Fundraising events run the gamut from small socials and themed galas to public events. According to P. Burke Keegan, author of "Fundraising for Nonprofits," prior to planning an event, you must be able to identify 50 percent of your attendees for a small, private gathering. For an extravaganza, 35 percent will do, he says. Although an announcement in the paper draws all comers to a public event in the park, events needing a high financial commitment or limited guest list require a personal invitation to ensure the attendance of this core group.
Choose the format. Reserve detailed multipage letters for potential event sponsors or to court major donors. For the actual guest list, the individual or couple's presence at the event remains the primary goal. Select a printed or engraved single-fold card for the most formal of events. For casual dress events, a printed letter suffices.
Open the invitation with a salutation or an announcement of inclusion. For a letter, address the invite using the individual's social title, such as Dr., Mr., Ms. or Miss. Extend the invitation on behalf of the organization. If the invitation is not personalized, forgo addressing the individual by name and start with the organization's message. For example, "The Widget Collector's Foundation cordially invites you to attend Gala Under the Stars."
Elaborate on the event's details. Define the event's format and purpose, for example: "A formal dinner with proceeds benefiting the WCF's Outreach Program." Entice the recipient with news of a celebrity attending as master of ceremonies or a keynote speaker.
Include the time, date and location. Request attendees respond to a particular volunteer or charity employee or specific email address.
List the registration fee. Indicate if it is assessed per individual, party, table or team. Announce any discounts assessed for advanced ticket purchase.
Add the main number of the venue so that lost attendees may clarify directions on the day of the event. Clarify the purpose of the number. For example, write, "For directions only." Alternately, print a small map on the reverse side of a letter or include a small map insert within an invitation card.
Close with a hook. Rally invitees to attend with a final plea. Remind them why the event is important. For example, "Let's save dogs in Orange County together."