Special events such as dinners and 5K’s have always been popular methods for nonprofits to raise awareness and attract donors to their cause. However, they’re not always profitable. According to a Charity Navigator study, nonprofits spend “$1.33 to raise $1 in special events contributions, compared to an average overall fundraising rate of $.13 to raise $1.”
This doesn’t mean you should give up organizing events for your organization. Your events give you the opportunity to thank your supporters, reinforce passion for your cause within your community, and convert friends and associates into new donors. Effective event planners get into 5 fundamental habits to make sure their events accomplish all of those things and actually raise more money than spent.
1. The plan is clear and everyone knows it
As the saying goes, “A plan without a goal is just a dream.” Do not take any further steps with your event until you and your colleagues have decided on what this event is supposed to accomplish, the type of event, ticket price, target audience, number of attendees, number of volunteers needed, timeline, and checkpoints. Checkpoints are the important mini-goals that get completed as you and your team move closer to the biggest goal: your fundraising goal. Make sure your plan is mapped out for everyone to reference--whether it’s a Powerpoint sent via email or a planning sheet printed for everyone. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and works efficiently.
2. They don’t fly solo
Good luck trying to plan your event on your own. The most effective event planners are those who divide their planning teams into committees. This allows multiple tasks to get accomplished at the same time and holds staff members more accountable for those tasks, which will increase the effort put into each task. Make sure you assign a leader for each committee and establish a method of communication among you and your committee leaders. Some ideas for nonprofit event committees include:
- Logistics- planning the budget, finding a location, building a list of invitees, recruiting volunteers, buying decorations
- Volunteer management- recruit, train, and oversee all volunteers for the event
- Refreshments- finding refreshments within the budget, acquiring in-kind gifts, working with Logistics to order enough refreshments for all the guests
- Public Relations- setting up online registrations, designing posters and print ads, sharing event details on social media, sending invites, spreading the word
3. Their staff is excited too
Now that you have your team divided into committees, make sure they are at least as excited as you are to organize this event. If your staff is planning this event because they want to, rather than because they have to, you’ll see more passion and effort being exerted, which will reflect in the quality and success of the event. Get your staff and volunteers hyped by bringing food and drinks to the kick-off meeting, letting them take on tasks that they’ll enjoy doing, and rewarding them as they pass each checkpoint.
4. They have a social media strategy
Yes, sharing your event on social media is smart, but tweeting a link to your event page one time isn’t going to cut it. Create a Facebook event page and update it constantly. Write status updates as tasks get accomplished, get your attendees excited by dropping hints about who the speaker will be, share memes about how excited you feel that the event is coming up in 3 days, have other staff members share the event on their profiles, and use #hashtags!
Pro tip: Visuals are key. Have your public relations committee design a banner promoting the event to be used as the cover photo for the Facebook event, the event landing page on your website, AND for your organization’s own Facebook and Twitter profiles until the event is over.
5. They make the online RSVP process simple and accessible
The biggest mistake event planners make is complicating the registration process. This applies to volunteer registration too. It’s great to have this process done online, but what’s the use if it’s hidden behind so many sub-links? Make your event page as accessible as possible by placing an eye-catching banner or button at the top of your organization’s website for the duration of the RSVP period.
Once you’ve made the ticketing/registration page accessible, make sure it takes no more than 5 minutes for someone to register. For ticketing, redirecting prospects to a third-party source for credit card information or asking for too much personal information in your form will turn off a lot of people. Keep it short, simple, and all in one place.
To make the process easier for you and your staff, use your fundraising software to automatically record all RSVP’s from your website into your CRM. That way, you have the attendees’ contact information handy when you want to send email updates, thank you letters, or add them to your newsletter.
Taking up these habits will ensure your special event not only raises awareness, but raises the right amount of money you need to serve your community.