A Few Things To Consider When Planning Your Next Event

This morning, more than 50 members of the nonprofit community gathered at the Google Fiber Space downtown for a discussion about how organizations can create more innovative events. On stage, Dan Graham was joined by special guests Dan Leal of Seedling Foundation, Jennifer Stevens of JHL Company, and Jennifer Mueller of Mueller | Scott Concepts. The varied background of our panelists made for a dynamic discussion resulting in tactical advice that each attendee could take back to their organization. Not able to make it? Keep reading for a few of our favorite tidbits from this morning.

Think Like a For Profit

Boiled down, events are important for cultivation, donor retention, raising awareness, engaging the community, and much, much more. So why not disrupt the nonprofit norm and take a fresh approach to your event strategy?

It's important to remember that not all events are created equal, and the approach you take can determine your success. Don’t be afraid to think in a for profit way. First, consider your audience- what are the interests and demographics of the people you hope to connect with? Once you can answer that question, you can connect them in a way that amplifies your message and communicates your mission without losing who you are.

If you know your audience well enough, you can craft an event that speaks to your mission while still surprising each guest and creating an unforgettable experience. Build an event that creates a ripple effect throughout the community. Jennifer Stevens commented that those who attended should feel convicted “to go home to their neighbors and tell them they missed out!”

“Look for unorthodox partnerships in the community,” suggests Jennifer Mueller. If you like what an organization is doing, align with them- provide volunteers, ask to be their beneficiary, or partner with like-minded companies.

When you genuinely connect with your attendees and leave them feeling inspired, they’ll be more likely to give. Consider the lasting impression of your event and work to host something different that makes them want to come back for more.

Hosting Events on a Shoestring Budget

Few nonprofits have a lot of money to spend on fundraising, and even fewer have the budget to accommodate large events.

The first thing to consider is that if you get the right people in the room, you can make your budget make sense. Again, think like a for-profit and ask the questions that can help you with your bottom line- what are the costs, what are the profits, who are we putting in the room. If you approach your event like a business decision, you can begin to experiment with outside-the-box ideas.

A small budget doesn’t have to be limiting. Events can start small and scale overtime. Dream up the ultimate event and work towards it year over year. Thinking about your event in this way allows you to reach your goal without going bankrupt, while perfecting the event production, donation ask, guest list, and communications along the way. Create a pathway and map out what additions you want to budget for each year to ultimately reach your desired event.

Another tip for funding your event includes sponsorship. Once you have a concept, find sponsors and donors that are willing to help cover your costs, or offset your costs with donated product, and then invest your time in getting valuable donors and the right people in the right seats. Having a robust sponsorship plan mapped out from the beginning could make the difference when it comes to the possibilities of your event.

Outsource Events for Effective Time Management

Outsourcing events can help free up time for your team members. Event logistics and production are tasks that often sneak up on you and take more time than originally allocated. The best use for your development people is to help with the development elements of the events. Board members should be encouraged to spend their time utilizing their network and getting the right people engaged, rather than planning the event logistics. Help build systems that support your teammates while utilizing an external resource to plan your event.

“Empower others to build success for the organization,” adds Dan Leal.


Looking for space for your impactful gatherings? Meet at Relay! The 5050 sf meeting space at the Center for Social Innovation is  now open! Enter to win the giveaway and win the space for free!  Signup for a tour and check out the special pre-opening prices for Relay Coworking, coming to the Center for the Social Innovation this fall!

We hope to see you at our next #RISEImpact breakfasts. October’s event, Making Earned Revenue a Key Part of Your Nonprofit is happening on October 24th at Meet at Relay. In November we will bring the topic, Adding Technology as a Core Piece of your Mission to you on November 13th.

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Madi FinleyComment