Fundraising Event Management: A Timeline Checklist

Is event planning one of the “Other Duties as Assigned” you’ve taken on in your role as a YNP? Tasked with pulling off an auction and not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered.

As Events Manager for a non-profit organization based in Des Moines serving the state of Iowa, Stacie Garmon produces events  for anywhere from 10 to 15,000+ people. She’s responsible for a 3-day children’s festival, auction gala, two golf tournaments and two children’s events, annually. Stacie shared her project management timeline and advice with us in a series of guest posts you’ll want to bookmark!


Event planning is Stacie’s super power and she’s coming to your rescue!

Stacie says:


I work on a continuous 12 month rotation. I have a separate “events” calendar designated for inputting reminders for events throughout the year (when to contact certain sponsors, donors, vendors, etc). This can be a lifesaver during my busier times of the year.

12+ months prior:
The moment an annual event ends is the moment the planning process begins for the following year. As soon as an event is completed, I do a review of current event with the committee for areas of success and those areas that need adjustments in the future. Doing this immediately following the event will ensure it is fresh in your mind. Review the budget, revenue, ROI, sponsors, donors and sales.

  • Select a chairperson /leader. This should be someone who can commit to the entire event process. Selecting the right person can make your event extremely successful!
  • Build your volunteer event committee and create sub-committees as needed.
  • Establish event goals: Gross revenue raised, event budget, attendance desired, and sponsorship dollars.
  • Select event date, venue and entertainment (live bad, auctioneer, performers). When setting a date – do your research. Avoid major sporting events and activities important to your community (i.e. Iowa/ISU game or the Iowa State Fair), as well as other major fundraising events that could cause your supporters to choose which event they will attend.

9-12 months prior:

  • Schedule a meeting with your “procurement” (solicitation) committee volunteers for auction and in-kind items.
  • Brainstorm items to target. Be creative, think outside of the box and do not be afraid to go after those hard to obtain items/packages. Create your “procurement” goals and deadlines.
  • Identify event sponsorship opportunities/levels and benefits.
  • Begin creating event materials. If you do not have a graphic designer, consider hiring one.
  • Database review of sponsors, donors and procurement lists.
  • Start implementing event information on your website and social media pages.

5-8 months prior:

  • Mail/email procurement request (solicitation) letters.
  • Have procurement volunteers begin following-up to request letters 2-4 weeks after mailed.
  • Create “save the date” cards to be emailed/mailed to prior event guest, sponsors and donors.
  • Begin tracking event information: donors, items procured and sponsorships, etc…
  • Continually review procurement results and event revenue progress.
  • Develop save the date/invitation mailing list.
  • Confirm all hired entertainment/auctioneer, decorator, rented equipment, program speakers and honorees.
  • Finalize event decor and “theme” (if required).

2-4 months prior:

  • Begin creating/defining the day of event accounting processes.
  • Finalize invitation mailing list.
  • Begin establishing volunteer duties.
  • Begin recruiting volunteers for the day prior and day of the event.
  • Meet with venue, caterer, entertainers to review details (floor plan, food, timing, flow, special needs, etc…).
  • Begin packaging items together, creating unique auction packages.

3-4 weeks prior: This is the time period where my office begins to look chaotic, but it’s ok!

  • Complete procurement and finalize item packaging.
  • Begin assigning auction items to live vs. silent.
  • Create event signage and displays.
  • Coordinate all day-of event equipment (computers, printers, tablets, etc…).
  • Finalize event floor plan with venue and decorator.
  • Create event program, presentations, speeches, etc…

2 weeks prior:

  • Complete auction item assignment.
  • Create live auction item sequence.
  • Meet with auctioneer prior to completing event program, they often have great insight to where packages will be the most successful. Live auction items are not necessarily items of higher value, many times items are unique and not obtainable by general public.
  • Collect event materials and supplies to take to venue.
  • Finalize day-off event volunteer task list and schedule.
  • Confirm with volunteers that they are still on board.

1 week prior:

  • Finalize check-in and accounting processes.
  • Create and finalize bid sheets and take to printer if carbon copies are needed.
  • Assign guest to tables (if required).
  • Assign bidder numbers to guests.
  • Create and finalize registered guests’ bidder packets (program, bidder number, name tag, table number).
  • Enter last minute registrations as they arrive.
  • Create “walk-in” guest bidder packets
  • Ensure all auction packages are numbers and have corresponding tags/labels.
  • Touch base with decorator on schedule/timeline.

Day Before and Day of Auction: Wear comfortable shoes, stay hydrated and don’t forget to eat! My last large auction event, I was onsite for 20 hours straight!

  • Print event registration lists and reports.
  • Print final day-of schedule and distribute to event staff and volunteers.
  • Deliver all items and materials to venue (if allowed). Often times, I have worked into contract the ability to set-up the day prior. Make sure the venue will be secured if you’re leaving valuable items.
  • Decorate venue as planned.
  • Display auction packages with corresponding bid sheets, signage, etc…
  • Display event signage and other displays
  • Hours before event: hold a meeting for volunteers and staff to review event roles and responsibilities. It helps if this can be held immediately follow-up set-up to give a true picture of the floor plan and flow of the room.

Event Wrap-up: The wrap-up is just as, if not more, important than the planning

  • Invoicing attendees whose bidder number reflects balance due.
  • Arrange for pick-up/delivery of auction items that were not collected at the event.
  • Create notes regarding event issues, changes needed, and ideas for future.
  • Update event binder or electronic files for future use.
  • Thank you letters to sponsors, donors and guests – try to include next year’s event date.
  • Reconcile budget, expenses and revenue.

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