Year One. Create a Buzz!
Something I learned from a mentor early in my events career is to not use the newness of an event as an excuse for creating a less than top-notch guest experience.
One of the biggest compliments you can receive on a first-time event is, “Everything went so well. I never would have guessed this was a brand-new event.”
Year two of an event provides opportunities to grow both revenue and attendance. Creating a buzz the first year through an amazing guest experience will make goals around continued growth so much easier to achieve.
Read on for inspiration from one of our clients who successfully created a buzz with a new event in 2018, and then was strategic in taking the event to an exciting new level this year.
Year Two. Now What?
So, you pulled out all the stops for your first-year event… woohoo! Now, how do you make it even more successful in year two? Here are some insights from the University of Minnesota Foundation’s Red Heart Soirée which took place last month. This year the client hosted 75 additional guests and increased revenue by nearly $100,000 compared to 2018 results.
- Prioritize sponsorship development
Red Heart Soirée experienced a $77,000 increase in sponsorships this year. Key factors included starting the solicitation process several weeks earlier, more staff and leadership volunteers involved in the efforts, and increases in support from sponsors who had a great experience with the event in 2018.
- Cultivate your committee
The client grew from what was a small advisory group in 2018 to a larger committee made up of sponsors, physicians, patients, and other supporters of cardiovascular health. This committee of passionate and well-connected committee members was instrumental in not only helping to shape the guest experience, but growing attendance and revenue.
- Establish your brand
The event logo created in year one was so well-received, that we brought it back this year, and plan to continue with the same strong branding in 2020. Integration of the logo at the event at McNamara Alumni Center included the photo step and repeat banner, stage backdrop, and a mural that was painted during the reception.
- Share the excitement!
The 2019 marketing plan included strategies for more engagement with internal audiences including physicians and other cardiovascular staff. Through presentations at meetings and regular email updates, increased excitement was generated for the event which resulted in additional sponsorships and ticket sales as well as the donation of live auction packages from physicians including a one-week stay in Cabo San Lucas.
- Make it fun!
At the kickoff committee meeting for the 2019 Red Heart Soirée, one of the committee members shared that she had been at three heart health fundraisers the previous fall, and that this event was by far the best. Part of her experience had to do with the reception that sets the stage for an evening this is both fun and mission-filled. This year guests were greeted by the champagne dress, had the opportunity to go inside the human heart through a virtual reality experience, and engaged with a stilt walker when buying chances to win a stunning ruby and diamond pendant.
- Stories, stories, and more stories
While there was lots of focus on planning the fun, even more time and effort went into creating a well-messaged, inspiring program that showcased the innovation and impact of the University of Minnesota’s cardiovascular team. Four patient stories were shared through the videos that premiered at the event, and all four patients were available to attend the event which made their participation extra meaningful. Emcee Lee Valsvik and auctioneer Glen Fladeboe shared their personal connection with the cause which helped tie everything together.
- Keep the party going!
The Red Heart Soirée crowd loves to stick around, so an after party with opportunities for more conversation, networking and fun makes sense. This year’s guests enjoyed tower displays of miniature desserts, live music and dancing, and a photo booth experience.
- Looking ahead to Year Three
While planning this year’s event, we also had our sights on what it will take to continue expanding the reach and impact Red Heart Soirée can have in supporting cardiovascular research and patient care at the University of Minnesota. Priorities for the September 2020 event include continued growth in sponsorships, expanding the number of philanthropic individuals from the community who attend, and increasing the night-of fundraising through the live auction and special giving opportunity.
Ann Plans welcomes Open Arms of Minnesota as our newest client. We are honored to be partnering on Moveable Feast, the signature fundraising event supporting Open Arms’ mission of nourishing body, mind, and soul through cooking and delivering free, nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities. Guests at the Thursday, May 14, 2020 event will gather at Aria for a mix and mingle reception and short program before taking a limousine ride to one of 40 participating restaurants for an exceptional wining and dining experience.
Whether you’re planning year one, year two, or year 20 of your event, we hope the insights shared this month help inspire new ideas and increased fundraising for your next event.