A Wild Summer Night
The day after the Minnesota Zoo’s Beastly Bash, I woke up thinking, “This was one of my favorite events ever!” Promoted as “a wild summer night,” the June 9 event was truly magical.
A trend for Twin Cities nonprofit fundraisers is the reimaging of gala-style events to provide a unique guest experience that connects attendees more deeply with the organization’s mission. The Minnesota Zoo did just that this year in rebranding the long-standing Beastly Ball as the Beastly Bash, and moving the event outdoors.
The Zoo leveraged the organization’s 40th anniversary and the 30th anniversary of their annual fundraiser to create an experience that featured more animals, more nature, and more fun. This new format yielded significant growth in both attendance and revenue.
This month we invite you to consider how you might reimagine your event to create a buzz, celebrate and elevate your brand, and deliver big results.
How to Think Outside the Box and Plan for Big Results
Whether your major fundraiser takes place in a hotel ballroom or a less traditional venue, how can your event stand out from the hundreds of other galas taking place across the Twin Cities? Read on for some inspiration from the Beastly Bash:
- Engage key stakeholders in charting the course. The Minnesota Zoo Foundation interviewed 30 key donors and sponsors to gather feedback on the proposed new direction. Those interviewed endorsed an outdoor format with more opportunities to enjoy the animals and mingle with other guests.
- Start early. Allow plenty of time to think big and be proactive with planning. For the Beastly Bash, the biggest considerations were mapping out the event space to allow for maximum enjoyment of zoo exhibits without making the footprint too large, and creating a plan for inclement weather.
- Mission, mission, mission! Focus the new event formula on showcasing your mission in interesting and creative ways that remind guests of why their generosity is so important. The animals were the stars of the show at the Beastly Bash with special demonstrations and opportunities to engage with zookeepers. Hours of planning went into creating an exciting and mission-infused program supporting an initiative to make the Zoo accessible for all.
- Be a marketing machine. A rebranding of your event provides a great story to share. As soon as the June 9 date was set, the Zoo began creating a buzz through social media and other marketing avenues. The pre-event media coverage included TV and radio interviews and a feature in the Star Tribune.
- Invite guests to embrace your brand. Beastly Bash guests had a ball with the suggested attire of “wildly chic” described as, “Consider animal prints paired with exotic jewelry, Bermuda shorts, or tuxedo jackets and tiger print cummerbunds topped off with your favorite Panama hat. And, don’t forget your comfortable, but chic, shoes.”
- Facilitate fun! How can you create a memorable experience that generates a buzz? Beastly Bash guests were delighted by unexpected entertainers such as topiaries on stilts, fire dancers, and LED performers.
- Small touches make a difference. Plan for your guests’ comfort and provide over-the-top hospitality. The Zoo was prepared with umbrellas, rain ponchos, bug spray and flip flops. Cushions in the amphitheater ensured guests were comfortable during the program.
- Knock it out of the park! When committing to reinventing an event, inspire your team to think big – and execute at a high level. The Zoo was intentional about delivering excellence in all aspects of the Beastly Bash, and that investment paid off. More people attended than ever before, revenue grew by 22%, and a tremendous amount of goodwill and anticipation for next year’s event were generated.
Whether your upcoming July 4th embraces familiar traditions or something new, we wish you a fun, safe, and relaxing holiday!