Three Little Words for BIG Nonprofit Event Success

Nonprofit events – do you love them or hate them? Maybe it’s a mixture of both!

No matter how you feel about special events, they are a staple of the fundraising culture. Nonprofits are expected to raise funds and awareness through these galas, walk-a-thons, golf tournaments and other social gatherings, so it’s best to take on an attitude of making them as impactful as possible.

As an event professional who has worked with volunteer committees for over twenty years, I noticed that a surprising number of nonprofits fail to incorporate these three elements in their planning strategies: organization, communication, appreciation.

These may seem obvious, but over the years I’ve helped dozens of organizations integrate these concepts where they were lacking. And the result? Each and every time, strong organization, thoughtful communication, and genuine appreciation serve as the secret sauce that energizes volunteers, sells sponsorships and tickets, and makes long-lasting relationships with guests. Here’s how to implement these three factors into your event.

Organization

A strong committee structure and game plan for your team is essential. At the very start of your event planning, enlist capable volunteers to work on committees, create a strategy for monetizing the event, and generate detailed timelines. These tools give your event structure before diving head first into the minutia of planning.

By creating a concrete framework at the outset—and distributing it to everyone involved—your committee is aware of expectations and deadlines, which allow you to efficiently lead your team through the event planning process. Showing that you have a game plan also helps to establish your leadership role, and build’s your group’s confidence in your abilities, which is a key ingredient to teamwork.

Communication

It is a common mistake for organizations to assume that decisions and instructions are being properly broadcast to the event planning team. Don’t fall into this trap! It is essential to  have a communications strategy laid out at the onset of event planning which communicates your organizational structure—including  timelines, meeting agendas, volunteer and vendor information packages—to volunteers, staff and vendors.

For meetings, create a master agenda which will be customized for each get-together. By using the same agenda template each time, the committee members can easily follow the topics of discussion and stay focused on the business at hand. Contact committee chairs before each meeting to see what needs to be discussed at the upcoming session and include that in your agenda.

For vendors participating in your event, create an information package which answers all the anticipated questions they may have about working on your event. This includes a day-of timeline, venue insurance requirements, loading and unloading protocol, parking availability, dress code, and availability of meals and refreshments.

The same goes for your volunteers who will be working at the event. Send them a volunteer package with a day-of timeline, volunteer job matrix, driving directions and parking instructions, information on dress code, and availability of meals and refreshments.

Appreciation

This one is simple but rarely done properly: say thank you! When volunteers’ work is recognized and praised, both during the planning phase and after the event, they have far more satisfying experiences and form deeper connections with your organization. This spurs them on to volunteer for future events, which means you have experienced people participating on your future committees.  As you know, loyal volunteers also often become loyal donors and supporters of nonprofit groups.

The same goes for guests. If you are able to convey genuine gratitude for their support of your mission, you are laying the groundwork for a strong long-term relationship that, with proper tending, can grow far beyond the seeds of simple participation.

In the week following an event, send thank you notes or call committee members to let them know how much you appreciate their hard work and dedication.  Let them know how important their efforts were in both the event’s success and your organization’s long term mission. Do the same for guests and attendees and highlight the impact the funds raised will have on your organization’s work, and offer them an opportunity to participate further.

Creating impactful events with happy volunteers and attendees isn’t necessarily easy—but it’s not a mystery. For more help incorporating these three elements into your event planning and execution visit Queen Bee Fundraising where we have all the templates, timelines and tools you need to succeed with your nonprofit event planning.

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A.J. Steinberg