Like your favorite recipes, your organization’s signature events should also be a recipe for success. So much effort goes into planning your event, but many organizations don’t measure up on sponsorship and attendee potential. That directly translates into FUNDING for your event and most importantly, your mission. Having seen, attended and helped plan events over the years, here’s 13 tips – a baker’s dozen – to consider to make your next event more visible, increase attendance and raise more dough!
First, apply these two rules to everything below:
- START EARLY – Get organized and rolling as early as possible and if the event is later in the year, send out a “Save the Date” note.
- OVER COMMUNICATE – what might seem like overkill to you, is likely just right for your audience. You’re always better to err on the side of over communicating than to fall short on getting your message out there.
Then, turn up to high heat:
- Materials – Mail & Email: Some organizations have moved away from print to save money. That’s okay, just make sure what you do send goes to the right people and put a copy of/information including details on your website so people can find/print it.
Don’t forget to put your organization’s name and mailing address on as well as your event’s date, time and location every page/piece. Often it makes it on one piece, but those items might be distributed to different people – then it’s not clear where to send guests and where to send payment.
Email is a great medium. People can forward it, drag it to their calendars and can print it to process for payment. Make sure you check your deliverability information so you can see who might not be receiving your emails – especially if you’re not sending printed copies of information too. Be sure to encourage it to be shared and link to more information on your organization.
- Social Media: This is the cheapest and most underutilized medium. Every organization seems to have a Facebook page! Here’s some things to think about: Create an event on Facebook. Include pictures from last year’s event, then post pictures from your current event. Tag your sponsors in a post with their guests/banner. Get your celebrity followers to post. It might not be the next Ice Bucket Challenge, but it’s a measureable way to connect to the folks you’ve just hosted.
- Board members, employees, volunteers: These folks should be involved in everything above – especially the social media.
- Get them to take/post pictures. If you have a photographer at your event, post pictures and encourage folks to tag themselves. Then watch the engagement roll in – it’s a very easy and passive way to have your name and hard work circulated.
- If it makes sense, create a hashtag (#) for your event and make sure your attendees know to use it your posts. Your guests are likely taking and sharing photos, don’t miss out on the acknowledgement. Most guests are happy to help you!
- Or, ask everyone to take out their phones and follow you (on whatever platforms you use) right at the event. They likely have their phones in the hands anyway!
- Web site: This should be the hub of EVERYTHING YOU DO. Your website should be where you channel everyone for everything. If I’m going to your website I should be able to find the following:
- How can I make a donation right this second?
- Where is a calendar so I sign up for an event/sponsorship?
- Where can I find more about your culture and mission on social media?
- Who is your leadership team and board members?
- What are you in need of? Open positions? Board members? Projects? Supplies?
Make sure not to miss these prep steps:
- Budgeting & Scheduling: It’s true, companies can have different budgeting cycles; however, the early bird gets the worm. The earlier you can let people know what you’re planning, the better odds you have – and that includes getting put IN a patron’s budget as well as getting what’s LEFT of a patron’s budget. For scheduling, the earlier you can get on potential attendees, the likelier they are to attend. Another key thing to try and check – what else is going on that day? Some conflicts are unavoidable, true. But there are some days that have multiple events on it, Red’s/Bengal’s games and religious holy days. Then you’ve got competition for attendees that would normally be at your event.
- Accepting Payment – Not every organization can accept online payment – it’s an additional cost. If you’re one of them, consider adding a few extra weeks to your promotion schedule to allow for mailing of checks or processing of paperwork. If you DO accept payment online, you might not want to accept large sponsorships that way, or dollar amounts over a certain level. Consider putting a note on your page for fee-conscious donors who want 100% of their donation to go to your mission and not to credit card fees.
- Ads: If there’s an ad for a program included: Put the actual size of the placement. (ie – half page, quarter page is too vague). List what type of file you need, if it’s color or black and white, the date you need it by and list a name/contact information of who to call with questions.
- Anniversaries: A milestone anniversary is a terrible thing to waste! If you have an anniversary or special occasion coming up, start early! Let your supporters know the year before the special event. Utilize the whole year to celebrate your milestone, highlight your successes and feature your mission and passion in everything!
- Create tiers for sponsorships – Find varying levels of value with different prices. Not everyone can be your title sponsor, but they DO want to support you. Having tiers offers options for people/companies that want to be a part of your celebration. (But DON’T name all your tiers the same thing if you have multiple events. Then you create confusion if a company sends word they want to be a Gold Sponsor – and you have 3 events with Gold Level Sponsorships.)
- Let the theme lead the way: A great theme is the answer to many planning questions. If you start with a strong theme from the get-go, you create excitement, give visuals to your design, and can borrow language for the event name, sponsorship tiers, menu, silent auction items. The creativity is endless!
- The last ingredient – write down your winning recipe so you can take all that you’ve learned and do it again. Volunteers and staff may come and go, but don’t let the valuable steps in progress and knowledge go with them. Create checklists and templates to make your job easier the next year.
See an organization that does any of these ideas especially well? Give them a call and ask them how they do it? The non-profit community in our area is awesomely connected and overly friendly. I’m blown away at every roundtable we host at how warm, welcoming and helpful folks are to one another. It’s truly astounding and a testament to our generous community.
Barnes Dennig has provided great opportunities this year for the non-profit community. We welcomed the high-energy, high impact Carol Weisman of Board Builders as our keynote at the 2015 Non-Profit Annual Seminar. Carol discussed, “What to Ask When Asking for Funding” and “How to Build a Better Board in 30 Days.” Then, this month, we revealed the findings of the 5th Edition of the Non-Profit Compensation & Benefits Benchmarking Study. Click here to request a report or other non-profit resources.