Alarm clock on calendar
Events Published Date, 2023

Events In A New Age: 6 Takeaways On “Fundraising Events In 2023: How To Plan And What To Know”

Created By: Libbie Reed
February 15, 2023

On Thursday, February 9th, Orr Group Vice President Becca Bennett participated in The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s latest webinar, “Fundraising Events in 2023: How to Plan and What to Know.” Becca partnered with Roger Whyte, Principal of Stratus Firm (f.k.a. RJ Whyte Event Production), to provide insightful background on the production and fundraising elements of successful galas and events.

The conversation reflected on the changes and progressions made in fundraising events since 2020, and what the nonprofit world can expect to see in 2023: a large return of in-person events, turning away from the past year’s virtual or hybrid models. With that comes a lot of change in what a nonprofit should plan and prepare for to host a successful fundraising event. Here are our takeaways:

1. In-person events are back. Roger says that more than two-thirds of organizations are focused on in-person events in 2023, with only 25-35% of events being hybrid or virtual. When considering the format of your event, it is important to consider what works best for your donor and participant base. Consider the feasibility of your event–what do you want to achieve, what is your budget, who is your audience, and what do they benefit better from? Additionally, consider what milestones you can leverage when building out your event themes, whether it be a special anniversary, the kick-off of a fundraising campaign, or a small, intimate evening at a Board Member’s house.

2. Update your budget. One of the most important to-dos in planning a fundraising event is setting your budget and sticking to it. On the production side, it’s important to consider that the event landscape post-COVID is different than before 2020. Organizations cannot use old budget plans. Events are seeing new, elevated price points, not only because of general inflation and economic troubles, but also because of conditions specific to the event-planning industry, such as supply and demand issues or increased vendor pricing. Organizations should set fundraising benchmarks to ensure they are on track to raise three to four times your event expenses. Many tactics can help meet these benchmarks and raise dollars, such as consistent tracking, developing a gift table based on sponsorship levels, or prioritizing expenses that are most important, to ensure costs are kept down.

3. Committee engagement is key.  Fundraising committees are a critical component of fundraising events. Having a dedicated group to assist in fundraising not only takes pressure off the organization’s staff, but also opens many doors to new donors and networks. To support the fundraising committee, organizations should plan to meet with members often, manage their prospect lists, provide fundraising updates, and map out committee tasks. It is up to the organization on how engaged their committee should be, but general responsibilities of committee members include: attending monthly meetings, making a personal gift, reviewing sponsor prospects lists and identifying new prospects in their network, lending their name to event materials, and promoting the event. Making sure each committee member knows their fundraising goal is critical to meeting these fundraising benchmarks.

4. Plan ahead. One of the most important elements in producing a fundraising event is making sure that you have planned ahead of time and are accounting for all possible to-dos. The best thing an organization can prioritize when producing an event is creating a production timeline at least 6-months out that tracks all the way up until the day of the event. A detailed timeline can be used to track progress, as well as ensure that your organization has accounted for everything, and has given itself enough time to follow through. Consistent and accurate tracking are among the most important resources to keep organizations on top of producing and fundraising.

5. Utilize marketing and communications. More is more! Effective and consistent communication is critical to the success of an event. There is no such thing as too much exposure for an event. That being said, organizations don’t need to saturate every communication channel, as it may not yield the results of sticking to what works best for them and their donors. You should prioritize your platform(s) based on your audience. For example, email blasts are crucial to reach a wide audience, while social media lends itself to a creative and visual communication tool and provides a way for committee members and other members to easily share event information. A big consideration for organizations in 2023 as it relates to communications is the switch from paper to digital marketing. We find that going digital is more often than not the more efficient means for communication, as it yields better results in response and fundraising and is a cheaper option, in both money and labor.

6. Craft the experience.  A thoughtful and engaging experience for guests is the best way for organizations to boost results and dollars.  Organizations should consider how to maximize their event, whether that be inviting VIPs, crafting special evening experiences (VIP receptions, mission moments, highlighting your co-chairs and event leaders), utilizing new and innovative event technology, keeping the program short, creating special auction offerings, and most importantly, keeping it personal. You want your event to make every person there feel like they have been personally touched by the organization and have come together as a community. The experience does not end after the last person leaves the room, and an organization should engage and cultivate these attendees throughout the year. Personalized thank-you notes, special events, and utilizing your event chairs are all ways to cultivate your donors beyond the event.

Building a network of people most driven by your organization is key in producing a successful event. Lean on your leaders to develop goals and help fundraise, utilize your committee to support the event, and consider how you can create the most impactful and mission-driven experience for your sponsors and supporters. As we said earlier, the experience does not end when the event concludes!

Orr Group can help you execute a well-organized event that raises critical dollars to advance your mission and strengthen your reputation. Get in touch to learn more.

Libbie Reed is a Senior Associate Director and Head of Events at Orr Group. She specializes in collaborating with Orr Group’s nonprofit partners to develop and execute fundraising events that drive revenue to enhance programs and services.

Related Resources