How to plan a charity event: An easy eight-step guide to success

From defining your objectives to choosing a venue, find out everything you need to know about planning a successful charity event.

Updated on 20 March 2023 • Written By Ellie Donnell

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How to plan a charity event: An easy eight-step guide to success

Planning a charity event and not sure where to start? Don’t panic. We’ve got all the tips, tricks and advice you need to get started.

Whether you’re a major corporate company, a non-profit organisation or an individual with a cause that’s close to your heart, hosting a charity event is a great way to raise money for a worthwhile cause. Rather than simply asking people for donations, hosting an event is a fun, immersive and interactive way to engage with guests and is much more likely to leave a lasting impression (perhaps encouraging more donations in the future). In fact, we can’t think of a reason not to host one! However, if the main thing holding you back is not knowing where to start, never fear. We've broken down how to plan a charity event into eight digestible steps to make the process as easy as possible.

In this simple guide, we explain everything you need to think about when hosting a successful charity event, from defining your objectives to setting a budget and all the added extras, like the venue, theme, entertainment and more. It doesn't matter if you’re a corporate business or an individual, everyone and anyone can host a charity event. The overall planning process is pretty similar whoever you are – it's just the scale of the event that might look a little bit different.


Ready to make a start? From identifying your charity event objectives to promoting it to the right audience, we hope you find answers to all your questions below. And who knows? You might even discover something you hadn’t thought about before. Read our tips to planning a fundraising event and raise funds for a worthy cause. Good luck!

1. Define your purpose

The first question you want to ask yourself is: why are you hosting a charity event? This might seem obvious, but identifying your ‘why’ will have a major impact on every other aspect of the planning process, from the style of the event to any marketing activity you use to promote it.

On a basic level, the main reason for your event is to raise money for a chosen charity. With this in mind, make sure to set a fundraising goal to ensure you have a clear number to work towards. Be realistic though, rather than just trying to raise as much as possible. This will help you measure the success of your event afterwards and can be a lot more encouraging for both the host and potential donors if there’s a clear goal in sight.

Of course, hosting a charity event can have far more impact than simply raising funds. More reasons why you might want to hold one include:

- Raising awareness about the work of a particular charity, including who they are, what they do and how attendees can help
- Raising awareness about a particular issue, such as food poverty, homelessness, cancer, mental health and more
- Growing your donor base, whether that's through marketing, social media, inviting new people or reaching different audiences through sponsor support
- Recognising existing donors and strengthening relationships by giving them the spotlight at your event

2. Set a budget

Even though the purpose of your event is to raise money, naturally, events cost money to run. How much cash you have to play with depends on who the host is. For example, an event run by a non-profit organisation is probably going to be on a much tighter budget than a corporate company hosting an event for charity.

We’d recommend shooting for somewhere in the middle, so spending enough to ensure there’s plenty to attract and entertain an audience, without hosting something overly lavish. This is an event for an important cause, after all, and excessive amounts spent on a one-off event can look a little insensitive.

When setting your budget, make sure to take into account every tiny detail, including venue hire, entertainment, decorations, logistics and a small pot for any unexpected costs that might occur.

The event space in The Tate
Need somewhere spacious and impressive? The Tate Modern's Turbine Hall & Bridge room doesn't disappoint.

3. Select the right style

Charity events can take many different styles and formats. Do you want it to be a more serious affair to help portray a message? Or, would you rather organise something fun and light-hearted to attract those who wouldn’t usually participate in charity work? It can be helpful to come up with a theme, which will help keep your planning centred around one specific idea.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to the style of event, but we’ve included a few ideas below to get you started:

- Carnival
- Fashion show
- Auction
- Treasure hunt
- Street party
- Open mic night
- Cooking competition
- Sports day

Many charity websites offer dedicated resources for planning a fundraising event, with lots of tips, ideas and inspiration if you're struggling. 

4. Decide on a venue

Once you’ve decided on the style of the event, you can go ahead and start searching for a venue. If you’re hosting an outdoor event, then you’ll want to focus your research on venues with amazing outdoor spaces – perhaps at a sports ground or a country house. Discover our pick of the best London venues with outside space - from rooftop gardens to pretty patios and courtyards - for the perfect alfresco event.

When it comes to indoor events, you’re more restricted by space, so make sure you have a rough idea of numbers before you book. Other things to think about include catering facilities, AV equipment, a stage, lighting, accessibility, location and if there are any restrictions on decorations (if you want to theme your event, for example).

Charity events tend to range from mid-sized to large occasions - such as a raffle, gala dinner, party or fundraiser - so you're likely to need somewhere that caters for at least 100 people. The main hall at Banqueting House is one of our favourites, with its baroque interiors and grand columns, while Rose Court Events is preferrable if you're after somewhere central and more modern. Discover our full pick of large event venues in London for lots more inspiration. 

The main hall in Banqueting House
The main hall at Banqueting House

Finally, it might be nice to think about whether the venue’s ethos fits with your charity. If you’re raising money for an environmental charity, then it could be a good idea to book a venue with strong sustainable credentials. Check out our guide to planning a sustainable event for more tips on this.

5. Nail the entertainment

A theme is one thing, but ensuring there’s plenty of activities for your guests to get involved in is another. You want to make your event as attractive as possible to a large audience, so make sure to organise activities and entertainment as part of the proceedings.

Essentially, you’re trying to get people to spend their money, so have a think about some engaging ways to get people to donate, like with a raffle or tombola. Other forms of entertainment include live music, a special act such as a comedian or performer, or a speaker. You'll need to check that your venue can accommodate the entertainment before you book as well, so make sure to think about these things at the same time. If you want to organise a speaker for example, then somewhere with decent AV equipment and a stage would be beneficial.

6. Secure a sponsor

In an ideal world, the entire cost of your event would be covered by a sponsor so you can donate 100% of your profits to charity. This might not be feasible for everyone, but consider reaching out to a few potential sponsors early on to gauge their interest. Remember, sponsors can help fund your event in more ways than simply covering the cost. Working with another company or big brand name can help you reach a new audience, while giving your event more credibility. Find out more about how to secure a sponsor for your event with our complete guide.

7. Recruit volunteers

An event is only as good as the people who make it happen, so make sure to recruit willing volunteers who are genuinely passionate about your cause. The best way to search for potential helpers is by reaching out to people on your guest list, who are already likely to be interested in your chosen charity.

8. Spread the word

Don’t let all your hard-earned efforts go to waste. Once you have a date in place and all the details finalised, it’s time to spread the word and start inviting people.

How you promote your charity event will depend on the scale and demographic of your audience. Traditional ways of marketing include distributing local flyers, although if you’re looking to keep costs down and save time, then good old-fashioned email is always a great bet. This also gives you greater control over who you reach out to, with the flexibility to create targeted mailing lists and personalised messaging.

Of course, social media is one of the most effective tools at your fingertips to generate excitement and awareness about your charity event. Use paid ads, share high quality videos and images and make sure to highlight key information, like the date, charity and what to expect, up front. Find out more about how to use social media for your event with our essential guide, which includes tips on which platforms to use and how to maximise your impact.

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