Tip Sheet: Special Events

Special events can be a great way for organizations to raise funds, create public awareness and build volunteer base. They range from big to small, from car washes, to golf tournaments, charity auctions and gala dinners. Careful planning and execution are needed to ensure your organization achieves its goals for your event.

Your Fundamentals

Risk Assessment:

There are risks to holding an event. Identify those risks, plan how to address them, and then decide if the benefits of holding the event outweigh the risks.

The biggest risk is losing money. Calculate all the costs involved – variable [proportional to the number of people attending your event i.e. catering] and fixed [costs you must pay regardless of your turnout i.e.venue, promotional materials]. Determine if your projected revenues cover and exceed them.

Read the fine print in all the supplier contracts and understand exactly what you are committing your organization to.

Understand your liabilities especially where alcohol is being served. If your organization has an insurance policy check what your coverage is for events. If you don’t have insurance assess whether you will need to purchase it.

Critical Path:

Creating a Critical Path will help you manage the logistics and keep you focused on everything that needs to be done to make your event a success.  Here are some steps to get you started.

  • List your main objectives [i.e. raise money and public awareness].
  • Recruit your team of core volunteers.
  • Decide on the event date and venue.
  • Confirm the logistic elements [i.e. catering, rentals, sound & staging].
  • Develop your budget.
  • Develop your Sponsorships/Partnerships Plan including costs of fulfilment.
  • Develop your Marketing & Media Plan including costs of materials.
  • Prepare your post-event plan [i.e. thanking attendees, sponsors and partners, volunteers].

Having a sound and realistic budget and sticking to it is key to the financial success of your event. Begin by determining all your fixed and variable costs. List all of your projected revenues from ticket sales, sponsorships and partnerships, and donations of goods and services. When setting ticket prices keep in mind the costs you must cover as well as what your target market can afford.

Before You Start - Ask Yourself:


Do the potential risks of holding the event outweigh the benefits to your organization?


What staff and resources in your organization will you need to dedicate to the event?