Events with Purpose

Monday, February 13, 2017

Whether the thought of planning an event sounds fun or frightening, too often I think there is not enough time devoted to developing a purpose, strategy and evaluation. Rather, we do what has always worked, make sure everyone has fun, and then it’s on to the next. The reality is when you take a look at the number of hours and dollars that go into an event—is it always worth it?

Let’s make a plan...

  • Get strategic. What is the real objective of this event? Feel good? Raise money? Create awareness? Be incredibly specific and bring everything you do back to this goal—just as you would for your organization’s mission.
  • Get organized. Use a software to manage the details where you can capture as much information about your attendees as possible. Have a place to write down everything you can think of that you could possibly need to do—as obvious as it may be. The last thing you want is to forget the pens at sign-in, assume the caterer is bringing the silverware, etc. I also used to be incredibly detailed for everyone that was involved on my team. I would create folders for each person with event details, run of show (internal and external), contact information, responsibilities and notes about the guests.
  • Do a mental walkthrough. Imagine yourself as a guest from the moment they drive up to the venue to the moment they leave, and ask yourself two questions—how could this go wrong? How could I enhance this experience to make it more special? Being prepared and thinking ahead can save you from being flustered and scrambling at the last minute.
  • Use what you have. What better way to showcase your cause than having the community you serve be involved? Whether you have children singing, artwork, a heartfelt speaker, a playpen of animals—it’s a great reminder of why your attendees are there and can often provide the entertainment.
  • Delegate. You cannot be anywhere and everywhere. Be sure to gather a team that can be trusted with managing various aspects of the event. Have one person be your “right hand” to stick by you and run to fetch those extra nametags on the fly.
  • Assign conversations. Look through your list of those who have registered. Who hasn’t registered that you WANT there? Divide the list between your team to make personal phone calls. Who is coming that you want to make sure gets special attention? Intentionally assign your team members a list of people to speak with so they have their own goals for the night. While it may be a great opportunity to socialize, there is a task at hand.
  • Debrief. This step often gets skipped. Go through the conversation assignments, the highs and lows, survey some key people that attended—write it down, and make the next event even more of a success!

A few last words…

  • Don’t hold an event just because you do it every year—especially if the value is not worth the time/effort/money that goes into it.
  • Push a themed message, rather than necessarily a decorative-themed event.
  • Vary your types of events—not every event needs to be a fundraiser. I really like events that thank people, are interactive or just make them feel happy to be a part of your organization. Then the fundraiser can reconnect afterwards when they’re in a good mood and your organization is fresh in their mind.


By Samantha Shirley, Lead Product Manager