10 Tips As You Approach Your Annual Fundraiser

It’s finally spring and for many of us, things in the sector are beginning to slow down. As warm weather settles in and we start leaving the office earlier, it feels like we can FINALLY relax.

But this is only true for some of us. For others…it’s gala season.

If your event is only a few short weeks away, then you’re probably excited, nervous, and a bit crazed. Who could blame you?! Everything you’ve worked on these past few months is about to culminate in a 3-hour window of food and Powerpoint slides, which will either set your organization on track for the coming year or throw it into financial uncertainty. You may have even had nightmares about it all falling apart (and if that sounds extreme, that’s Development for you).

Still, don’t let the pressure get to your head. Whether you’re the head fundraiser in-charge or another involved staff member, here are 10 ways to sail through this event season with poise and sanity.

(Well, maybe not complete sanity, because it is still your gala.)

10 Tips As You Approach Your Annual Fundraiser

1. Delegate like your life depends on it.

One person can’t do it alone. Gala season is no time to worry about burdening others, or worrying that things won’t get done to your standards. Delegate where possible, to staff within and beyond your team. It’s a good way to share the load, and begin familiarizing everyone with the event process going forward.

*Tip:* Delegating feels funny when you don’t do it often. Focus on doling out tasks that play to your colleagues’ duties, strengths and events experience.  Also consider writing a staffing plan, so that folks can reference it if/when they forget their duties.

2. Build out a daily action plan, and make it visible.

In the weeks leading up to your event, write down what needs to be done and by whom. You’re giving yourself a mini project plan that will prevent things from slipping through the cracks. Include everything here – from confirming with the caterer, to arranging transportation for your speakers. Even the smallest missed detail can make for a giant disaster!

*Tip:* There are tons of online tools for this. I’m pretty simple; a shared spreadsheet, or a giant poster for all to see, is enough for me. If you have a tool that you love, please share in the comments! I’m also sharing a basic template that you can access by downloading here!

Screenshot of my planning template. Click to download!

3. Continue to write things down as they cross your mind.

We risk losing every idea that pops into our head when we don’t commit those thoughts to paper. Keep a pen and notepad on you at all times, so that you can jot down every last-minute thought.

*Tip:* Keep a list specifically of the supplies you need to gather. Then, get a second pair of eyes on it. Someone may remember something that you didn’t think to include.

4. Clear your desk.

If you tend to keep a stellar desk year-round, then kudos. Otherwise, carve out 20 minutes to clear your workspace before the chaos sets in. It may seem mundane, but when your brain starts swimming with all the to-do’s, a clear workspace will keep you grounded. Plus, you don’t want to be in a position where you can’t find something because your desk is in shambles!

5. Set expectations with your colleagues.

It’s important your team all be on the same page; about what needs to happen, where they fit, and how they should expect to interact with you in the coming days. My manager would always make it clear to my team that our capacity was limited during event season. Obviously be available where you can, but also be honest about where your head will be. This will prevent any miscommunications or hurt feelings during what is sure to be a hectic time.

6. Set expectations with your director.

Your Executive Director is a key piece to this puzzle, and quite possibly your boss. Be sure to let them know what they can expect of you in the days leading up to the event, as well as what you need from them and when.

7. Manage expectations with your board and event committee.

Everyone’s relationship to their board is different. But to the extent that you can, put them to work! Invite them to spread the word to their networks, and task them with making introductions at the event to potential supporters. Winspire has quick, actionable tips for getting your board engaged in this process.

8. Touch base with speakers prior to event day.

The last thing you want is to focus so much on logistics that you wind up neglecting the students, partners & special guests that you’ve invited to speak. Whether you’re managing this piece directly or through another staff member, take time to connect with speakers and bring them up to speed on how the day will work. TED has a short & effective list on things you can do to really prepare your speakers to shine.

9. Check in with your social media person.

Some orgs have a team dedicated to this, or maybe it’s fallen onto you, because #multiplehats. Whatever the case, figure out your plan for spreading the word before, during and after the event. It’s never too late to figure this out, and Network for Good has some great tips for starting to wrap your head around a social event strategy.

10. Always triple-check the collateral.

If you’re planning to list sponsors and other supporters on your event collateral, triple-check that everyone is recognized AND attributed correctly. It will be your personal nightmare if a sponsor points out a typo with their name on the program, or if you forget to include that new board member on the slideshow. And even though it shouldn’t matter, these errors can impact any future support you might receive from these folks.

I know I said 10, but I have one more…and that’s to take a breather! You’re working hard and you’ve planned this thing like a boss. It’s all going to come together.

Are you in the midst of your annual event season right now too? How do you keep yourself together?

4 thoughts on “10 Tips As You Approach Your Annual Fundraiser

  1. Athena

    Oh my god! As another non-profit professional, this is so awesome. The site is awesome as well and I am definitely adding to my reader!


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