Introduction to Event Planning

Introduction to successful event planning.

Introduction to Coordinating a Celebratory Event for Donor Families


Welcome to your new Role as an Official Event Planner with Intermountain Donor Services!

Within our Organization we often express our appreciation to our donor families by hosting special events to recognize and honor their selfless gift. Your new role as Event Planner will put you in charge of coordinating and organizing these events.

Planning an event may seem overwhelming, but this training will act as a guide to help familiarize you with the key tasks required for successful event coordination.

By the end of this training you should be able to build a strategy for planning and throwing a successful celebratory event.

Key Points to Remember

Before you get started putting together an event, there are a few key factors you will always need to consider. These factors will have a direct impact on your decisions throughout each step of the planning process

Overall Goal of the Event

  • Take the time to identify what you expect to achieve with this event
  • Create a “Big Picture” idea, or a best case scenario, of how you want the event to turn out
  • When planning events for donor families our goal should always include showing gratitude and appreciation


  • Consider who will be attending your event
  • For example, an event where attendees include families and children will often be planned differently than an event that is specifically for adults
  • Remember that Donor Families may have recently suffered a loss and may still be grieving


  • While we want to make sure we are adequately showing appreciation to our Donor Families, there will be a target cost, or budget, that you will need to consider as you plan the event
  • It is important to take the time to research and compare costs. Always be on the look out for the best value

Getting Support

One of your first courses of action when planning any event should be organizing a team or event committee to assist you in the planning process. 

While you are officially the event coordinator, that does not necessarily mean you are in this alone. Putting together an event, especially a large one, often requires teamwork. Reach out to others within the organization to find volunteers that can lend some time and their personal expertise to help create a successful function. 

Depending on the size and scope of the event, you may also consider looking for additional volunteers outside of the organization to assist.

Once you have a team in place you can delegate specific tasks to ensure seamless completion. 

Making a Plan

Making a Plan

Once you have identified the goal of your event, your budget, and your audience it is time to start planning.

A good place to start is by creating an Event Checklist. First, list all the tasks you will need to complete, then prioritize them based on importance and time frame.  Essentially, you are making a plan for your planning.

As you are creating your checklist be sure to include who is in charge of each task and when it is expected to be completed.

Tip: If you are new to event planning, you can find many pre-made guides and checklists online. This will give you a good starting point, just remember you may need to make adjustments and edits as you go.

Discover the Details

Lets take a closer look at some of the time frames for key tasks that you will include in your checklist, as well as some additional factors that you will want to consider during your planning. 

Be sure to keep your checklists updated. Organization is the key to a successful event

Big Picture Planning

2-3 Months Prior to event

Create a Guest List

  • Determine who will be invited to attend your event. 
  • Consider if this will be an open invite or if it will be upon invitation only.
  •  Get an estimate of expected headcount.
  • This will help determine additional factors such as how many support staff or volunteers will be needed, size of venue, food cost, type of entertainment, recognition pieces, and more

Pick a Date and Time

  • Consider the schedules of Key attendees
  • Note that the cost of Venues and services may differ by time of day, day of week, seasonally, etc.
  • Take into account environmental factors such as season, weather, and temperature. These can especially have an impact on outdoor venues and events

Big Picture Planning 2

2-3 Months Prior to Event

Pick a Type of Event

  • Will this be a themed event?
  • Will the event be Casual or Formal?
  • This is important to decide early on as it  will impact future decisions such as type of decor, entertainment, food, and activities

Get Estimates

  • This is when it is most important to do your research. The early stages of planning is typically where you will make decisions on the highest cost pieces of your event. You want to take the time to compile and compare costs as you progress through your checklist
  • Keep notes of who you spoke to with each company as well as their estimated costs. This will help ensure your cost estimate is consistent once you decide which company to go with.

Find A Venue

•Where do you want to hold this event? 

•Compare the costs of venues and consider factors such as occupancy, indoor or outdoor options, location, and amenities available

Additional Venue Details

There are many different types of Venues you can consider for your event. 

  • Hotels often have event spaces and ballrooms that can be rented
  • Libraries and Recreation Centers often have event areas that can be used for non-profit events
  • For Family and Outdoor events Parks have playgrounds and picnic areas that can be reserved 
  • For formal events Art Galleries and Museums may be booked and come with the advantage of already being a form of entertainment


Setting the Stage



Book Entertainment

  • Will you have live music, guest speakers, a recognition ceremony, etc.?
  • Does your selected Venue include or offer entertainment options?
  • Will your event include activities and if so, what kind?
  • Consider the interests of your attendees as well as the overall cost 

Pick a Menu

  • Will you be providing a full meal, dessert or drinks? 
  • Will you have table service or buffet? 
    • This can impact the amount of food and support staff needed
  • Consider any special dietary restrictions your attendees may have
  • Research food suppliers and caterers and compare estimates
    • Tip - Many restaurants and caterers can be contacted about sampling the menu in advance and provide estimates based of your selections.

Setting the Stage 2

1- 2 Months Prior to the Event

Supply Ordering

  • Compile a list of all additional supplies that may be needed and research supplies and pricing
  • Locally owned companies are more time effective and may be more willing to negotiate prices to get the sale and word of mouth advertising
  • Consider that online ordering may be the most cost effective but arrival of supplies may be delayed. 
    • Order early enough in advance to ensure on time delivery, and be sure to keep a reference of tracking orders in case follow up is needed.

Advertising and Invitations

  • If this is an open event, how do you want to get the word out?
    • Social media, mailers, public advertising...
    • Keep your budget in mind as local advertising can be very expensive
  • If you have a specific guest list be sure invitations go out with plenty of time for attendees to plan and RSVP if needed.


Finishing Touches

1-2 weeks prior to event

  • Meet with your planning committee to ensure all outstanding tasks have been completed


  • Confirm that all supplies are purchased and have been received


  • Do a run-through of the event with Volunteers and Staff to ensure they are fully trained and calibrated on their duties and expectations


  • If you are able, make sure the venue is set up and ready prior to the day of the event

After The Event

Post-Event Wrap Up

  • Make sure all receipts are gathered and processed appropriately
  • Send out thank you notes or emails to applicable attendees, volunteers and support staff.
    • This is also a good time to ask them for their feedback and opinions of the event
  • Meet a final time with your planning committee or support team to review and discuss event feedback
    • Acknowledge successes
    • Discuss any areas of opportunity that may have come up and brainstorm solutions for future events


Additional Tips

  • Utilize your resources
    • You can often save time and money by networking and leveraging connections. Business Associates, Friends, Family or Sponsors may be willing to volunteer their time or talents to assist with supplies, entertainment, catering, or other parts of the event.
  • When working with different companies be sure to explain to them the purpose of your event. As a non-profit event many companies may be willing to negotiate lower prices or even wish to donate.
  • Have a backup plan
    • The unexpected can, and often will, happen. Be prepared with a Plan B in case something goes wrong. Imagine your event step by step, make a list of what could go wrong and a create contingency plan for each step
  • Above all, be prepared for the event to be an emotional experience. Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be overwhelming and Donor Families may still be grieving.


Select the three  biggest factors should you consider during every step of planning an event

  • Cost or Budget
  • Weather
  • Audience
  • Main Goal of the Event


True or False? 

 You should not bother reaching out to your coworkers for any help with the event planning as they are busy and will not want to be bothered.

  • True
  • False


True or False

It is OK to go over budget and spend whatever you want to plan the best party because it shows more appreciation to our Donor Families.

  • True
  • False


Match the checklist step with the time frame. 

  • 2-3 Months Prior to Event
    Create a Guest List, Select a Date/Time, Find a Venue and begin gathering estimates
  • 1-2 Months Prior to Event
    Coordinate Entertainment, Menu, Supplies, and Invitions
  • 1-2 Weeks Prior to Event
    Confirm all tasks are completed, supplies are received and hold a run through of the event
  • Post-Event
    Gather Receipts, Send out Thank you Notes, and Gather and analyse feedback data


This concludes your Introduction to Event Planning! 

You should now be ready to start planning your first event! Thank you for your time. 

For any additional questions or concerns please reach out to