Nonprofit organizations face a constant challenge of funding. From homelessness and hunger to education and the arts to conservation and animals, as well as youth, health and faith-based, most nonprofits search for ways to combat declining governmental funding, an aging donor base, an often overburdened small staff and limited volunteers.

To better capture more dollars while retaining and attracting donors, many nonprofits diversify their fundraising activities. Sometimes this leads to an increase in events or activities bearing an additional burden on limited resources, and they often lack the required planning to ensure success.

Savvy nonprofits strive to invigorate and strengthen the path to donor dollars with a more strategic approach. Careful analysis and significant advance planning to align specific goals will lay a strong foundation to successful fundraising.

Integrating technology to help with analysis, tracking and streamlining event fundraising efforts can help open the door to a new generation of donors without alienating your existing donor pool. Nonprofit organizations who embrace more technology tools not only ease the burden on their valuable resources of staff and loyal supporters, but they also find more ways to better engage current supporters and prospects.

The key is to carefully map out your goals, then build a plan that incorporates the right strategies to achieve your goals that include both fundraising and "friendraising" of your cause.

Getting your event in shape

Well in advance of your special fundraising event, set your specific fundraising goals. Make sure you have a clear objective for holding your special event.

What is the purpose? What do funds raised support? Is your event to support a special campaign to fill a specific need? Does your event support a new program or expanded mission with the results helping to provide positive outcomes to more people? Is this a one-time ask or fulfilling an ongoing need to sustain your mission?

Be as specific as possible, for it helps strengthen your message and outlines your needs. Be sure it is straightforward and easy to understand. Make sure you communicate the need consistently and frequently throughout your special event, fundraising activity or campaign.

Reinforcing the message is key to ensuring potential donors understand your cause and the importance a donation can be to support or reach a specific goal.

Know your donors

It's also vital to understand who your donors are. Knowing who your donors are leads to insights on what type of event will best resonate with your guest list. Step back and take a solid look at your organization's donor pool. Examine your list to learn what type of donors are supporting you.

Look at demographics including age, income, business and residential locations. Then, dig deeper and analyze your donors' behavior. Ask how active are my donors? If they are on the board of directors, review how they are contributing. Determine if a more proactive board may of value to breathe fresh life into your cause. Be specific and make sure your loyal followers know what will best help you achieve your goals.

Special events and fundraising activities are a good platform to share the mission, illustrate impact and build relationships with attendees while capturing much needed dollars. Make sure you are planning to hold the right event for your donor audience. Be sure to think about both existing donors and the ideal donor you feel is a strong fit to attract.

Will your donors be receptive to a formal, black-tie dinner gala with a heavy ticket price? Or would they prefer a casual laid-back event with cocktail attire and heavy appetizers? Do your donors crave exclusivity? Or would a large open-to-the-public event be more aligned with your supporters?

Build your event guest list based on your needs or goals. Tap into your donor research. Make sure you are inviting or attracting guests to the event that will help you successfully reach your goals.

If you have a significant amount of money to be raised and you elect to invite a core or small group of younger guests with limited discretionary income, you may not hit your mark. So be sure your guest list includes some core potential supporters who may donate in one or more ways even if they are unable to attend. Consider offering tiers of ticket prices opening up the doors to multigenerational guests.

Be creative

Make sure each event or activity planned makes sense for your cause and your community. Avoid competing for guest attendance by simply checking around your local calendar to ensure you are not stomping on another worthwhile cause that targets the same or similar audience.

Unleash an energetic and creative committee to help make your event stand out with a fresh take on an old idea or a surefire theme rather than repeating the same style event year after year. Trends come and go. Event attendees can also cycle out over a period of years, so be mindful of how to capture the interest of supporters whether it's a first-time or 10th-time guest.

Examine ways to make the event run smoothly, ensuring you gain the most value possible as you inch up the fundraising thermometer toward your goal. Build in multiple fundraising revenue streams for each event. These may include silent and live auctions, raffle tickets, games like split the pot or heads and tails and fund the need. Each of these elements can play a role in your reaching your overall funds raised. Aim to provide a variety of price points encouraging all guests to consider making a contribution.

Increase profitability with streamlined operations

Integrate technology and leverage it to help reduce the stress on staff and volunteers while increasing revenue streams. Technology can be a game changer for nonprofits to streamline efficiencies and strengthen donor relationships.

Consider embracing mobile bidding technology to drive donor action and manage revenue streams such as silent auctions, live auctions and fund the need. Technology works hand in hand with advance donor research. Discerning development officers understand how to use real-time event data coupled with advance donor research insights to drive more actions and revenue opportunities before, during and after your event or activity.

Technology frees up key leadership, staff and volunteers from playing hall monitor with silent auction tables to a more proactive role of meeting and engaging specific guests often identified with advance donor research leading to more proactive relationship-building efforts.

Reflect on your initial donor research. Understand your guests' donation habits and engage technology to leverage. Make giving easy by offering guests a simple way to show their generosity for your cause. Smartphones are in high use, and most guests are already familiar with ways to interface their donation to your event activity.

Eliminate pen-and-paper auctions to reduce time spent in advance at event checkout and post-event reporting. Text-to-give programs open the door to giving by all invited guests along with the ability to begin fundraising before the start of an event and long after the last guest leaves, helping charities become more flexible to meet their fundraising goals.

Technology delivers tools and strategies that can empower more nonprofits to help them engage more donors and raise more money more often.

Success begins with strategic planning, mapping out all aspects of your fundraising activities. Carefully ask the questions to better understand your donors and create an event that will not only champion your cause but also engage the hearts and minds of your donors helping you to continue to make hope happen for many years to come.