Get the Most Out of Your Event (February 2012 Meetup Notes)

4 Mar

CCC MeetupBy the Cause Communications Community, February 2012 Meetup

Four ways to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to planning, throwing and recovering from non-profit events:

  1. Articulate the goals of the event early on

As we joked at the beginning of the discussion, there is very little overlap when it comes to successful events and low-effort events. So, especially for resource-strapped nonprofits,  planning events and getting the most out of them is going to involve a lot of tradeoffs and decision-making about what is most important to do to achieve your goal. This includes who your audience is (new donors, old donors, corporate partners?), what you want your outcomes to be (Break-even celebration? Fund raiser? Attract new supporters?) and what kind of tone your event should have (formal? fun?).

  1. Getting them in the door is hard! So put in the work.

Think about the natural channels you already have when outreaching for an event to get participants. If you have a panel of speakers, ask them to reach out to their networks. You can use Facebook to allow your supporters to spread the word, but be aware that they can only share an event if they are attending. If you are looking at a lower effort event, consider charging a small amount ($5 – $10) to decrease registration attrition. If you want to attract people from around the country for a one-night event, try to piggyback on a related conference or longer event. You could also create incentives for people to check-in on Facebook. Or ask volunteers to fill a table for you.

  1. Consider carefully whether to court “traditional media”

Consider carefully whether or not to court traditional media outlets for an event. There are many benefits to having a good relationship with traditional media.  Seeing their organization in familiar outlets keep donors and board members happy.  It can also establish your organization as an expert in your area, which increases your organization’s influence factor with decision-makers.  However, events themselves are not newsworthy. Reporters might be more interested in some newsworthy angle, like an award or a report, which could be paired with an event. In the end, traditional media is an opportunity cost question – think about that your goal is to figure out if it is worth it. An integrated approach with all your channels is really best, and don’t forget about bloggers! They could help to “make” an event. Finally, if you have a panel coming to town, create a really well-baked proposal to pitch to Forum on KQED. You should lay out what each person is expert in, what types of questions you might expect etc. Then get someone from KQED on the phone and pitch them (a lot). If you don’t have luck with Forum, take your story to the Perspectives series, and try to have a kid involved.

  1. Keep the event alive long after the night is over

Events are great for generating content. Ask volunteers or board members to each take 5 photos at an event with their cell phones. Content that you create for an event – for example, a video – can find life in other places on your website or in an e-newsletter. An event is a great excuse to ask for testimonials from dignitaries or influencers – a video testimony is great, but even a simple letter and photo projected on a screen or read aloud is powerful.

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