Non-profits generally hold two kinds of events:
- Programmatic (a service or product for those you serve)
In both cases, planning is critical to success. But what are the key ingredients for good event planning?
Clearly define the objective of the event. Identify specific ways the event will help the organization achieve its mission. Look to the strategic plan and annual work plan for guidance.
If an organization's strategic plan prioritizes financial security or sustainability, the annual work plan may determine that a fundraiser is an effective means of achieving that goal. The annual budget may project a certain amount of money should be generated by the event. The event objective then is to efficiently and effectively raise the identified amount of money to contribute to financial security or sustainability.
If the event is programmatic, the same recipe applies. The strategic plan may prioritize education for a target audience. The annual work plan may identify a specific event as the most appropriate means of educating that audience. The annual budget would provide the financial parameters.
Be wary and avoid planning an event just for the sake of having an event! The strategic plan, the annual work plan, and the annual budget all need to inform the process well before an event takes place. WHY you're doing an event needs to be crystal clear.
Break down all the moving pieces of your event, match tasks with skill sets of staff and volunteers, and delegate responsibility. The moving pieces might include:
- Room layout
- Thank you notes
- Financial management
- Overall management
Identify deadlines for each small task and major milestone associated with the event. List the responsible party and include a column to check off when the task is complete. Revise, revise, revise as plans will change. Save original target deadlines, even as they get moved, to help evaluate areas for improvement in the future.
Regular status updates, confirmation of next steps, and brainstorming help the team overcome challenges, function cohesively, stay on task and on timeline, and facilitate a smoother event.
Consider your audience demographics and their expectations to determine how to capture and maintain their interest and identify special needs to accommodate.
Rather than guessing at what will entice someone to spend money at your fundraiser or participate in your seminar, ask them directly. Ask stakeholders to join your planning committee. Plus, ask event attendees for feedback to improve future events. Ask what they want and how they will support getting it.
A vital ingredient to success is a flexible attitude. Event planning goes hand in hand with last minute challenges, frustrated vendors or attendees, and stress. Practicing flexibility and stress management strategies empowers you and your team to view challenges as opportunities and find creative solutions.