While many aspects of events have changed in recent years, one remains consistent: the first order of business is to determine if your event’s purpose is to raise funds, awareness or both. Spend your resources toward the goal(s) and make it clear.
The term awareness is deliberate, because if your event is primarily conducted for fundraising purposes, then you should be seeking to get as much publicity for your event as possible – before, during and after the event. Since events’ costs are so high and the ROI is so low in comparison to nearly all other ways to raise money, they wouldn’t be worth doing if not for the other benefits of networking, cultivation and publicity. Be certain that you make the most of these.
Gone are the days when this meant hoping that local television or newspaper coverage would arrive . . . and if they didn’t, the organization was out of luck. Although such media coverage is not to be snubbed, there are many other alternatives within a nonprofit’s control with the plethora of social media channels.
Any organization that maintains regular contact with its followers will be able to encourage people across several channels to attend an upcoming event, particularly if those followers are encouraged to spread the word as well. Online registration and other methods that allow for easy participation (e.g., e-tickets, pre-printed maps, [Share buttons], etc.) will facilitate additional participation and publicity.
After the event, immediate sharing of photos, videos and/or interviews of participants or speakers, etc., to various social media sites will not only remind attendees of their enjoyable time, but again, encourage them to share the memories with others – and donate. Portraying as many participants as possible shows how your organization welcomes its constituents and will make others want to be included next time as well.
(Note: One thing to keep in mind that has changed is the very public nature of sharing people’s photos online. Make certain that you get permission to publicly post the photos/videos – especially of children. This can be as easy as incorporating it in a checkbox during ticket sales, or when signing in at the event.)
Those organizations that are availing themselves of newer technologies and incorporating them into their events are seeing a good response and increased participation, even if it is while hanging on to a more traditional event overall. One might not consider the incorporation of smart phones as a tour guide to Central Park, but it became an integral part and introduced many people to QR codes last Arbor Day.
In addition to using technology, more nonprofits are realizing that not all events need to be solely for the purpose of raising funds, and are better served as cultivation events for the target market to get to know the organization more than they currently do. This is especially true for nonprofits that are seeing their larger donors skewing older and fewer, and not nearly enough younger donors stepping up to fill the void.
Smaller nonprofits that have fallen short of goal more drastically have often been more versatile at trying new approaches to campaigns, such as Giving Days, with great success, by accommodating donors’ needs for convenience and accountability in one location. Giving Days have also been very helpful in attracting newer and younger donors to nonprofits.
It’s essential to continue to cultivate new donors when acquired through these various events and other means, however. Too often, an organization will take advantage of its donors, though, either by only contacting them when asking for money, or perhaps holding too many events and achieving burnout, from the staff, the donors, or both.
Always keep in mind how you portray your organization to your constituents and the general public at large. What you don’t want is to have a previously successful event turn sour, with your organization in the middle of it as the villain. (There is such a thing as bad publicity!)
Sometimes, however, one person’s bad publicity can be another organization’s successful fundraiser, so it’s all in your perspective.
Keep the base of the pyramid strong