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Thursday, November 23, 2017

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What’s your special event strategy?
Karen Kegg

September, 2014

If you’re like me, you like looking at society magazines.  I enjoy looking at the charity event pages to check out the city’s latest and greatest parties and events, whether it is a gala or a fun run.  I’m always interested in knowing who attended which event and wonder:

  • Why did these people attend?
  • Did a current supporter invite these individuals to join them?
  • Are these people already engaged in the mission and are being supportive? OR
  • Do they just want to be seen at the hottest event in town and aren’t really sure which nonprofit benefitted from such a great party? 

All of these reasons are perfectly fine.  But, I sometimes worry whether nonprofits are creating a strategy for the special events they work so hard on every year.  Do they come up with the “after party” strategy that is so important?  If this year’s guests don’t hear anything until next year’s invitation drops, the nonprofit has missed an opportunity to bring these friends closer to the organization’s mission!

Some important reasons to include special events in your development program are to:

 Showcase your mission:  Making sure the mission of the charity is front and center at an event is imperative. Guests should be educated on why the organization exists and why supporting the event helps the nonprofit fulfill its mission.  Many organizations do this very well but, for some, this is not a part of the event strategy.

Cultivate the volunteers:  Having volunteers who are willing to create, plan, and implement your special event gives them an incredible sense of ownership.  This ownership brings them closer to the nonprofit.  Volunteers learn more about the nonprofit when they work closely with the staff and the clients throughout the event process.  Additionally, volunteers assist in introducing new prospects to the organization that wouldn’t otherwise be introduced.  Also, your volunteers will be extremely beneficial in the follow-up of these guests after the event!

 Gaining potential prospects:  Know who was present at your event.  Utilize your volunteer committee in making introductions after the event has taken place.  Begin cultivating those prospects by sharing more information through social media, adding them to the annual fund mailing list, and asking them to consider volunteering for the cause. 

 Raise money:  Of course this is an important reason to throw a special event, but it should not be the only one.  Some nonprofits rely on funds raised at special events as their only source of income.  We at Bacon Lee & Associates are not in favor of this strategy, and we encourage nonprofits to diversify their income stream among special events, a traditional annual fund program, and major gifts.  Doing each one of these fundraising strategies well will continue to feed the donor pipeline. 

Most importantly, thoughtful follow-up is key after the event is over.  Creating a stewardship plan that includes genuinely thanking and recognizing the event supporters (Example:  photos in society magazines!) may lead to additional gifts in the future.  Keeping in constant communication with all of the hard-working volunteers, gracious party guests, and generous sponsors and underwriters will prove beneficial when planning your next event!  



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