Brief Guide: Planning a Charity Fundraising Event

Charities are under immense pressure to raise funds and ensure they can keep up the good work. We’ve noticed that an increasing number of charities are being assisted in their fundraising efforts by enthusiastic volunteers who throw themselves into organising events but may not have all the background knowledge about charity finance and governance regulations. This isn’t a bad thing, far from it. For us, it’s always great to see the passion that people have for charities and their generosity in giving up their time to help your organisation raise the funds you need to continue to help your service users.

So, if you’re ready to get started planning your event – here’s a brief introduction to the things we think you need to consider when planning a fundraising event to keep things safe and legal.

1.    You need clearly defined goals at the beginning.

Money isn’t everything. You need to set out some defined goals you want to achieve in your fundraising events and communicate these clearly with the people tasked with planning and running an event. After all, if your fundraising team are unaware of regulations and accidentally break fundraising rules, the reputational damage can far outweigh the benefit of any monies raised. Think of the bad publicity and how much a single negative news story could undermine all your hard work.

Sitting down and having this discussion about goals at an early stage can make a huge difference to the end result. Your proposed event might be better aimed at raising awareness than money, for example, or it might simply be a way of giving back to the community rather than asking for donations from them. 

2.       Make sure everyone is on the same page.

You want anyone who is involved in running an event for you to understand your mission and vision and to be able to explain these clearly to any member of the public they interact with on your behalf. If they are asking people for money they need to be able to explain how it will be used and for whose benefit. You might have specific information that needs to be shared in a certain way, make sure that your volunteers know exactly how to do this before the event gets underway.

You also need everyone involved in the planning to understand the type of events you want to be associated with, any activities that are especially appropriate (or inappropriate) for your group to be part of, and as mentioned previously, the desired end goal.

3.       Size matters.

Who is coming to your event? You need to think about the potential audience, how best to reach them to advertise an event, where best to offer the event and how big it will be.

Remember, you need to balance risk and reward, a bigger event may have the potential to raise substantial sums of money, but on the other hand, nobody wants to lose money and there are never any guarantees that you’ll generate the level of interest needed to make a success of an expensive big-ticket event. Obviously, the bigger the event, the longer you’ll need to prepare and promote in advance – you might even need time to recruit additional volunteers to steward and so on.

We suggest you think about:

·      Target Audience: Who are you going to invite? How will you let them know about the event?

·       Activities: What activities will you include? Will this appeal to a broad range of people? Is your event going to be family friendly, and if so, how will you cater for all ages of visitor?

·       Facilities: How many people are you aiming to see at your event? Can your chosen activity be accommodated? What venues can accommodate this group – think about catering and access requirements? Is your venue flexible if you have smaller/larger than anticipated numbers?

·       Admission: Will you charge an entrance fee? How would you ticket the event, in advance, on the door, or a combination of the two? Will you monitor numbers even if the event is not ticketed? Remember – advance tickets, even for free events, can help you gauge the level of interest in your event and plan accordingly.


4.       Venues and access.

There are a few things you might want to keep in mind when looking at booking potential venues, even if they are allowing you free use of their facilities.

·       Access: Is the venue accessible to all? Can accommodations be made for people who might find the building hard to access and will these be advertised in advance? Do people need transporting to the site? Can you provide details of public transport, parking and so on for attendees to make their own way there?

·       Equipment: Will you need to hire any equipment? When and where will it be delivered? Is someone available to receive it and set it up then? Do you know how to use it safely? Will you require additional transport to move any equipment from elsewhere?

·       Timings: Have you booked the venue for a sufficient amount of time to allow for setting-up and clearing away after the event too? Will you need additional volunteers to help ease this process if not?

·       Performers: Check what they expect you to provide and how long they will need to get ready either side of their show.

·       Weather: In Britain this is a given, but it is worth stating that you cannot trust the weather to be the same from one minute to the next. What impact will the weather have on an event (especially an outdoor one) and can you provide any shelter at the venue?


5.       Share the work.

This applies mainly to larger events as you may want to form a working group to manage all the various aspects of organisation. Planning all the dates and deadlines in advance as a group and agreeing to share responsibilities means that you are less likely to find that one or two people will be burdened with more than they can manage. Small groups could look at individual aspects of planning, for example marketing, safety, licensing and so on – however, if you do have separate groups, you’ll need a designated core contact to oversee all the various aspects to ensure that they tie in together.

6.       Risk assessments.

We strongly recommend you carry out a risk assessment to ensure the safety and security of everyone attending your event. Don’t worry – this is not a complicated process! You only need to think about some practical and common-sense issues that might arise and how you’ll prevent or deal with them. To learn more about drafting a simple risk assessment see our blog post here which offers a worked example and get in touch if you’d like an easy to use template that you can download and adapt. Bear in mind as part of your assessment that certain size events may require a First Aider to be on site – you are best to check this with your local authority.

7.       Boosting attendance.

Avoid clashing with other events happening locally – reach out to other groups, community and voluntary support agencies and the local council for more information before you set a date. This is also a great opportunity to ask them to get involved and/or share their expertise, they may know of a more suitable venue or another event you can piggy-back onto, it is always worth asking.

Plan well in advance and allow for longer lead-in times to advertise the event. If you are waiting on confirmation of details for the event (e.g. performers, activities, catering options etc) you can still start promoting an event. The main details you need to get across as early as possible are:

·         Date and time

·         Venue

·         Purpose

·         Organisation(s) involved

·         Price for admission

·         Mention that more information will follow and how to keep in touch for more details

If you can produce publicity materials that act as a “Save the Date” you are at least ensuring that you are marking out that date well in advance, any additional details can be added later. You can also use this early stage promotion as an opportunity to appeal for people who want to be involved in running the event too.

Don’t be afraid to get in touch with local press contacts and let them know about the event well in advance. They might be willing to appeal for assistants on your behalf or to cover the event on the day to review the activity. Even if they cannot attend the event, submit a press release before and after telling them about the event and how it was received. Include images if possible, and try and make sure that the press release is as well written as possible – make the journalists job easier and they will be more likely to include your information. Some members of the press may be willing to get involved in other ways too, for example, a local radio personality might be willing to act as an auctioneer at an event.

8.       Permission and licences.

While many activities can be included legally in your fundraising event, certain ones will require specific permissions or licenses, and these include public collections and certain types of raffles which many members of the public assume can be held as and when without any regulation. Each event will have different requirements and we recommend you look at the rules for the activities you are planning with both your local council’s licensing team who will be able to advise on what you might need to apply for and with the Gambling Commission if you intend to run a raffle (especially if you plan to sell tickets in advance of the event).

For larger events, you’ll also need to consider the impact the event will have on the local community – residents may want the noise to be kept to a minimum after a certain hour and businesses may have access requirements. 

9.       Insurance

Public Liability Insurance is the main cover you’ll need to consider if your event involves members of the public. Check with your venue what coverage they provide (if any) as part of their event package. It is an additional cost to take into account, but the alternative financial penalties can be far worse.

10.   Refreshments.

Offering food and drink as part of an event can generate a lot of revenue, however, if you plan to offer food or drink for sale to raise funds you’ll want to keep things above board. Food safety rules apply whether you sell the food or not. If you’re booking food with the venue, or an outside catering company, you’ll need to check they have food hygiene and environmental health certificates and Public Liability Insurance of their own. If you’re planning to prepare and sell food yourself to raise funds, check out the latest advice from The Food Standards Agency here.

Alcohol has rules and regulations of its own. Your venue may already be licensed to sell or serve alcohol, in which case you’re covered. If not, you will need to contact your local authority to ask about how to apply for a Temporary Event Notice to do so.

We hope this helps you get started planning your fundraising event. As always, Active Outcomes are happy to chat about this, so get in touch with us if you need any advice. For more information about what we’ve discussed you might also want to take a look at the links to other websites we’ve included below.

Good luck!


Recruiting the Right Trustees

Finding people who are willing to give up a few hours each month voluntarily to act as a Trustee can be difficult enough, but how do you find people with a specific skill-set your Board is lacking and encourage them to get involved?


Having worked with several charities to evaluate their work and help them with strategic planning we see this issue being raised time and again. With the newly released Good Governance Code aiming to improve the operation of Boards and offering simple guidance on diversifying, accountability and transparency – this is clearly a common issue. The guide encourages trustees to regularly examine their effectiveness and seek new skills to shore up any weaknesses in their leadership.

While it is easy to offer guidance that assumes the need is not being met because Boards do not understand the benefits they could gain through further development of strategic skills, on an individual level, we feel this is unfair. Charity boards are already being encouraged to diversify their recruits and to encourage people with a broader range of skills to get involved and many are already actively trying to do so. The problem, as we see it, is one of competition.

The vast majority of Boards Active Outcomes have advised already completely understand this need and have attempted to recruit individuals with specific expertise in areas such as social media marketing, strategic planning, finance, fundraising, and sustainability. Charities need to innovate and recruit trustees from a wider pool, so here are our suggestions for how to think outside the box and find people who may not normally have noticed your calls to action.

A lot of Trustees we speak to say that they kept seeing an advert and thinking “Should I? Shouldn’t I?” before eventually taking the plunge and getting in touch with the charity.

Professional Expertise

One issue with needing this level of specific expertise is that the people who can offer it are already working at full capacity elsewhere. People are busier than ever. Asking for a few hours each month does not seem unreasonable, but a lot of charities are failing to adapt to meet the needs of Board members who are currently employed professionals. Meetings tend to be scheduled in the middle of the day and in the middle of the working week. Flexible working is on the rise, but it is simply not an option for many full-time employees who could otherwise have a valuable input into Board meetings.

Consider: Varying the times of Board meetings and holding them on evenings and/or weekends if necessary. Investigate options for holding sub-committee meeting virtually, sharing documents and discussing actions online rather than in-person could cut down on travel time (and associated travel expenses for the charity) and may encourage less vocal Board members to speak out more on issues in a lower pressure environment.

Attracting New Trustees

Think carefully about where you advertise Trustee vacancies. Who sees the adverts there? Are they your target audience? What are the costs and benefits associated with your current methods? How could you find the “type” of Trustee with the skills your Board needs?

For example, a poster on the noticeboard in a community centre would be seen in passing by the people who use the facilities there. So, think about who visits, retirees, or parents with young children, professionals working in the building, members of the public attending fitness classes – look at what else happens there and consider if your target audience makes up part of the footfall. Who is likely to notice the poster and stop what they are doing and think seriously about the opportunity you are offering?

Consider: Ask your current Trustees where they saw the vacancy advertised. If cost permits, repeat your adverts. A lot of Trustees we speak to say that they kept seeing an advert and thinking “Should I? Shouldn’t I?” before eventually taking the plunge and getting in touch with the charity. Don’t forget to take advantage of free publicity – think about drafting a press release to the local newspaper to advertise the opportunity to take over a vacancy – tell the story of the Trustee who is leaving and ask them to explain what they do and why they’d encourage someone to take the plunge and replace them on the Board.

Look at distributing flyers in office buildings, or ask a local Chamber of Commerce to put out a request, Linked In offers another way of getting a request out to interested professionals and even if they do not personally want to help, they may reach out to their wider network to see if anyone else wants to donate their time. Developing connections with employers can lead to mutual benefits, as larger employers often have in-house social responsibility programmes that encourage employees to donate their time to a cause, you could offer development opportunities for their staff and excellent publicity opportunities as they in turn support your work.

Develop the Skills Internally

Obviously, recruitment isn’t always going to go to plan and if you can’t recruit the specific skill-set you need, we advise that you are prepared to consider developing the skills in-house. There are additional risks and costs associated with this option, as people may choose to move on and you might be left with the same knowledge gap and a hole in your budget as you were forced to pay for the training that you no longer benefit from.

Consider: Put in place learning and development strategies that encourage Board and other staff members to share their learning and that set out clear succession planning actions to ensure that the specific duties carried out by one Board member can be carried on in the interim.

Diversify with Younger Board Members

Expertise is often associated with age. A potential recruit who has developed their knowledge over years will have a lot to offer, but we feel that discounting younger recruits because of a perceived lack of experience is a terrible idea.

Consider: Get in touch with local higher or further education providers (if they have an in-house career advisory service this is an ideal place to make initial contact with). Becoming a Trustee is a great opportunity for personal and professional development and young people have a range of transferable skills and a unique perspective and level of enthusiasm they can offer.

Be honest about your expectations and requirements but let people know that what you get out of the experience will, by far, outweigh what you put in.

Really Sell the Benefits

The benefits of volunteering their time might appear self-evident to the Board but members of the public need this making crystal clear. Many are put off by the perceived responsibilities and liabilities that come with being a Board member. You need to tell potential recruits what the opportunity offers them. Be honest about your expectations and requirements but let people know that what you get out of the experience will, by far, outweigh what you put in.

Consider: Creating an application pack to outlines the main roles and responsibilities, keep it brief and simple, no more than a few pages. Tell people what to expect, when you hold meetings, what the risks are and really explain the rewards. Giving your time to help others has massive benefits to both your own personal well-being and that of others, it can help you move your career in a completely different direction and allow you to widen your social circle and meet like-minded people. Get one of your current Trustees to create a profile to include in the pack that explains who they are, why they volunteer, what they do in a typical month, and what they get out of it.


Remember, if you need any help with attracting trustees we are always on hand to advise you. We can work with you to develop training packages, draft strategies, create recruitment packs and posters and press releases to support your Board in gaining the recruits they need. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to discuss any of the ideas we’ve put forward above.