Benefit organizing takes a lot of time, but it's a very satisfying accomplishment when the benefit is successful. But before you plan anything, determine the type of benefit you will organize. If you're doing a silent auction, you'll need donated artworks; if it's a music-related event, someone must contact top-drawing local performers, who typically book two to three months in advance. Each choice raises different logistical issues.
Determine how many volunteers are required. The numbers multiply exponentially if you're planning a gala with elaborate meals and drinks, which must be set up, serviced and broken down again.
Choose a venue. Take into account factors that affect attendance -- such as proximity to public transportation. Make a short list of three or four choices.
Determine how much money will be raised and how the goal will be reached.
Delegating the Details
Get commitments from the chosen venue and any participating performers. The more complicated the event, the farther ahead you need to plan; two to six months is the norm.
Recruit a committee of friends, coworkers and business acquaintances to handle different aspects of the event. Schedule weekly meetings to keep track of the planning and head off any last-minute issues.
Seek sponsors to help absorb the costs associated with the benefit, from door prizes to food and PA systems. Most sponsors will swap services in return for a promotion.
Try to settle your committee, sponsor and venue lineup within the first couple of months of organizing. Start looking for volunteers.
Getting the Word Out
Approach press contacts about doing an advance story on the benefit. If the space isn't available, be prepared to submit a half-page press release outlining the details. Check into a live remote broadcast from the event site with your local radio station.
Prepare appropriate display materials, including flyers, handbills and posters, for volunteers to pass out or put up. Make sure they know where to legally stick flyers and posters.
Put up a website to answer questions about the benefit. Include major sponsors, the event lineup and activities, and how the fundraising is coming along.
Reflecting on Success
Sit down with your committee after the event to discuss what worked, or didn't. Follow through with your sponsors, and get their feedback.
Send out cards or a summary letter to thank volunteers.
Post the fine details on the website, including how much money was raised, how the beneficiary fared and -- if you created an ongoing event -- details that future volunteers and sponsors need to know in gearing up for next year.