National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Getting Organized

When planning an event for the public it is very important to remain organized.  This step-by-step guide should help you stay on track and figure out exactly what is necessary to carry out a successful fundraising event.

Goals and Objectives

  • What is the fundraising goal?
  • How will this bring awareness to a mental health issue?
  • How will this motivate people to join our movement?
  • How large do we want this event to be?


  • It is important to keep in mind the time of year you are planning your event
  • Be mindful of holidays or times when people may be away  or unable to help
  • Events could be held in  line with other NAMI initiatives such as Mental Health Month in May, National Minority Mental Health Month in June or Mental Illness Awareness Week , the first week of October
  • Know events planned by local NAMI Affiliates and NAMI State Organizations to ensure there are no overlapping events
  • Give yourself enough time to realistically plan a successful event
  • Keep in mind that reserving a location, acquiring sponsors and doing PR can take time and should be done in advance
  • Set dates that you want specific things finished by and cross them off a to-do list


  • Consider expenses and expected donations based on type of event and amount of people
  • Get a solid estimate of attendance so that you can get an appropriate amount of food, decorations, promotional materials, giveaways etc.
  • Keep in mind significant costs like space reservation, DJ, caterer etc.
  • Determine total cost of event so that the cost per person can still warrant profit for donation
  • Keep track of all payments
  • Come up with incentives for local businesses and individuals to donate their goods and services to the event


  • Find a venue in your community that will suit all of your needs for size and event type
  • Contact local community centers such as a JCC, YMCA, town hall, school or religious building who may be willing to rent space at little or no cost
  • Secure a venue as far in advance as possible so that you can move on with planning logistics
  • Consider additional things necessary at the venue such as lighting, speakers, tarps, etc.
  • Consider accessibility of location as well as parking
  • Ask about any venue restrictions on time, number of guests, bringing in outside food or drink, etc.
  • Be mindful of constraints regarding weather and or security and have a rain plan if necessary


  • Utilize social media outlets by making a Facebook event, and utilize Twitter by creating a #hashtag to post information about the event
  • Create simple, digital graphics to be used on social media accounts and as email signatures or use those provided by NAMI
  • Create printed or copied materials to promote the event as well and give them out or place them in local businesses
  • Create a guest list that includes multiple networks of people utilizing family, friends, classmates, co-workers and neighbors
  • Send invitations out if necessary by mail and or email
  • Make sure to co-promote sponsors or events that are being held in coalition with yours
  • Make it very clear what exactly your guests will be contributing to and how important of an issue this is

Use the NAMI PR and Marketing Toolkit for guidance.


  • Build a team of responsible people who are equally as passionate about your cause to assist you in planning the event
  • Consider making committees or assigning specific tasks to different people
  • Create a sponsorship package that will entice local businesses to contribute
  • Ask around—many businesses have room in their budgets for charitable donations and see the benefits of participating in local community events
  • Have a pitch prepared for every person/company that you ask to sponsor and follow up in person or over the phone with reminders once they agree to participate
  • Utilize people in your community who have specific skill sets such as graphic design for promotional materials or culinary skills for baked goods for an event


Congratulations! You made it to the day of the event!

Now what?

  • Create a checklist of everything you need that day and check things off as they arrive / happen
  • Check in with your staff and volunteers to make sure they know exactly what their tasks for the day are
  • Arrive very early and supervise set up and organization to make sure that everything and everyone is going smoothly and on track with your event timeline
  • Make sure to greet and thank your guests
  • Be available or assign someone to be available for troubleshooting any part of the event

After the event, don’t forget:

  • Thank attendees, volunteers and sponsors with emails and personal notes
  • Wrap up and debrief with your staff and volunteers
  • Pay all expenses and document revenue
  • Keep track of who attended in order to invite them to future events
  • Submit proceeds to NAMI

Time to celebrate! You did a great job!