I was recently chatting with a friend who is a professional in the nonprofit funder world about events (because what else do you talk about over Indian food?). We got on the topic of how frustrating it can be to see great nonprofits with awesome missions that totally miss the mark when it comes to engaging donors at events.
My friend shared with me three things that they believed every single event should be in order to be successful. And while they were all simple things, and things I definitely help clients to achieve, I’d never actually put them together in that way.
Since my mind was blown enough that I actually paused and thought “That’s so true!” and frantically wrote them down so that I would remember to share them with you here.
Here are the three things that all successful events have in common, why they’re important, and ideas for how you can incorporate them into your next fundraising event.
Have you ever been to an event with dry food and dull speakers in a boring overall atmosphere? One where maybe you kept checking your watch, waiting for enough time to pass where you could politely go home?
I definitely have. And they are part of the reason why I started Tribe Table. I hate dull events with a fiery passion.
Keeping your event from being boring means much more than just creating some over the top theme. It means that your guests actually enjoy themselves.
And guests who enjoy themselves don’t leave early, they give more, and they tell all their friends about it! #winning.
The best way to make your event fun is to start by having a clear idea about the group of people you’d like to attract to your event. And the key thing is to think about what would be fun for them specifically.
For some groups that means opening up a dance floor at the end of the night. For others, that means thinking of creative ways for them to meet and connect with more people in the room than they would on their own.
I’ve even gone to an event where guests learned dances native to Somalia and did a dance off! It was a great fit for the crowd in the room and everyone had a fantastic time being silly together.
I can go on and on about this one.
So you want to have an event because your organization is doing good work and other people should support it.
Super. But why should other people really care? It’s a pretty common mistake to think that just because your cause is good, that’s all you need. You also need to be able to get your message across to other people as to why it matters to them.
Being able to tell your story in a way that connects with others is huge. In fact, I believe it’s the core of all events.
Think about how the work you’re doing affects them personally, emotionally, and in their communities.
Get really clear on how they can really make a difference by supporting you.
I like to make sure that people feel like they’re actually getting by giving.
What does this mean?
Make sure that if people are buying a ticket they feel like they are getting an experience well worth the ticket price and also the emotional feel-good of taking action and making a difference.
For event sponsors this also includes making sure that they are marketed throughout the event as donors by adding their logos or even giving the opportunity to have ads in the printed program as well as on screens at the event.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty lazy. I’m known for even clicking out of websites when trying to buy things if its too hard to figure out. Maybe it’s the Millennial in me who is pretty used to technology and quick results. Or maybe I’ve always had the attention span of a squirrel.
Either way, I’ve seen so many organizations loose people’s attention (read: support) because it was too hard to figure out how to get the information they wanted.
My general rule is to write out full, simple, step by step instructions for everything, then assume no one will read it.
This sounds funny, but it works.
For instance, I advise my clients to have a few links to the website where people can buy tickets as they read their email invitation. So they don’t have to read the whole thing if they don’t want to. Then I also have them make sure there is a “Buy a Ticket Now” button at the end that is big, bold, a different color and generally easy to find.
I also use this method with things like registration tables. Sure, I have all the signage, but I assume few people will read any of it.
So I make sure to lay out guest registration tables in a way that people would naturally walk to and be able to figure out without thinking.
Does your event have enough parking for guests? Or if you’re in a big city and depending on your crowd, is your location in a place that folks can get to with public transportation? I know in the Bay Area, this is a big one.
While thinking through some of these things takes some time, they are well worth it and work wonders for guest experience.
There you have it! The three things that all events have in common. While planning your next event, take some time to brainstorm all the different ways you can make sure your events are fun, meaningful, and convenient for your guests.
Ready to get started on a fundraising strategy that works for you and your tribe? Check this out.
What other ways have you found that make all of your events successful? Share them with the Tribe below. I’d love to hear from you!