Events can bring people together, raise funds for an organization, and engage partners more deeply in a cause. Though, they can also be a lot of work and an added burden of stress on the staff who put them together.
At Inspired Events, we love helping nonprofit organizations put on amazing events. We use systems to help make your events more strategic and less stressful.
Here are 4 steps you can follow to create a powerful event in an efficient manner:
Step 1: Clarify your goals and select your audience
This is the most important place to start. Without clear goals, staff can put out mixed messages and attendees can get confused. Clear, agreed-upon goals makes creating a program, communicating with speakers and inviting attendees easier and more strategic. You can always come back to your goals if there would be confusion or if you would get off track. Plus, at the end of the event, you will have a set of goals to evaluate how well the event went.
Next, consider your ideal audience - who do you want in the room? This should come directly from your event goals. An event may be a celebration of volunteers and staff, with family members and friends invited to show off accomplishments. Or, an event may be a fundraiser meant to engage supporters in a deeper level of the work, and invited guests should stem directly from an existing fundraising campaign. Whatever your goals are, be intentional.
Step 2: Decide a budget, venue and vendors
Next, decide your budget. Where will the money be coming from? Does the organization have an event budget? Sponsors? Do you hope to make it back from ticket sales? Think about your venue and vendors in relation to your budget. Renting a venue and providing food can be some of the highest ticket items on your budget. Can you get a space or food donated? Great.
Make sure you know what does and does not come with the space. (Is food included? Is there a facilities attendant? A/V equipment? Parking?). Think about what you need, what the venue provides, and what you can do yourselves.
Many nonprofits with smaller event budgets will choose to set up and manage the event through staff and volunteers. Just remember that for every item you choose to manage yourselves, you need staffing to cover it (i.e., a person to cue the powerpoint to the next slide, a person to take photos, a person to set up music etc.).
Is your event a fundraiser? If so, think very strategically about your vendors and expenses. Who will help to increase the return on investment, versus what will drive up expenses and create a lower net return? If ticket sales cost $25/each but the full event cost between venue, food and A/V equals $50 a person, your ticket sales are not raising money but are actually losing money.
Step 3: Create an engaging program that advances your goals
Now that you have your budget, venue and vendors, it’s time to create an awesome program that achieves your goals. Go back to your goals and audience -- these are the two most important pieces to remember. What will engage your audience in order to achieve your goals? Will you have big name speakers to bring in attendees? Will you have organizational representatives or beneficiaries speak? Be intentional with each person you invite to be on your program. You should have a clear reason for that person to be a part of the program.
Consider your attendees when you are thinking about the format and length of the program. People mingling at a happy hour fundraiser will not want to listen to too many “talking heads” or stand to watch a 60 minute film. How can you incorporate fun, tactile activities and movement into your program? Arts, music and culture? A fun networking activity or game?
If your event is a fundraiser, every piece of your timeline and program should be crafted towards your fundraising goals through a pre-designed strategy. How is your event bringing in money? Is it a silent auction, raffle, direct ask or percentage of profits? Think through your fundraising strategy and numbers so you can be clear about the way you set up the program.
Step 4: Do outreach to get the right people in the room
The success of your event will depend on you getting the right folks in the room, and how you do outreach will greatly depend on your audience and the best avenues to reach them. Will you be using printed invitations, flyers, email blasts or Facebook? If you haven’t already, check out how you can use DiveIn to invite both your existing supporters as well as new audiences to your event. To boost attendance, send out advance Save the Dates as well as reminders right before the event. You also want to set up a way to track RSVPs so you can prepare the correct amount of food and materials. However you choose to do outreach, don’t forget the power of word of mouth.
Now have a great event! Event planning can be stressful but the magic that happens when you bring people together for a common cause is all worth it. If you need more help planning and coordinating a powerful event that advances your mission, contact Inspired Events for a free consultation of how we can help.
Jenna Carlsson, MSW
Powerful, stress-free events that advance your mission
Hold On To Your Butt
When: Monday, March 13th, 7 pm
Where: Hideout at Dalva (map)
Quick question: What do you think the most littered item in the world is? Answer, cigarette butts. Gross! These toxic pieces of trash are increasingly littering our parks and beaches. Over 1.6 million pieces of cigarette butt litter were retrieved from U.S. beaches last year. And to make matters worse, improperly littered cigarette butts have caused wildfires in the state of California.
So, because of this, you’re invited to come on out to the Hold on to Your Butt committee meeting to get involved with Surfrider's program to eliminate cigarette butt litter once and for all. Surfrider is an awesome organization that hosts regular beach clean ups and community gatherings, and this is a great opportunity to get involved with an active and environmentally conscious organization.
Want to see all of the ways you can take action with Surfrider? Go here
Pi Day! Free day at the Exploratorium
When: Tuesday, March 14th, 1 pm
Where: The Exploratorium (map)
Are you a fan of Albert Einstein? How about math, can you dig it? And finally, do you like pie? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, then you should come out and celebrate Pi Day at the Exploratorium!
You’re invited to celebrate the 30th annual Pi Day, the mathematical holiday founded at the Exploratorium and celebrated by number lovers around the world. To honor the never-ending number 3.14159... (and Einstein’s birthday), we’ll serve up themed activities, rituals, antics, and plenty of pie. Find out what's so special about this famous mathematical constant, and take your (decimal) place in our annual march to the Pi Shrine!
Displacement & Gentrification: How did we get here and how do we stop it?
When: Thursday, March 16th, 7-9 pm
Where: Sierra Club (map)
Gentrification has become one of the most common topics in the Bay Area. This SURJ (Showing up for Racial Justice) workshop will put gentrification and displacement in a historical context so we understand the racialized political and economic drivers. We will use this historical analysis to discuss the ways we can challenge gentrification today.
The Euclid Garden Loves El Rio
When: Saturday, March 18th, 3-8 pm
Where: El Rio (map)
You ever been to El Rio? The place is very fun and has an awesome patio, which is why this event just got that much better.
Come out for a beer to raise money in support of Euclid Garden. Proceeds from this event will be split 50/50 between the Euclid Garden and Comm(UNITY) SF. Comm(UNITY) SF is a space for social service providers in the San Francisco Bay Area to practice and participate in self-care, healing, wellness, connect, build relationships, create together and have fun. Euclid Garden is a grassroots organization that facilitates the development of therapeutic gardens in two San Francisco group homes.
For more information about this event, go here.
Drop-in Center Peer Support
When: Tuesday, March 13th, 8 am
Where: The Shanti Project (map)
Do you have some free time on Tuesday and want to do something meaningful? Swing by Shanti Project, they welcome drop-in peer support volunteers on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Meet with and show emotional support to different clients that are living with terminal, life-threatening or disabling illnesses or conditions.
In 1985, San Francisco grandmother and retired food-service worker, Ruth Brinker, watched as her closest friends suffered from the arduous effects of AIDs. Wanting to make a positive impact, Ruth realized how she could help. She began preparing meals for seven of her critically ill neighbors, and out of the seemingly simple call to "feed your neighbor,” Project Open Hand was born.
Ruth's vision continues as the driving force behind the community service organization. Project Open Hand now prepares and serves 2,500 meals and distributes 200 bags of groceries per day, expanding their reach to not only patients living with HIV/AIDS, but also seniors and people with other critical illnesses including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes across San Francisco and Alameda Counties. Employing the help of over 125 volunteers every single day, they heed their mission to engage and nourish the community by providing meals with love to the sick and elderly. In 2015, they delivered almost one million meals, as they carried their meals and their message to neighbors. Through the birth of Project Open Hand, the love of a grandmother living in San Francisco encourages a stronger and healthier community, inspiring hope, and changing lives.
While during Project Open Hand’s humble beginning, meals were prepared in Ruth's own small kitchen. Today, the organization has partnered with nutritionists, maintains a greenhouse and hosts city-wide events, such as its upcoming Taste of the City. Their website features testimonials from patients, whose smiles and laughter are contagious as the project itself, infiltrating the hearts of those who hear about the amazing work being done by the organization. As a platform connecting worthy causes to audiences and volunteers throughout our area, we at DiveIn, are energized by the enthusiasm and heartwarming stories being created through the awe-inspiring services that Project Hand offers San Francisco residents, and are excited to be working with such a meaningful organization. Connecting with Project Open Hand invites an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.
Dive In! Get Involved with Project Open Hand:
For years, Project Open Hand has been bringing love to the table of friends and neighbors in need. They rely heavily on a growing number of volunteers to carry out this call of duty every day. With the ever-increasing recipients to whom they provide services, the need for volunteers sharing their enthusiasm is a continuous one. They offer a variety of ways to get involved and be a part of their movement of hope to those who are interested in helping. Here are just a few ways that you can get involved with Project Open Hand:
• Senior Meal Program: Create an inviting atmosphere for elderly visitors at one of 22 dining rooms by volunteering to serve meals with a smile.
• Grocery Center / Warehouse: Help pack, sort and stock groceries in the warehouse.
• Morning Kitchen Shift: Come be a part of preparing nutritious meals to be served to the community.
• Meal Delivery: Volunteers are welcome to fill out an application to deliver meals, both walking and driving.
These opportunities and more are waiting for people that want to join the Project Open Hand team of action. Go to https://www.openhand.org/volunteer to learn more on how you can get started.
General Strike: A Day Without A Woman
When: Wednesday, March 8th (all day)
Where: All over the Bay Area
In the spirit of women and their allies coming together for love and liberation, we offer A Day Without A Woman. On March 8th, International Women’s Day, let’s unite again in our communities for A Day Without A Woman. #DayWithoutAWoman
When: Wednesday, March 7 at 6 pm to March 8 at 8:30 pm
Where: University of San Francisco (map)
Join us annually for this multicultural and interdisciplinary forum for educating members of our complex global communities. Our vision is to contribute to building networks of multicultural and non-colonial feminist solidarities within and across national borders. Our critical perspective understands the interconnectedness of gender, sexuality, race and social class structures and ideologies around the world.
When: Wednesday, March 8th 6-8 pm
Where: Tonic SF (map)
Are you interested in getting more involved in local issues? Want to meet people who share your concerns about protecting voting rights? Then spend International Women's Day with the League of Women Voters of San Francisco at our happy hour on March 8. Members and non-members are welcome, so invite your friends!
While you're mixing and mingling, be sure to enjoy Tonic bar's cocktails—and tip generously. Tonic will donate the evening's tips to the League of Women Voters of San Francisco's nonpartisan voter education and advocacy programs.
If you can't attend, you can still make a donation in support of the League's work here.
When: Wednesday, March 8th 6pm
Where: Pacifica State Beach (map)
Join in and celebrate International Women's Day with a Sunset Beach Walk from Linda Mar Beach to Rockaway Beach! The team will be passing out battery operated candles. You're encouraged to wear red to stand in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman. And it's suggested that you make a $5 dontation for this event. All proceeds from the event will go to Equality Now.
When: Wednesday, March 8th 5-9 pm
Where: Oscar Grant Plaza (map)
In 46 countries across the world women are striking on March 8th for a better world. In solidarity with the international women's strike, we are issuing a call for women in Oakland to organize ourselves against deportations, workplace harassment, out of control rent, broken healthcare, unlivable wages, discrimination, and police violence.
March 8th will be the beginning of a new international feminist movement that organizes resistance not just against Trump and his misogynist policies, but also against the conditions that produced Trump, namely the decades long economic inequality, racial and sexual violence, and imperial wars abroad.
More Info at: womenstrikeus.org
When: Wednesday, March 8th 5:30 pm
Where: The Women’s Building (map)
Now that the marches have ended, a lot of us are left asking ourselves, "Now What?".
There is no one that will simply give us the answer - we have to come up with the next steps for ourselves! If you are someone who is looking to find more ways to support women, want to make an impact in the community, enjoy networking with other passionate women, love making strategies and action plans, and want to continue fighting for the rights of all people - join us on International Women's Day!
Volunteer Training with Project Open Hand
When: Wednesday, March 1st at 6 pm
Where: Project Open Hand SF (map)
Calling all volunteers! (or people looking to START volunteering!)
Everyday Project Open Hand prepares 2,500 nutritious meals and provide 200 bags of healthy groceries to help sustain our clients as they battle serious illnesses, isolation, or the health challenges of aging.
Project Open Hand relies on more than 125 volunteers every day to help prepare, package and deliver meals with love, and distribute groceries to sick and elderly neighbors. Volunteers also help us staff special events throughout the year.
We offer a variety of opportunities for individuals and groups to get involved in San Francisco and the East Bay. CHECK THEM OUT!
Existence As Resistance: a very loud celebration of life
When: Thursday, March 2nd 8 pm
Where: Eli’s Mile High Club (map)
Yes, there’s going to be music. Of course, there are going to be awesome people in attendance. And yes there’s a lot of fun to be had. But this event is also about the resistance!
So get involved and participate. Half of the proceeds from the art and zines sold will go to SFILEN - San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network. There will also be a donation jar that will go directly to the non-profit.
For more information about this funky, groovy event, click here.
Socially SMART - It’s a happy hour, folks
When: Friday, March 3rd 6 pm
Where: Soda Popinski’s (map)
There’s a happy hour that donates proceeds towards students? Hot damn, sign us up!
It's time for the annual Socially SMART Happy Hour! Please come thirsty and bring your friends to Soda Popinski's in Nob Hill on Friday, March 3rd from 6 pm - 9 pm.
A mix of your favorite SMART staff and volunteers will be guest bartending, mixing up your favorite concoctions. The SMART team has been been known to shake a mean martini, so come ready for a great time chatting and connecting with other members of the SMART community.
All tips received at Soda Popinski's during the happy hour will be donated directly to SMART, so be sure to bring your friends. The more folks who show up, the more we can raise to support our Scholars!
For more information about the event, click here
GirlPower! Oakland First Fridays Street Festival
When: Friday, March 3rd 5pm
Have you ever been to First Fridays in Oakland? It’s a treat. Delicious food, awesome artwork, music that makes your knees start to bend in ways you’ve never experienced; it’s the real deal.
This Friday is an even bigger deal, though. This Friday we’re going to celebrate #GirlPower in honor International Women's HERstory Month! Come on out, bring your friends, and have a grand ol’ time celebrating the lovely women that make this planet all the more beautiful, strong, and fun to reside on.
Shanti’s 5th Annual Swim for Life
When: Sunday, March 5th 9am-12pm
Where: Hamilton Aquatic Center (map)
And whoever said we only pay attention to swimming during the Olympics? Get outta here!
This Sunday, the Shanti Project will be hosting their 5th Annual Swim for L.I.F.E. Swim-A-Thon. Swim for L.I.F.E. is the annual swim-a-thon benefitting The Shanti L.I.F.E. Program, a self-management, health-enhancement program specifically for people living with HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses.
Want to register for the swim? Hell yeah, good for you. Register here.
Are you unable to attend the event but still want to help out? Awesome! Click here to get involved.
The Shanti Project is an amazing organization that works to enhance the health, quality of life and well-being of people with terminal or life-threatening illnesses. They provide many services, including in-home and onsite patient care navigation, emotional and practical support and preserving the human-animal bond. Shanti’s work is incredibly important, and they’re an amazing nonprofit organization for you to get involved with.
Activism, Uprising, Protest in the San Francisco Bay Area
When: Tuesday, Feb. 21st, 6-7.30 pm
Get involved with Black History Month and learn about protests and activism that spread across San Francisco in the 1960s and ‘70s. This presentation will be led by Aliyah Dunn-Salahuddin, African-American Studies Department Chair at City College of San Francisco, and will be followed by a group discussion.
Are current political events making you feel helpless? This is your chance to learn more about activism and meet people who share similar interests. This lecture is going to be a great resource for you to get more involved!
When: Thursday, Feb. 23th, 5.30 pm
Where: The Miranda
Calling all female bike friends! Join Bike East Bay for a happy hour brew on Thursday at 5:30pm. This happy hour happens regularly on the fourth Thursday of every month (side note: can you believe it’s almost March?!). This is a great opportunity to meet new friends and spend quality time (off the bike) with some of the Bay Area's cycling community.
Bike East Bay’s Women Bike program was created to encourage and inspire more women, trans and femme identified individuals, to ride bikes. So if you can get down with that, then come out and meet some awesome people and new bike friends.
For more info on Bike East Bay’s Women Bike program, click here.
When: Saturday, Feb. 25th 8 pm
Where: San Francisco City Hall
Of course, we’re going to put at least one dancing event on this list. Why wouldn’t we?
Join Minds Matter of San Francisco (MMSF) for an evening of dancing and drinks to support local low-income, highly motivated students. This annual Gala features a live DJ, a bumpin' dance floor and a number of open bars – all for a great cause.
There will be a raffle with prizes including Warriors tickets, festival tickets, and round trip Southwest flights to anywhere in the U.S.! Buy raffle tickets in advance as the price will increase at the Gala.
What is MMSF? MMSF believes hardworking students deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential. The program helps high-achieving, low-income students attend 4-year colleges. Students participate in a rigorous 3-year curriculum, receive personal and academic mentorship, and are given the opportunity to attend high caliber summer programs to ready them for college success.
Want more info? Get the details here.
When: Sunday, Feb 26th 9:30am
Where: Nature Friends Tourist Club
Are you a breakfast person? Do you like nature? Do you also like supporting good causes? Oh boy, do we have an event for you.
Join us for a pancake breakfast at the Tourist Club benefiting A Home Away from Homelessness. Enjoy great food, take in the stunning views from the renowned San Francisco Tourist Club on Mount Tamalpais, and make new friends, all while supporting homeless and formerly homeless youth in San Francisco, East Bay, and Marin.
Breakfast includes pancakes, sausage (meat and veggie), fresh fruit, coffee, and juice. There will be activities for kids on the deck, board games if you'd like to linger after breakfast, and of course the stunning natural scenery of Mt Tam all around you.
When: Sunday, Feb 26, 10am
Where: Baker Beach
The Surfrider Foundation San Francisco chapter hosts regular beach clean ups around the Bay Area. These cleanups are a great, easy way to positively impact your community and environment. Plus, they can be super fun and a great way to meet new people. Plus plus, the Surfrider Foundation does amazing work and thrives on local level community engagement, which means that your work is all the more valuable.
Want to learn more about the Surfrider Foundation and ways to get involved? Click here to more about their San Francisco chapter!
As if you needed a reason to start volunteering, here are some of the basics of why volunteering makes you more happy, healthy, and an all-round badass.
1. Strengthen Your Job Skills: Volunteering is the perfect way to boost your resume and learn useful job skills in your chosen industry. For example, if you want to work with animals, consider volunteering at a Bay Area shelter. Plus, it's no secret that employers like people who volunteer.
2. Meet New People/Strengthen Old Relationships: Perhaps you are interested in meeting more people with interests similar to your own. Volunteering is great way to make new friends, and learn about people from different walks of life. It is also a great way to strengthen your relationships with old friends, family members, or significant others.
3. Volunteering Improves Your Health: If you want to become healthier and less stressed, then volunteering could be the solution for you. People who volunteer tend to feel less tension, and have higher self-esteem. They also tend to live longer, and studies have shown volunteering is a great way for elderly people to increase brain functionality. Not only are you giving back to your community, but you're helping yourself be mentally and physically healthier - it's a no brainer. (come on... that was so bad it was good?)
4. Develop New Interests: If you are looking to find a new hobby this year, volunteering can be a great way to explore different interests you may have and see which area you would like to pursue. The Bay Area is full of exciting opportunities for volunteers, so you are sure to find something that's up your alley.
5. Help Your Community Save Money: Many programs cannot operate without year-round volunteers. Help your entire community be successful by donating even a few hours of time each month. Volunteering helps nonprofits save cash.
6. Change Someone's Life: No matter what your motivation is for volunteering, your valuable time is being spent improving the life of another. This a selfless act and a reward in and of itself. If you already volunteer, stop reading and pat yourself on the back.
7. Volunteering Gives You a Sense of Purpose: If your job or relationships aren't quite fulfilling a greater calling, then volunteering may provide an opportunity for you to contribute to your Bay Area community in a meaningful way. Volunteering equals that warm and fuzzy feeling.
8. Volunteering is Fun: Volunteering is a great way to have fun in a low-stress, creative, and unique environment. Grab a few friends and spend a Saturday volunteering, then go out and grab a beer afterwards. You can make this a weekly activity!
9. Raise Awareness: If you are passionate about a specific cause or organization, then volunteering your time with them each month is a great way to raise awareness and have a positive impact on something you genuinely care about.
10. Make a Difference: Last, but certainly not least, one of the most important reasons to volunteer is so that you can make a difference in your community. Volunteering helps you learn more about the needs of your community and neighbors, and gives you the opportunity to improve everyone's quality of life.
Volunteering is an excellent way to learn different skills, meet new friends, and be a healthier and happier person. And here at DiveIn, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to connect to those nonprofits and community organizations that are making a difference.
Check us out on the app store and let us know what you think.
When: Mondays in February
Where: Tacolicious (map)
For every Monday that falls in February, Buena Vista Horace Manne School gets 15% on all proceeds at Tacolicious. Last year, they donated $7,796. Can they raise even more this year? Pass the word, and eat tacos for a good cause.
Want to learn more about where your money is going? Check out the Buena Vista Horace Manne School website.
When: Tuesday, February 14th - 6pm
Where: Independent Brewing (map)
Don’t have any big plans for Valentines Day? That’s fine - we’ve got you covered. Head on over to Independent Brewing in Oakland and talk politics with friendly folks. Your cover charge goes towards the DSA.
Drink beer, listen to sweet DJ tunes, and get politically active! Check out the event on Facebook for more information.
When: Tuesday, February 14th 5-8pm
Where: The SF Botanical Garden (map)
Still trying to decide what you should do for Valentines Day? Our friends over at the Botanical Gardens are hosting a nice little event that will feature talks around plant reproduction. Also, you’ll be able to create and arrange plant Valentine gifts. Come out, whether it’s with friends or that special someone, and support a great local nonprofit.
When: Wednesday, 2/15 6-9PM
Where: Sip Bar (map)
Come meet DiveIn’s newest nonprofit partner, Spark SF, at their Membership Mixer to meet other socially-conscious young professionals and learn how you can help ensure rights for women and girls. This is an awesome opportunity to meet new friends and support an organization that is creating positive impact for thousands of women across the US.
Members get in free and non-members pay $20 ($25 at the door). Become a member, which is 75 bucks, and you get in free.
*Spark Membership is valid for one year. In addition helping women around the world, membership includes the privilege to vote on our grantees, receive discounts/complimentary access at all events, and leadership opportunities. Spark membership is 100% tax-deductible. Learn more:sparksf.org/member-benefits
When: Thursday, February 16 5:30–8:30pm
Where: GLIDE (map)
Join GLIDE's Center for Social Justice in partnership with Tenderloin Votes and Skywatchers to celebrate Black History Month and the power of community in trying times.
The Center for Social Justice will be screening The Black Panther Party: Vanguard of the Revolution; the first full length documentary detailing the Black Panther Party and its significance to American culture. Their causes, with slogans like “power to the people” and “creating a better world” reverberate in an era that has seen the rise of the “Black Lives Matter” movement and tense relations between African American Communities and the police. Additionally, with threats of the incoming federal administration targeting marginalized communities across the nation, the Black Panthers condemnations of injustice, oppression and brutality in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s are as relevant as ever.
When: Saturday, 12pm
Where: Grand Lake Farmers Market (map)
Join SURJ Bay Area and community leaders at the awning of the Grand Lake Theater at Lakeshore and MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland, rain or shine, to call attention to racial injustice and demonstrate solidarity.
Throughout the East Bay and nationally, folks have been holding weekly gatherings on prominent street corners and freeway overpasses, holding signs and making visible our support for the Movement for Black Lives and communities targeted by Trump. These gatherings - or "human billboards" - have been a simple yet effective way of channeling anger and sadness over injustice into collective action and solidarity.