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From an Expert: Tips for Planning Your Next Special Event

In the nonprofit world, there has been a significant increase in the number of special events. As a company that specializes in cause-related marketing, we understand the challenges associated with putting on a special event, and while some will argue that special events are not the best tool for fundraising, we believe there is still a place and benefit for them. However, before you host your next special event, be sure to review the tips following to ensure your event is effective and adds value to your nonprofit.

1) Define your purpose: The first question to ask yourself is why are we doing (or thinking about doing) an event. The two basic reasons are to raise money or increase awareness.

a. Fundraising ? Most organizations view special events as a fundraising opportunity. If so, determine your budget, break even point, & fundraising potential and risk. One thing that organizations sometimes fail to include is staff time and opportunity cost. Consider hiring an outside event planner as it could save you money (and time) in the long run.

b. Awareness ? We have found over the years that there are a tremendous number of nonprofits doing great work in the community, but have limited visibility. Special events can be a great way to increase your public awareness. Another way to accomplish this without starting your own event is to get involved with an existing event. A subset of the awareness category is donor cultivation. These events are typically smaller in nature and allow for more personal interactions. They are great opportunities to educate potential donors about your organization while keeping existing donors engaged.

2. State your goals ? Just as you do with your program goals, you should have clear special event goals. Whether it?s fundraising, volunteer recruitment, or new donors, you should have clearly stated goals at the beginning of the planning process. This will allow you to properly evaluate your event to determine if it was successful and make adjustments for improvement.

3. Be creative ? If you are starting a new event, creativity is a must. For example, when I?m approached about starting a golf tournament, I advise that unless there is something very different about the tournament, think of something different. The best events are new concepts or unique twists on old concepts.

4.  Sponsorship ? When working on your sponsorship development, consider going for a few larger sponsors that can truly connect with your organization, as opposed to several small companies. It is very important to ensure that all of your sponsors have a good experience and this can be tough when you have too many small sponsors. Click here for a great resource on effective sponsorship strategies.

5. Branding ? Just as your brand for your nonprofit is important, if you start an event, it?s important to spend the resources to create an effective brand. If you don?t have the expertise internally, spend the money to hire a marketing or graphics design company that can help in this area.

Special events can be a lot of work, but they can be very effective and a lot of FUN! Don?t forget that simple, but important ingredient, regardless of the type of event you plan.


Guest Blogger Johnathan Mayo, is the President of Avail specializing in cause-related marketing and providing marketing, event management and foundation management services to charitable organizations and professional athletes. One of the firm’s signature programs is the VCU Broad Street Mile, a local event that provides a turnkey fundraiser for local charitable organizations. Learn how your nonprofit can fundraise at the event on September 20, 2014!

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