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8 Keys to a Successful Event

November 21, 2012 By Jeff Jowdy
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If you plan it right, an event is a time when the mission of your organization can shine bright. Events are ingrained into the nonprofit culture and if managed properly can be a valuable tool for expanding awareness, raising money, and building enthusiasm and commitment. The following eight keys will help your event be a shining star for your organization:

Have specific goals. So, why are you having the event? If it's fundraising, be sure you net dollars from the right audience at the right levels. If it's awareness, be sure the right attendees heard — and left with — the right message. If it's recognition, be sure the honorees floated out of the room.

I've attended more than one fundraising event where the follow-up talk labeled it a great cultivation event, and that is also a success.

Your goals should include:

  • Participation — numbers and profile of attendees, or even specific participants.
  • Budget — staying within expense budget and if a fundraising event, hitting your net goal.
  • Awareness — this could mean media resulting from the event, increased knowledge among participants or both.

Plan ahead. Any event takes a lot of planning — more than you think. There will be challenges to overcome. The longer your planning runway, the smoother the event will fly.

Have the right team. Be sure you have the right people with the right knowledge and experience around the table. That could be staff, volunteers or a mix. Also, be sure the team understands not only your goals for this event, but the mission of your organization. We've seen more than one event "hijacked" by even one strong committee member and the original goal is not achieved.

Make them want more. Have your guests leaving glad that they attended. And if it is an annual gathering, you want them mentally blocking off the date for next year. This means the event:

  • Begins on time — this shows respect for your guests and their time.
  • Ends on time (never go longer than one hour for a daytime event and two hours for any evening event with a program, not including galas/dances and auctions).
  • Allows for sufficient social time that enables people to connect with each other — and for you and your team to thank people and tell your story.

Ensure the experience. From their approach to their exit, your guests need to know where they are going and feel welcomed and appreciated. This can be achieved through placing multiple levels of staff and volunteers in the right places. For example, place your friendliest staff and volunteers at the welcome/check-in table to put guests at ease immediately. Your best storytellers should work the room and speak during the program. Never allow people to stand alone or feel awkward if they don't know anyone.

 
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