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What Makes a Special Event Successful?

Special events are a hallmark of most fundraising strategies and are often the only time a broader audience will be introduced to your nonprofit organization.


Special events such as the gala and mega-luncheon are being restructured to include virtual elements and in-person venues are being scaled down. Now is a good time to reexamine why you are putting on an event. Are you having an event because that’s what you did pre-Covid, is this a social and awareness raising event, or is it a fundraiser? Do you have defined goals for the event?


If your event is a fundraising event, there are some basic things to keep in mind.

  • What are your goals? Is it to raise a certain dollar amount, to attract new donors, to get good media attention?

  • What’s the difference between gross and net dollars raised? Simply put “gross” is everything raised, “net” is what is left after all the bills have been paid. A good rule of thumb is – expenses should not be more than 30% of your gross.

  • Always keep your mission in mind and include elements that remind your audience of your mission’s work. Being mission-centric means your event is part of the strategy to elevate your mission and the people you serve.

  • There are all kinds of tips and tricks to be found online for putting on a successful event. Here are my top five:

  1. Start early

  2. Be flexible, things change

  3. Delegate, you alone can do everything

  4. Have a backup plan

  5. Include planned stewardship and follow up with lots of “thank you’s”


Include a post-event analysis as part of your overall plan. A successful event is not just about how much money you raised. Your guests’ experience is also a critical part of a successful event.


Keep in mind that the people who attend your event are prospective donors. Yes, you want to thank everyone for attending, but you also want their feedback. Consider your best options for gathering this information. Maybe you could do a post-event survey of all your guests or maybe a small sampling would be less intrusive and more helpful.


Take advantage of this “new day” with event fundraising to rethink how you want to present your organization to your donors and potential supporters. Make your event fun, make it relevant, make it an event people want to attend again next year. That’s a tall order, but you and your organization can produce a successful, mission-centric event.



Michelle Crim, CFRE


Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.


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