Nonprofit organizations host events to raise funds, grow brand awareness, deepen donor relationships, recruit new volunteers, and secure support from key sponsors. Needless to say, there’s a lot at stake for nonprofit event planners to pull off a successful event.

When thinking about how to plan a nonprofit event, planners must pay great attention to detail. It’s important to communicate your specific goals in a way that resonates with existing and potential donors, and provide clear examples that show how their support helps your cause. From securing vendors to recruiting volunteers, every detail matters.

No matter the type of event, a well-planned and executed nonprofit event can help you achieve all of the above. To equip event planners with the best planning processes that set the right tone, we compiled the following tips for nonprofit event planning, plus a few free resources to get you started.

1. Set goals for your nonprofit event

Goals written on a notebook with man hand pen

What’s the purpose of your nonprofit event, and what goals are you trying to achieve? Are you planning fundraising events to help expand your nonprofit’s services to the community? Is your aim simply to raise awareness and grow your donor base? Do you seek to recruit new volunteers?

Event management starts with first understanding your goals and objectives, then accessing the right tools to measure the success of your nonprofit event. 

Focus on marketing objectives you can measure, such as: 

Nonprofit brand awareness

Do people in the community know about your nonprofit’s mission and services? Showcasing your nonprofit at an event can help you explain the services you offer and target a much wider audience. Identify ways to measure success, such as tracking media mentions, likes on social media, or click-throughs on your nonprofit event landing page.

Fundraising

If you’re hosting an event to raise money for your nonprofit organization, it’s important to specify how you’ll use the funds to improve internal or external operations. You will also need to show how you will measure revenue generated by the event. Will it be based solely on ticket sales. Do you plan to sell booth space or offer premium sponsorship placement? Your plans might include all three.

Identify new donors or volunteers

Creating buzz about your nonprofit event attracts the interest of new donors and volunteers and gives them a reason to learn more. Follow up after the event by capturing attendee emails during registration. Then use cutting-edge lead retrieval software to generate, score, and follow up with leads with ease.

Planning your next nonprofit event? Check out our  complete event checklist for even more tips and tricks! 

2. Create a budget for your nonprofit event

Printout of event budget, calculator, notepad, pen and magnifying glass

Budgeting can overwhelm even the best event planners, but setting and meeting a strict budget is a critical part of the nonprofit event-planning process. A detailed event budget outlines all of your expenses, allocates revenue from specific sources, and gives you a way to measure success. 

Some common costs to include in your nonprofit event budget include:

Venue cost

For in-person and hybrid events, the cost to rent your venue is typically the largest expense. You can possibly save money through in-kind donations from venue owners, but be sure to communicate your specific nonprofit needs and secure the right type of support.

Catering, food, and drinks

Depending on the type of event, serving attendees food and drinks can account for a large portion of your budget. Leverage past relationships with vendors to negotiate pricing or accept in-kind donations to deter some of the costs.

Event management platform

For in-person, hybrid, or virtual events, nonprofits can deploy an event management platform with strong back-end support to execute, monitor, and measure the event end-to-end.

Entertainment and speaker fees

Whether your nonprofit event includes a live band or dynamic speakers, plan to budget for their fees, meal costs, and travel and lodging accommodations.

Decorations and equipment rental

Liven up the nonprofit party with a fun theme (think “casino nights” or “fun-in-the-sun beach party”), and line up the right equipment to engage attendees in an immersive experience.

Staffing

Don’t leave your guests fending for themselves! Staff up your nonprofit event to make everyone feel welcome, and designate employees to lead your volunteers.

Emergency fund

Be prepared for unexpected costs by setting aside a 20% contingency fund. That way, you can hope for the best but plan for the worst. 

3. Fundraise and line up sponsorships 

Nonprofit organizations know all about fundraising since most depend on donations from the community to keep the doors open and the lights on. To help cover the cost of your nonprofit event, you can fundraise through ticket sales and crowdfunding for the event or seek sponsors to fund the event. 

Sponsorships can help nonprofits offset event costs and engage attendees with valuable content in exchange for increased exposure and better ROI. And long-term relationships with key sponsors can turn into revenue generators for future events.

Most sponsorship packages fall into one of four categories: financial (pay to promote their brand), media (pay to promote the event), product/services (in-kind support), or influential (promote through personal brand).

Look for industry-specific sponsors who align with your nonprofit’s mission, goals, and values. 

How to find and secure event sponsorship: the ultimate guide

Need help lining up sponsors for your nonprofit event? Check out our ultimate guide to event sponsorship.

4. Gather volunteers 

Happy multi-ethnic nonprofit volunteers forming a huddle

Nonprofit event planners can rely on a team of volunteers to carry out their mission, spread the word, and provide much-needed assistance before, during, and after the event. 

Define specific roles for your volunteers and encourage self-service sign-up for timed shifts. This helps ensure everyone knows what they need to do, when they need to do it, and where they need to be. Volunteers can help with registration, security, transportation, navigation, cleanup, etc. Don’t forget to show your appreciation for the volunteers with personal recognition.

Need help recruiting volunteers for your nonprofit event? Try posting your event on a free volunteer management platform. If you plan to host a multi-day event, offer volunteers free admission to your event on days when they’re not scheduled to work. Check out this list of 15 volunteer recruitment websites to find help for your next nonprofit event. 

5. Choose a format (virtual, in-person, or hybrid) 

Planning a nonprofit event in the past likely required dealing with the logistics of an in-person event, from securing the venue to arranging travel and locating accommodations for attendees.

Today, event planners have more than just one option to consider when deciding on an event format. 

Virtual, in-person, or hybrid?

Going hybrid not only expands your audience, giving wider access to those who can’t attend in person, but can also help you meet your event budget by limiting the resources you’ll need for the in-person component. If COVID-19 precautions, rules, or regulations eliminate the option of meeting in-person or hosting a hybrid event, some nonprofits might decide to pivot to a virtual-only format.

Depending on your budget, engaging an event management platform  to run your nonprofit event from start to finish can give you peace of mind.

How Ivy Tech Community College pivoted to virtual events and cut their event budget in half

Going virtual for your next nonprofit event? See how Ivy Tech Community College pivoted to virtual and cut its event budget in half.

6. Market your event 

Marketing your event through the right channels and at the right time can prove key for attracting attendees to register for your event and creating awareness about your nonprofit. Good marketing starts with a promotional strategy that identifies your target audience, the message you want to share, and the channels you plan to use.

Your marketing tactics might involve:

  • Generating buzz on social media
  • Offering pre-registration or early-bird benefits on your event landing page
  • Sending personal messages to past attendees
  • Encouraging attendees to register online to avoid missing out (FOMO)
  • Asking event speakers and sponsors to help promote the event

Nonprofits can also take advantage of some free or affordable tools to market their events.

Looking for more free marketing resources? Read our blog to learn more about how to market a nonprofit event.

7. Plan to follow up with attendees 

Now that your event is over, you need to craft another plan for following up with your attendees. Encourage them to join online communities that support your nonprofit, post event recaps with photos and videos, and send out a survey to garner great feedback.

Learn how Webex Events can help you with nonprofit event planning

Webex Events is an all-in-one event management platform that provides the support you need to plan a nonprofit event, whether it’s in-person, virtual, or hybrid.

Webex Events not only gives you the kind of back-end support you can rely on, but can also help you create communities to keep attendees engaged year-round. It also provides the best tools to manage key sponsorships after the event.

Level up your next nonprofit party by: 

  • Automating registration and capturing potential donor leads
  • Offering unique sponsorship opportunities 
  • Engaging attendees with live interaction and fun challenges
  • Providing immersive brand experiences
  • Measuring event ROI and gathering critical performance data in real time and post-event
  • Enabling deeper connections with post-event community building
  • Pre-planning and on-site support with dedicated professional services
  • And more!

Schedule a free demo to see how Webex Events can help make your next nonprofit event a truly memorable experience!

Caitlin Barrett
Caitlin Barrett

Caitlin is a Content Marketing manager at Webex Events (formerly Socio). As a copywriter turned graphic designer turned content marketer, she loves combining engaging content and good design to create best-in-class experiences for brands and their customers.