Preparing for the Planning
When done right, events are a powerful way to celebrate, bring people together, strengthen your brand, share your mission, and raise money. Events also require a significant investment of time and financial resources, so doing your homework before giving a new event the green light is critical.
Last month I had the opportunity to meet with the CEO of a large nonprofit that will be celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2021. The organization plans to launch a signature fundraising event in the fall of 2020 in preparation for hosting an even larger event in honor of the 125th year. The vision for this event has been percolating for a handful of years, and the leadership is confident the key components are now in place to successfully move forward with creating a large annual event that will build brand awareness, cultivate relationships, and raise significant financial resources.
One of the exciting projects keeping us busy is Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota’s Gala for Good scheduled for Friday, October 25, 2019. The organization has been laying the foundation for this first-ever gala for over three years, and is using this 100th anniversary year to launch the new event.
Read on for key questions to ask before deciding, “ready, set, go!”
Are You Ready?
Is your organization ready to embark on planning a new fundraising event? Let’s find out!
1. What are your main goals? Having clarity on the reasons to invest in creating a new event can help answer the question of “are we ready?” Organizations often try to do too much with a single event and get diverted from focusing on the things that matter most such as fundraising and building brand awareness.
2. Is your CEO on board? Having your first in command passionate and invested in the success of your event is critical to elevating the significance of this undertaking.
3. What level of participation will you have from your Board of Directors? Are your volunteer leaders pumped about the idea of the event? Is your Board culture such that you can expect close to 100% participation in hosting a table?
4. Do you have capacity to form a committee of well-connected champions of your organization? A committee of engaged business and community leaders can make the difference between a good event and a highly successful event.
5. Can you count on significant sponsorship support? Share your event vision with key corporate supporters and vendors to determine their interest and ability to invest. Securing the commitment of a couple major sponsors early on will create momentum in getting others on board.
6. Do you have staff capacity and expertise? If your staff is already stretched thin or your team has limited fundraising event expertise, consider contracting with an event planning partner to guide the process and lighten the load.
7. Can you afford to be patient? In most cases it is unrealistic to count on a first-time event having a huge net fundraising return. In year one focus on the things that matter most in producing an event that follows fundraising best practices, creates a buzz and has your guests excited to return in year two. Continue doing things right, and over time you are guaranteed to experience growth in both attendance and fundraising.
8. Do you have the luxury of time? Once you’ve determined your organization is ready to move forward with a new event, be prepared to get planning underway at least 9-12 months in advance of the big day.
Tune in to Our Meeting Minds Podcast
Earlier this month, we were honored to be the featured guests on EideCom’s Meeting Minds podcast. Colleague Carly Thornberry and I had a great time sitting down and chatting with Charles Eide and Lisa Mendenhall Johnson at EideCom about all things events. Click here to listen to our podcast on how to fill a room with the right people, infuse your event with mission, and stay trendy!
Speaking of new events, we are thrilled to be starting a partnership with University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. The first annual Cues & Kicks Celebrity Billiards Bash will take place in late July benefiting Carolyn’s Comforts, a children’s cancer emergency assistance fund that provides financial support for young patients and families managing a cancer diagnosis. Stay tuned for details!
Whatever new adventure you may be embarking on this year, we wish you clarity, success, and much fun along the way!