Ways to refresh your event planning strategy
Each year, your nonprofit organization’s roster of stand-out events breaks out in full swing, amid accolades, anticipation and applause. Your event planners and public relations squad have honed in on a formula that works. After all, people consistently come out to your happenings in full force. The end-of-the-evening profits and proceeds are reaching target goals or are just on the precipice of doing so. And anecdotal feedback – talk in the halls the following week, word-of-mouth reviews from attendees and chatter among the execs – is all that you hoped for.
Why, in the midst of all this, could your event actually be an epic fail? [tweet bird=”yes”] The reasons your event planning approaches may need a reboot lurk just beneath the surface. [/tweet] All it takes is a willingness to view common donor and fundraising activities with objectivity and a critical eye.
The Same Ole, Same Ole (People). Yes, high-caliber and influential invitees consistently come to your organization’s yearly affair. In fact, you might have heard that the chatter among the inner circle of these needle-moving donors about the annual festivity begins months beforehand. The excitement and anticipation among this group of loyal and consistent donors are like the rising and setting of the sun – reliable.
And that’s precisely the problem: Your nonprofit organization is not casting the net broader and bringing in a new pool of prospective current and future evangelists – and funders – for your cause. [tweet bird=”yes”] Your need for “fresh blood” is not only about attracting more bodies; it’s necessary for the viability and sustainability of your social-change efforts. [/tweet] Today’s eager entrepreneurs, upstart professionals and innovative members of the creative class are just the audiences you should begin identifying and including in your organization’s circle of outreach.
You Didn’t Say Thank You. The venue was nearly filled to capacity. All of the tables were full. And your nonprofit’s coffers are feeling the love, as your gala produced benchmark-breaking goals. But you forgot just one thing – you didn’t thank your attendees. Yes, you included thoughts of goodwill and appreciation from the stage. But your organization did not truly thank these donors clearly, directly or timely.
Re-master the art of saying thank you. The options for communicating gratitude are many, but some suggestions include: mobilizing volunteers and interns to call attendees personally, sending a thank-you note from the chief executive officers or executive director in the mail, issuing a slickly designed appreciation email, personalized with their names and some key event photos, and acknowledging donors in the next external communication – be it in print, social media or at a public event.
Déjà vu. Your events are legendary. The cuisine commands the most discerning of palates, and the entertainers are top notch. The tables are outfitted better than runway models, and the lights brighten and dim at just the right moments. Your devoted donors know exactly what to expect – and perhaps that’s part of the problem.
Your organization’s events have become predictable, providing all of the same expected audience experiences each time. You adhere to a proven script, but it just might be at risk of becoming uninspiring, humdrum and banal. Getting into an event planning rut can happen innocently and unintentionally. But getting out of that comfort zone in order to explore new opportunities that re-ignite interest and excitement, keeping people guessing (in a good way), can breathe new life into your charitable dinners, galas and parties. Reconsider the order of the program. Are there new ways to engage your audience during the cocktail reception? What experience are you creating to build an emotional connection with your audience?
It can be difficult to think of your popular events as “epic fails,” but constructive criticism and innovative insights challenge us to become better at what we do. Peel back the layers of your organization’s “event planning onion” to identify opportunities for improvement. What are you finding?
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