Charity events are sort of ubiquitous – every development professional will at least consider an annual event, and most of us will plan several. No two are similar, but they more often than not become a black hole of time and tasks. Having just wrapped up my first annual event at a new nonprofit, I thought I would run the post mortem on the event with you.
Challenges for this event:
- Venue – it was a lumber yard. No restrooms, uneven pavement that wasn’t particularly handicapped accessible. Outdoor event during 90% humidity.
- Weather – Hot, sunny, humid. Dehydration and sunburns.
- Clientele – The event was partially an academic event and partially a gala, so we faced advertising and recruiting attendees with a new demographic than the organization typically faces.
- Consultants – enough said.
- No backfill – grants, donation processing, and other development and communications related tasks were put on hold as I planned and managed the event.
- …not to mention an ill timed vacation that took me out of commission until immediately before the event, so I spent my days clicking my fingernails against the iphone screen hoping that I could plan an event remotely…
Successes of the event:
- Awareness – more people walked away knowing about our organization than we planned on.
- Attendance – remarkably good considering it was a weekday event and people had to leave work.
- Cost – We stayed in budget! Yay!
Take Aways and Words of Wisdom:
If you’re a small department and a small organization, stop trying to reinvent the venue wheel. Use the location you have. You’ll save time, money, and additional resources. Plus this brings people to your location to see your building and services. Is your building not the nicest? GOOD! It will show potential donors your areas of need; donors want honesty, and anyone who is attending an event just to dress up shouldn’t be eating your free food anyway.
Don’t forget clients and partners. We secured more donations and inkind support through clients and relationships than any development plan could achieve. Fundraising is all about creatively leveraging relationships to support your organization, so if you have clients who know people, its an easy call and chances are the clients are happy to contribute. Plus, involving clients in any event that will garner attention for them is wonderful!
Its never to early to start planning next year. One of the first things we did the day after the event was discuss the pros and cons and make decisions about the next year’s event, including venue and date. While things are fresh in your mind, make notes and start thinking about what you’d like to change for future events. Don’t let it sit for 6 months until you forget the little things. Write down that you didn’t have enough twist ties for the trash bags or that you should’ve made more parking signs. It’ll be invaluable.
THANK YOUS. Say thank you. Say it a lot. Say it to people who didn’t help as much as you would’ve hoped. Now that the event is over, take the time to make everyone feel appreciated so they’ll do it again. If someone didn’t give you all they could’ve, write it down and work on them for next year. Don’t forget event volunteers.