Taming Special Event MonsterYou know it’s there, lurking in the shadows of your workload. You try to avoid it, but sooner or later it must be dealt with. Your organization is relying on you to step in and be the hero.

Now is the time to take a stand and conquer your fears. It is time to take that first step towards planning your special event.

Am I being overly dramatic? Not really; we all know that producing fundraisers is stressful. Last year Careercast.com tagged event planning as the 8th most stressful job in the world – no wonder you find creating special events intimidating!

I am here to assure you that you are completely capable of creating successful events, and once you know the systems used by professional event planners like myself, you will find it simple to raise more money with far less stress than you ever thought possible.

My clients tell me they find the sheer volume of work involved in creating a fundraiser intimidating. That is understandable, and I help them ease their jitters by giving them the SMART System of event planning.

The SMART System allows you to create successful events with far less stress than they have experienced in their past event planning attempts.

Here are the 5 components of the SMART System:

  • S = Structure
  • M = Monetization
  • A = Assessing Assets
  • R = Run of Show
  • T = Thank Yous and Follow Up


At the start of your event planning, create a master timeline, as well as templates and agendas, to effectively communicate with your entire event planning team. Build a strong foundation for your event by setting realistic goals. Base these goals on your organization’s past fundraising history and current untapped assets. Finish off the solid structure by carefully choosing your event planning committee, putting two “Queen Bees” in the co-chair positions to draw in new supporters from their social circles.


Look beyond simple ticket sales and auctions for event revenue streams. Creating appealing sponsorship packages that offer high visibility along with VIP perks can fully fund your event before you even open the doors. Be creative with fun raffle ideas, and never overlook the income-producing power of a Fund-A-Need.

Assessing Assets

Boost your event’s bottom line by looking beyond dollars and cents. Your community is brimming with a surprising amount of freebies and in-kind donations. Consider having a local community college’s in-house shop donate the printing your invitations and event programs. Get your wine or drink mixers for free in exchange for promoting their logo on your step-and-repeat. You might find a tech savvy high-school student willing oversee your event’s social media plan for little to no cost to you.

Run of Show

An engaging and compelling event doesn’t happen by accident. A lot of thought goes into creating a program which will resonate with your audience. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to fill up every minute of your event with programed messaging. Give your guests ample time to relax and socialize before asking for their attention. Most importantly, keep your stage program short and sweet. Nothing is a bigger snoozefest than a too-long parade of presenters and honorees. Engage your audience early on in the program, and present your appeal while all eyes are glued to the stage.

Thank Yous and Follow Up

Say it loud and say it often, but always say it from the heart. Thank yous are an integral part of any fundraising event. From acknowledging auction donations, to thanking guests from the stage, to sending thank you emails after the gala – always take the opportunity to show your appreciation in any form. And don’t drop the ball after the warm glow of the event’s success has faded. You should be following up on a regular basis to let the sponsors and guests know the impact they have made on your organization’s mission and its beneficiaries.

Special events will no longer be a monster!

These five elements are fundamental to the success of any event. When these are put into play, you will be able to reap the long-term financial and engagement benefits of planning the smart way.

Now that you have the weapons to slay that special event monster, go forth and enjoy your much-deserved success!

If you want more on the basics of successful fundraising events, check out AJ’s Special Events 101 in The Nonprofit Academy at: https://thenonprofitacademy.com/vault/special-events/

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