Have you ever found yourself in the final stretch of planning your next event….exhausted….frustrated…and wondering “Why are we even going through all this trouble?”

If you have, consider yourself in good company!

Most organizations turn to events as their primary way to FUNDraise or FRIENDraise.  An event done right can serve a wonderful purpose, but all too often the board and staff are left wondering why the event missed the mark despite an enormous investment of time and/or money.

Before planning your next event, consider the following  5 questions: 

1. What is the number one goal of the event? 

It is crucial to identify the desired outcome of every event and then break down each event component to determine if it helps the organization achieve that goal.

Example #1: Our silent auction needs to generate $20,000 after expenses (net) for it to truly be considered a success.

Example #2: Our community outreach day needs to engage a minimum of 100 current supporters/donors and engage a minimum of 200 “new” community members/prospective donors.

Open events and events that depend on tickets sold at the door risk being a flop if the weather is bad, a competing event is taking place the same day, or marketing efforts were lackluster.

When planning your next event, consider ways to generate income and awareness that can be evaluated throughout the process whether it be through sponsorships, early ticket sales, or other creative revenue streams. 

2. WHO do you want to get to this event?

It’s not enough to say “we hope to have 500 participants” when planning your next event. It’s important to identify your target audience prior to creating your marketing strategy. Are you hoping that your audience will become donors, volunteers, new clients, or business sponsors/donors?

Do you think free pizza or ice cream is going to attract high dollar donors or children in the community?

The incentive should prompt your target audience to attend and engage!

3. WHY do you want/need them there?

Once you have your target audience in the room, what do you want from them? Is the event designed to thank them for their generosity?

If so, make them feel special and steer away from “asks.”

If your intent is to raise dollars, then consider what will prompt this audience to open their checkbooks. Are auction items appropriate for the audience? Is there a formal ask or will board members and staff be cultivating donors for an “ask” at a more personal level? Is there time to mingle with the guests or is the event too structured to allow for a more intimate conversation with a prospective donor/partner?

4. HOW are you going to get them there?

Inevitably, the people you most want at your event are the same people other organizations are seeking out as well. Powerful, generous, and active community members are in high demand so getting them to your event might not be as easy as it appears. When planning your next event, consider who on your board, staff, or volunteer base has a relationship with community members you hope to engage and extend a PERSONAL invitation.

5. WHAT will you achieve if you get them there?   

Once you get your target audience through the door, it is important to make sure the entire event is structured for success. Consider the needs of your guest from the moment they walk through the door and the ways you believe they will most enjoy engaging with your organization.

Eliminate distractions.

At the end of the day, your guests will want to feel appreciated, entertained, emotionally touched,  and empowered to become part of the solution. That’s the goal when planning your next event.

It is YOUR job to make sure your event engages guests and accomplishes your organization’s goals.

Special Events: A CPA’s Insights

What is Social Capital in the Nonprofit World?

Are You Utilizing Fundraising Drive-Bys

The 7 Donor Touches


Keep growing for good!