Planning the Perfect Fete

Fetes and festivals require a huge time commitment. If you’re going to make the most of all those people passing through, all those volunteer hours and all that planning, you’d better make sure it pulls in lots of cash.

You're thinking of having a group fete (or you have a fete every year and you want to make this year's one the best ever). How do you do it?

Here are four essential first steps in creating the perfect fete

1. The people

Your first step must be to form a committee, designate tasks and schedule regular meetings.

You probably already have a fundraising committee, but you will probably need a committee solely for your fete or festival.

Schedule regular meetings that become increasingly frequent as you move closer to the event.

2. The format

Settle on key aspects as early as possible in your planning. Consider:

  • Themes
  • What sort of stalls or attractions you would like to include
  • Who will be invited (including special guests and VIPs)
  • Potential stallholders (including whether there will be people from outside your organisation supplying stalls or rides, and if so, who).

These are the things you need to decide early and lock in early (or risk missing out). Start keeping lists (see below for a download that will help you out with that) and assigning tasks for fleshing out the detail.

> Download the Special Events Checklist (requires login)

3. The budget

Start sketching out a budget. Paint some broad brushstrokes at this point – you can start filling in more of the detail as you go along.

Your budget should include both money and time (the latter may be in short supply and needs to be protected as carefully as your cash reserves).

> Click here to download an Events Budget Tool (requires log-in)

When it comes to income, try to set realistic but ambitious targets. If you’ve held this event (or one like it) before, use your figures from last time to set a stretch target for this event (say, your best past result plus 10%).

With expenses, it’s always better to overestimate – and have funds left over – than to underestimate and run out of money. Conventional wisdom advises that you should overestimate your budget by 20-50%.

When it comes to estimating time, use your best judgement and try to factor in any possible hold-ups or hiccups.

4. The documentation

Start researching all the documentation – licences, permits (food, alcohol, etc.) and other paperwork – you will need to run your special event.

Allow plenty of time to apply for and receive these documents, as some can take a while to be processed.

Start thinking about risk management and insurance as well.

> Go to the Fundraising Legislation help sheet

Once you’ve got the basics right it’s time to start drilling down to the nitty gritty

Research other fetes

Do your homework before you start any formal planning for your fete:

  • Visit other fetes and see what they do – both good and bad.
  • Talk to stallholders at these fetes, asking them how things are going, what seems to be selling/working/popular and what isn't.
  • Talk to customers and other fete visitors. Gauge their reactions, their opinions and what they like or don't like. Note any preferences in a certain age group.
  • Note the contact details (plus prices and availability) of any ride operators or suppliers your fete might use.
  • Look at the layout of the other fetes and similar events – what attractions are close together, where are rides, refreshments and toilets located? Could it be improved upon?
  • See if you can find out how organisers of these other fetes have advertised their event, as well as where any donated goods or services came from.
  • Look at what free attractions are in attendance – a police band, SES or fire brigade demonstration, or students from the local martial arts school going through their paces. Find out how you can organise them for your own event.


Does your group wish to stage this fete by itself, or in conjunction with a number of like-minded, similar or other community organisations?

Working with other organisations could bring with it benefits, but can also have a downside.


What time of year will you hold the event?

Traditionally, fetes are held during spring, but this can be possibly altered to early-mid autumn. Just make sure your fete isn't scheduled to clash with some other major event.

Map out your fete site, with locations of stalls, rides and other significant attractions. You will want to be able to get copies of that map out to stallholders and event organisers well before the event.

Try to anticipate bad weather by having alternative plans in case of rain.


Think about stall position and layout:

  • Do you want similar stalls together or scattered around?
  • Where do you want your rides positioned?
  • Are there toilets and bins and seating near food and drink stalls?

What’s your “unique selling point”? Could it be:

  • Particular types of stalls (e.g. home grown, homemade)?
  • A special performer?
  • Highly sought after rides/attractions?


Once you have a rough list of the activities you want, work out what resources – funds, people, equipment – you will need. Make sure you have, or can access, these resources.

Also work out what funding you'll need to cover any up-front outlay, and gauge whether you have those resources or are capable of raising them.


Appoint a publicity officer. Give them a budget and ask them to sketch out a plan for communications and promotions.


Start looking for sponsorship early on. List the items you might need at the fete and try to get them cheaply or for free through sponsorship arrangements.

Begin by talking to friends and family, then expand to local and regional businesses and other bodies.

Give your sponsors credit at the fete, and tell sponsors you will do so when you approach them.


Do you need bouncers?

Even if you don’t, you’re going to have to make arrangements for delivery, collection and secure storage of money throughout the fete and up until you can get it to the bank.


Ensure you will have a good mix of stalls, as well as some unique stalls that could be a drawcard for the punters (though don’t forget the old favourites – a lucky dip is a must). If you’re going to be inviting in external stallholders, start getting in contact with them to check availability.

Entertainment and Rides

You should aim to have a dedicated performance space for entertainment. Try to fill it with local community groups, clubs (e.g. a karate demonstration) or bands.

Have an MC on duty in this area to spruik, call in lost property and announce missing children.

Keep rides in one area (well away from the entertainment so the shrieks from the rollercoaster don’t drown out the choir). You will need to:

  • Book them in early;
  • Ensure there is a variety of rides to suit different age groups
  • Check their insurance; and
  • Allow enough room around them to ensure safety and monitor behaviour.

Stacks on

For each fundraising event that you hold you should always try to incorporate other fundraising activities. Think about what else you could do; for example:

  • Run a raffle in the lead-up with the draw held at the fete;
  • Include a stall promoting your alumni scheme.

After the fete

Start planning for what needs to be done immediately after the fete (don’t leave it 'til later; you’ll probably be too exhausted to think about it). For example, you will need to:

  • Provide coffee, tea and recognition to workers/volunteers/helpers
  • Ensure all your bills have been paid
  • Thank those businesses, community groups or individuals that helped you in some way (sponsors; performers; speakers; volunteers)
  • Organise a debriefing and review session
  • Report back to your community on how much was raised and what will be done with the funds.

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