Planning successful charity events... with Vanilla Bean Events

Hosting a charity event is a great way to raise funds and awareness for your chosen cause. However, it’s not as simple as inviting a few people to dinner and putting out a collection jar. A well organised charity event can bring in big bucks, attract media attention and grow your supporter base. This is not only a great result for the event itself, but can be the foundation on which to base future fundraising campaigns.

Vanilla Bean Events has been organising charity events for over 16 years and has helped raise over $21 million for its charity clients. Owner, Angela Trieste has become quite the expert on how to plan successful charity events and we were delighted to catch up with her recently to find out what drove Angela to work in the charity event sector. We also grabbed some great tips on planning a charity event and how to measure its success.

Event Birdie: What drove you to work in the charity event sector?

Angela: I didn’t plan to work in the charity sector as such. I fell into a PR role at a kid’s charity through a recommendation from a friend and since then have never looked back.  There’s no better feeling than going to work every day knowing what you are doing is helping so many people.

EB: What do you like most about working on charity events?

Angela: I love the thrill of getting exciting prizes donated for our auctions - the money can’t buy experiences such as dinner with Sir Richard Branson or a date with a celebrity.
I also love the opportunities it brings to our events, such as working with celebrities or high profile entertainers.  Exceeding our clients’ expectations is also a real high - when we exceed our fundraising targets and we can see the real difference it makes to the charity organisation, it definitely makes all the hard work worthwhile!

EB: What has been your most inspirational event to date and why?

Angela: The Grace Gala is an event we have been running for the past 6 years. It is a fundraiser for The Grace Centre for Newborn Care at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Cerebral Palsy Alliance. The families that we get to meet, that have experienced a tragedy in their lives through illness of a child, are truly inspirational.  The courage they have to move on or help others is out of this world and truly moving.  Since our involvement over the past 6 years, we are proud to say the funds raised have more than doubled and the event each year is a sell-out. The 2017 event is already in the planning and will be the best yet.

Grace Gala 2016 | Vanilla Bean Events

Grace Gala 2016 | entertainment

Grace Gala 2016 | guests
Images from The Grace Gala 2016

EB: How do you judge if a charity event has been successful?

Angela: At the start of planning any event, we develop an Event Planning Document which outlines the event’s objectives based on the brief from the client. This makes analysing its ‘success’ really measurable.
Indicators of success can include:
  • Reaching or exceeding the fundraising target
  • Positive feedback from client
  • Positive feedback from guests
  • Media exposure
  • Increased number of attendees
  • Increased number of prizes / auction items donated
  • Superior quality of prizes / auction items donated

EB: What key elements do you need to create a successful charity event?

1. Use a professional Event Manager
Organising a charity event requires skill, experience, contacts and knowledge.  The more experienced your event manager is, the better the event will be!
Something as simple as understanding how to negotiate venue contracts from the outset needs experience. We so often see clients get caught out when they have not negotiated realistic minimum guest numbers. The planner has high hopes of achieving big numbers, but as they approach the event day they realise they might not get there. Having locked in a high minimum guest number or minimum spend, all of a sudden, there is a lot of unnecessary stress. Experience and expertise can ensure this additional stress does not happen. 
Professional event planners can also help you save money via their contacts and resources and will ensure even the finest of details are taken care of.
2. A well-connected volunteer committee
A great group of volunteers can really help with sourcing items for your auction or raffle through their contacts.  They are usually fantastic at selling tickets to your event too.
Remember to always ensure they are thanked and appreciated appropriately.  A bunch of flowers and a big thank you goes a long way!
3. Use your contacts
When planning charity events, it’s all about who you know! Use your contacts wisely. For example, if you use a particular florist or theming supplier throughout the year for all your events, ask them to come to the party by offering your charity client a discount. If you are giving them lots of business all year round most suppliers are more than happy to help out in some way. Whether its value adding to your order or offering you a discount - every little bit counts when planning charity events. 

Vanilla Bean Events is a Sydney-based event management company that excels at planning charity events, corporate events and social events. They also are absolutely fabulous at event styling, which they offer as an additional service to full event management. Want to learn more about Vanilla Bean Events? Check out their Event Birdie page for some more details. 
P.S. The 2017 Grace Gala will be held on Saturday, 17 June at the brand new ICC Grand Ballroom… definitely worth checking out and supporting this great cause.