programs, paper invitations and music/entertainment. Request in-kind donations of food and drink in exchange for a listing program or advertisements. You should also provide each donor with a letter expressing the nature of the gift, cash value and tax-deductible information.

Choose a suitable venue. Often times your own school is a great place to have your event because it will remind your guests exactly why you’re raising money. However, if your building isn’t the right size or isn’t available, try the local Lions Club, American Legion, town hall, art galleries or churches. Check out restaurants and catering halls, too. It’s best to book the venue as far in advance as possible, and ask for a non-profit discount. Contact local law enforcement for procedures you may need to follow for public venues and determine the need for security and liability insurance, as well.

Secure a speaker or an honoree. Choose someone who has a relationship with your school or cause, or someone who will add an element of glamor or urgency to your plight. If a principal, teacher, or faculty member isn’t the right fit, consider a high-profile businessperson or celebrity.

Create invitations. On the invitation, list the time, date, and location of your event. It’s often also a good idea to list the committee members and possibly the speaker or the honoree’s name. Include a description of the organization, sponsors and donors. Aside from your regular guests, try to invite reporters and photographers to your event for publicity purposes.

Manage your RSVPs. Using a service like Fundraise.com it’s relatively easy to track who has purchased a ticket and who still needs to buy a ticket. It’s important to track your anticipated RSVPs not only to determine how much food/beverage you’ll need, but also who needs an individual follow-up call/email as you draw closer to your event.

Staff your event. Decide with your committee of volunteers who will be responsible for which tasks on the day of your event. Remember to staff major tasks such as set-up, check in, guest relations, and clean up. Each event will have some unique tasks but in all cases, try to assign as much in advance as possible.

Thank your donors. After the event it’s very important to thank all of your donors, supporters, sponsors, vendors, and volunteers. Never underestimate the power of those two little words; your network will appreciate it and they’ll remember it the next time you’re approaching them for help.