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