Over the last several months, I have participated and coordinated events for my clients. Some more successful than others. Some are still trying to define the success. As I work with not for profit entities, I have understood the importance of HOPE. From my days in the private sector, I understand the value of GOALS. As a result, I am better equipped to combine the importance of HOPE with the value of GOALS to develop sustainable events for my clients.
Many charitable organizations are run with a great deal of passion. The events charitable organizations present are often developed by extremely passionate people and yield outstanding results. Thus the successes of these events have more to do with the passionate individuals that develop them, then the events themselves. However, to have longevity, these events need to address some simple principles.
- What is the purpose of the event – Is the event a fundraiser, or is it about donor interaction, or is it about identifying new partners? Be clear on the primary purpose of the event. If it is a fundraiser, then define success from the on-set. Set a financial GOAL and understand why or why not you did not achieve it. And put the benchmarks and tasks in place to achieve it. You don’t just loose 25 pounds, you adjust your eating, you exercise, and you check your progress. Fundraising through an event requires adjustments and progress checks. Same goes for recognition. Make sure the people you want recognize or attract are on the attendee list (not the invite list).
- What resources do you HAVE – Events are not just thrown together (at least not good ones you plan to repeat). They take a significant amount of time (which requires people), money (which requires people), and planning (which requires people). What is the number one overlooked resource by organizations? PEOPLE. This does not mean create a supersized committee, it means have sub-committees or engage 3rd parties to support the days of the event. Your core group needs to be strong and willing. It is not recommended that the core group is staff.
- Events must be paid for – Events should be paid for prior to the start of the event. Hoping to breakeven the night of the event leaves too much to chance. Give someone or a few people the chance to have their name plastered everywhere (invitations, at the entrance, ads, etc). The income from the event should go towards the mission, not the cost of the event. The only way to insure you get enough in sponsorships or upfront gifts is to have a clear budget. Event if that is somewhat based on what you HOPE to do.
- The Mission is present, really present – Have you ever attended a “charity” event and wondered what the charity was. It was an amazing event, great music, great silent auction, and an up beat atmosphere. The result is typically less than 20% of the revenue actually goes towards the charity (if any). If you want bigger donations the night of an event, higher bids that exceed value, make sure people know why they are there. Show pictures, give people testimonies to read, have recipients of services present and interacting with guests.
- Say THANK YOU – I have said this before, you can never say thank you too often or too late. You want the event to occur again and you want sponsors back, say thank you multiple times in multiple ways. Share pictures (hard copy and digital). Make sure those that wrote the checks get the same gift (at least) that the attendees got.
Finally, the more you document, the better off you are to start the following years. Keep documentation central and accessible. Information should be reviewed and compiled by as many people as possible. When the event is over, have a debrief or a recap meeting and decide what part of the documentation is carried forward to the next group and what is just white noise.
This is a little longer than my traditional blogs, but events are a part of most fundraising plans. It is important