Earlier this week, I was part of a panel who presented to the Phoenix Nonprofit Professionals Network.  This group meets the 1st Monday of every month to network, share industry best practices, and support each other in their professional growth and development.  The group chooses the topics for each meeting.  April’s topic was “Special Events:  The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. 

I, along with Dianne Rohkohl of Raw Cabbage Design and Robyn Broshears of Auction & Event Solutions, spoke about our experiences with special events.  We took full advantage of the 2 hours and our conversations continued even after the event ended.  For my portion of the presentation, I gave the group a handout of My Top Ten Tips for event planning. 

Special Event Planning
Ten Tips For You!

Special Events can be a great way to engage new supporters and donors; however, events can require a lot of time and planning.  Here are ten tips to help guide you as your plan your next special event.

1. Make sure you have the capacity to plan special events.

It’s important for a nonprofit to make sure they are ready to plan a special event.  Ask yourself some of these questions. 

a. Are special events part of your overall fundraising plan?

It is critical for nonprofits to plan all their fundraising strategies. Special events is just one strategy.  By looking at everything you do, you can determine (given your resources) if special events are a viable option for your organization.

b. Does your Board of Directors support your idea of a special event?

You may have the freedom to plan events; however, it maybe easier to plan your event with your board whole-heartedly supporting it.  Also, your board may help connect you to potential sponsors or underwriters.

c. Who will be involved in planning your event?

Having a ready and willing group will help you tremendously.  The key word is “willing” and communication is important as well.

d. Is special events part of your overall budget?

Funding set aside for your event is nice, but not essential.  It makes planning a lot easier.   

2. Always remember your mission when planning a special event.  

Incorporate your mission at every opportunity.  Some people plan events just for the “fun” factor.  Yes, an entertaining event is important, but remember you have a captive audience.  People are going to your event because they care about your mission.  Use the time you have with them to educate them on what you do and why your nonprofit is important.

3. With your committee, develop a written plan of action and delegate responsibilities.  Additional tip:  double-up on responsibilities.  Helps to keep people accountable and if someone is unable to follow through with their job, there’s back-up.

Your plan of action should include action items, deadlines, who is going to do what and budget.  Writing it down is important so your committee understands what needs to get done and by when so you can all stay on track.  Also, it’s good to have someone who is highly organized to remind people of deadlines. 

4. Utilize consultants when necessary, but remember you get what you pay for.

Consultants can be very helpful.  You can either pay for a consultant or they could volunteer.  Remember:  Volunteers come and go.  Life gets in the way and they have to tend to that.  If a consultant volunteers their time, be aware that they may not always follow through. 

Message to consultant who volunteer:  Treat pro-bono work like you are getting paid.  Follow through on what you say and if you have to leave a project, help to secure a back-up.  Remember your reputation is on the line and people are counting you.

5. Approach businesses and media as partners. 

Never ask for something without providing value in return. State specifically that you’re looking to partner with them.

6. If you are looking for media to help promote your event, plan to contact them 4-6 weeks prior to your event.

Most importantly, develop a PR schedule if you plan to contact the media.  The media can be very useful in promoting your event, but it requires you to plan who you are going to approach and how you do it.

7. Utilize your website and social media to help spread the word about your event.

Social media can be very helpful in promoting your event.  It’s a quick and free way to get the word out.  Post releases on your website and link it to your posts.  After the reader is done with the release they can peruse your website.

8. Don’t forget to say “Thank You”

Always, always, ALWAYS thank your underwriters, sponsors, partners and volunteers.  Thank you’s range from a simple card to a gift or an acknowledgement in a press release or ad in a local publication.

9. Check out other special events.  It’s a great way to pick up tips and potential sponsors for your events.

You can pick up great tips just from attending events.  Also, take a look at the sponsorship lists.  If you see a trend amongst companies who sponsor events, these might be good potential sponsors for your event.

10. Remember…Proper planning will alleviate any headaches and help you to enjoy and grow your special event. 

 

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