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The ultimate checklist for planning a successful nonprofit event


Planning a nonprofit event can be a big job, but it is also an exciting and noble project. Nonprofits are groups that help people or causes without making money for themselves. If you're organizing an event to raise money, spread awareness, or bring people together, this nonprofit strategic plan checklist will help you ensure everything goes smoothly for the long term.

Table of contentsBusiness people at the meeting at the lunch buffet

  1. Decide what you want to achieve
  2. Make a budget
  3. Pick a date and venue
  4. Gather a team
  5. Plan the event details
  6. Promote your event
  7. Register attendees
  8. Plan for the day of the event
  9. Follow up after the event

Decide what you want to achieve

First, decide what you want to achieve by crafting a clear mission statement to achieve clear goals for your event.

Do you want to raise a specific amount of money? How many people do you want to inform about your cause? How many attendees do you hope to have?

These goals will guide your planning process. Make sure your event aligns with your nonprofit's bigger goals. For example, if your nonprofit helps animals, your event should focus on animal welfare.

Make a budget

The next step in your strategic planning process is to make a detailed budget.

Planning your expenses involves considering costs for the venue, food, drinks, entertainment, marketing, permits, and insurance.

Budget for event expenses like venue rental, catering, and marketing materials, and consider seeking sponsors or selling tickets for donations. Reach out to local businesses for sponsorships, sell tickets if it's a ticketed event, and encourage attendees to donate. This will help you understand how much money you need and where it will come from.

If you want to learn more about how to secure sponsors for your nonprofit, read this blog. 

Pick a date and venue

Choosing the best date and venue for your event is a vital part of your nonprofit event planning process. To maximize attendance and prevent competing for attendees' attention, avoid scheduling your event on the same day as other big events or holidays.

Selecting a venue that aligns with your nonprofit's mission and values is key. Ensure the venue fits your budget constraints while providing ample space for your expected attendees. Accessibility is also crucial, as you want to make it easy for people to find and reach the location.

For instance, a local park can offer a picturesque setting for a community fair, creating a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for all attendees. On the other hand, a rented hall may be more suitable for a formal dinner, providing a sophisticated and elegant ambiance for a fundraising gala or awards ceremony.

By carefully considering the date and venue for your event, you can set the stage for a memorable and impactful experience that resonates with your audience and furthers your nonprofit's mission.

Gather a team

Gather a team to help you. Form a planning committee with volunteers or board and staff members to help plan and run the event. Assign specific roles to each team member to ensure everyone knows what they need to do.

For instance, the event coordinator can oversee the whole event, the marketing coordinator can handle advertising, the sponsorship coordinator can secure sponsors, and the volunteer coordinator can organize the volunteers. Recruiting volunteers is the best way to manage costs when organizing a nonprofit. To learn more about how to recruit volunteers, click here.

Plan the event details

Plan the event details meticulously. Create a detailed timeline outlining each task that needs to be completed leading up to the event and their corresponding deadlines. This will help you stay organized and ensure that everything is completed in a timely manner.

When designing the event program, consider the day's flow and how you want the schedule to unfold. Include key elements such as speeches, performances, interactive activities, and special presentations. Make sure to allocate enough time for each segment to prevent rushing through the event.

Regarding logistics, consider seating arrangements to maximize guest comfort and interaction. Consider the venue layout and how you can optimize the space for the best experience. Arrange for clear signage to guide attendees throughout the event and ensure all necessary equipment, such as microphones, projectors, and lighting, are set up and tested beforehand.

For instance, if you're planning to have a guest speaker, ensure that there is a designated area with a podium, microphone, and any audio-visual equipment they may need. This will help the speaker feel prepared and effectively deliver their message to the audience.

By meticulously planning the event details, you can create a seamless and engaging experience for attendees while ensuring everything runs smoothly on the event day.

Promote your event

Promoting your event is crucial to attracting attendees and generating excitement. Create eye-catching promotional materials such as vibrant posters, creative flyers, and engaging social media posts that highlight the key aspects of your event. To reach a diverse audience, utilize various channels to spread the word, including popular social media platforms, informative email newsletters, local newspapers, and community bulletin boards.

In addition, consider reaching out to local media outlets to secure coverage for your event. A feature in a newspaper or on a news website can significantly boost visibility and attract a larger crowd. By leveraging media partnerships, you can increase awareness and attendance, ultimately maximizing the impact of your nonprofit event. Remember, effective promotion is key to ensuring the success of your event and achieving your goals.


Register attendees

Set up a registration system to keep track of who's coming. Create an online registration form where people can sign up and send confirmation emails to everyone who registers. Consider using ticketing platforms if you are selling tickets, and make sure the registration process is simple and user-friendly.

Additionally, it provides clear instructions on how attendees can register or purchase tickets, ensuring a seamless and hassle-free experience. Include important details such as event date, time, location, and any special requirements or instructions. You can also offer early bird discounts or special promotions to incentivize people to register early.

Implementing a well-organized and user-friendly registration system can streamline the process, enhance the attendee experience, and effectively manage the logistics of your nonprofit event.

Plan for the day of the event

On the event day, arriving early to set up the venue is crucial. This ensures you have ample time to address any last-minute issues and ensure everything is in perfect order. Begin by checking all the logistics, from seating arrangements and stage setup to signage and lighting. Make sure that all necessary equipment, such as microphones, projectors, and sound systems, is working properly and has been tested ahead of time.

Next, coordinate with your team of volunteers or staff.

Assign each person specific tasks, such as greeting guests at the entrance, assisting with registration, guiding attendees to different areas of the venue, and managing any crowd control as needed. Volunteers/staff should be easily identifiable, perhaps with branded t-shirts or badges, so guests can quickly spot them for assistance.

Stick to the schedule throughout the event to ensure everything runs smoothly. For instance, if your program includes a keynote speech at 2 p.m., ensure it starts promptly. This shows professionalism and respect for the time of both the speaker and the attendees. Having a clear schedule that attendees can reference is a great way to ensure professionalism and help keep things organized. 

Additionally, consider having a designated troubleshooter or event manager who can handle any unexpected issues that arise, such as technical difficulties, guest complaints, or emergencies. This person should be able to make quick decisions to keep the event flowing without major disruptions.

Finally, have a wrap-up plan.

This includes ensuring all guests leave the venue safely, collecting feedback through surveys or questionnaires, and beginning the cleanup process. Make sure to thank your team and volunteers for their hard work, and perhaps conduct a brief debrief to discuss what went well and what could be improved for future events.

By carefully planning and executing these steps, you can ensure your event is a successful and enjoyable experience for all attendees.

Follow up after the event

After the event:

  1. Follow up with everyone involved.
  2. Send thank-you notes to sponsors, volunteers, and attendees to show appreciation.
  3. Evaluate the event by gathering feedback from your team and attendees to understand what worked well and what could be improved next time.  You can use surveys to do this and customize questions to collect data to better your next event.
    Some questions you can ask are: "Rate the vendors at this event", "How satisfied were you with the wait time?", "What would better your experience at this event?", and more. 
  4. Share the results, such as the amount of money raised or the number of people reached, with everyone involved to highlight the event's success and impact.

Planning a nonprofit event might seem like a lot of work, but by following this nonprofit strategic plan checklist, you can ensure everything is covered. Stay organized, work as a team, and, most importantly, have fun while making a difference!

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