Event Planning with a Purpose

Chances are if you have ever served on a nonprofit board or leadership team at a company, the discussion of planning an event has come up at least once if not several times. Events can be great vehicles to raise money, build awareness and build organic PR for your cause or company.

I often get approached by companies looking to put on an event. A couple of years ago, a guest at an event asked me, “Do you always get this great of a turnout at your events?” This particular event happened to be a ribbon cutting, which are frequently lackluster and we had well over 100 in attendance as well as several members of the media. My answer was simple, if you are doing the right event for the right reasons and with the right people, the quote from Field of Dreams is absolutely true. “Build it and they will come.”

Deciding how to do the right event for the right reasons and with the right people is the challenge here. Many look at an event solely from their own perspective… I need to raise money, let’s put on a fundraiser. I need to build awareness, let’s plan a ribbon cutting. I want to find new clients, I am going to hold an open house during the day when it works best for my staff even though my clients are families with kids.

To truly be successful in planning an event, you need to first ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Why do we need to have an event? What is the purpose? Could my time be better served in another way? (Event planning is hard work and time intensive.)
  2. Who are we trying to engage with at the event? Elected officials? Community members? Potential clients?
  3. When and How can I engage with my ideal audience? Timing and location of the event is key to optimizing your attendance.
  4. What is in it for them? We know our ‘why,’ but does the event have an equally important (actually more important) ‘why’ for the prospective guests?

After you ask yourself these questions, especially number 4, you can get started with planning your event IF it makes sense. For example, many nonprofits have significantly reduced the number of events held in recent years. They determined that their donors would rather make a donation by mail or online than attend yet another gala, where part of their gift would go towards putting on the event and not the cause.

Events are a fantastic way to engage multiple audiences at the same time. Just make sure you are planning an event for the right reasons and “they will come.” If you need help planning your next event, let’s chat. I’d love to help!

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Anna Patty

Anna is a Fundraising Consultant, Graphic/Web Designer, Marketing Strategist, Media Relations Professional and Event Planner. Anna holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Iowa with degrees in Journalism and Spanish and has spent over a decade creating strategic and cost-effective strategies for organizations looking to grow their missions. She and her husband, Sean, have four very energetic kids, two boys and two girls.

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