For most non profit organizations, annual events are a big opportunity to raise a large chunk of their operating budget. So most NPOs have a lot riding on these big annual or semi-annual events. How can you make them pay off when you might have few resources?
The key is planning. If you’re new to your NPO management position, gather as much information on how the event was run in the past: find out who was on the committee, what was each person responsible for, what fell through the cracks, and what was successful. Do this for each area of the event: location, catering, entertainment, publicity, donor outreach, volunteer recruitment, auction check-out, etc.
If you were in charge of last year’s event, look at it with a fresh eye. Solicit feedback from committee members, volunteers, and attendees. Put out an email survey to your mailing list through Survey Monkey or a similar service. You want to know if people enjoyed the event, and why—or if they didn’t, you need to hear that, too. “What can we do better/different?” is always the most valuable information to know.
Here are some other ideas for successful event planning:
Pick a date as soon as possible—and don’t let it be too far in the future. Sometimes, having a short timeline means the biggest details are taken care of right away. Longer lead times can lead to procrastination—and possibly losing out on a location or caterer. With a firm event date closing in on the committee, they are forced to work creatively, quickly, and to know exactly what needs to be done.
Involve your audience: create a community around your event on social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter. A Facebook fan page is a great place to announce the event, invite feedback, solicit volunteers, and ask fans for help in publicizing your event. When attendees accept your invitation, their friends will see your event on their pages. This way, you’ll see the numbers of people who are aware of your event grow exponentially. Social marketing is a great way to spread the news quickly among the people who already know about your organization, and the ones who have never heard of it.
Be passionate, and find passionate volunteers to help. You can’t host a successful event if the organizers aren’t all that interested in it. If you’re not passionate about it, then maybe it’s the wrong event for your NPO—so you might want to start thinking of something different for next year. But if you are so into the event that you can’t stop talking about it—that’s a great sign! Ask your friends and contacts to help you and infuse them with your enthusiasm. Passion is palpable, and makes people want to respond.
Big events are fun for your supporters, valuable to your non profit organization, and usually exhausting for the organizer—but they are also necessary to the financial health of most charitable organizations. So take a look at these and other tips to make big events as successful as they can be!