Author’s Note: Consider the incredible breadth of nonprofits in the state of Arizona and what an event can actually mean to each of them. There are nonprofits who operate on less than $100,000 a year and there are nonprofits who have $10,000,000+ budgets. There are nonprofits who get 90% or more of their operating capital from a single source—usually a government contract for services—and there are nonprofits who rely 100% on charitable donations– and everything in between. What an event means to each of them can vary broadly. Your nonprofit has unique aspects and you need to be sure that whatever event you choose (or is chosen for you), that you don’t attempt it alone, that you tailor it to your specific organization and you stay true to the purpose of the event.
The Six W’s: Or Important Questions to Answer Sooner Than Later (see previous blog post for WHO and WHY) By Cindy Gattorna, A Stepping Stone Foundation
HOW AND HOW MUCH?
Job ONE-stay organized. Get a three-ring binder with several dividers or the electronic equivalent. I usually keep the following tabs: Contracts, Silent Auction, Reservations and Sponsors, Marketing, Meeting Notes, and Miscellaneous. Each person’s mind is unique, so you create your own system. There are several software packages varying in cost that can help with this if you can afford it.
Important over-arching considerations before you begin with other event choices are: What is your organization’s actual capacity to manage an event—will it be volunteer driven or staff driven? If it is volunteer driven, how will you have regular communication with these volunteers to be sure your organization is represented well and that costs do not get out of hand? If it is staff driven, how will you all keep sane while carrying out your typical daily duties?
Do you have a board approved budget with which to operate the event (recommended)? Can you actually do what the budget says you will do? How will you actually make the money? Through ticket sales? Sponsorships? Auction(s)? Appeal? Raffle? Games? Many Boards will not give you any money at all for an event and expect you to find the operating capital from sponsorships and still turn a profit; if that is the case, be sure you have a well thought out plan.
Will your event center around a meal? If so will it be breakfast, lunch, dinner or reception? Will you have awards? Will there be entertainment? Will you have a novelty event such as a casino night or an event planned with a major sports team? Is this a new event or a legacy event? That is, have you inherited an event that has been around for many years—maybe too many years? Or are you creating a new event? Each comes with its own challenges and rewards.
Thanks to event veteran Pam Betz for reminding me to tell you that whatever you choose as your theme and method of delivery, if you want long-time donors and attendees, they must have FUN! If attendees are bored or have a negative experience they are highly likely to not return the next year. What’s worse they are likely to not support your mission delivery.
There is a season for events—especially in Phoenix. There is spring and fall season. Of course you can get great deals on venues and catering in the “off” season, but can you get people to the event during these off-times? Be sure to check the many social calendars such as Red Book, BlackTieAZ, Frontdoors News, major sporting events schedules, as well as checking in with the one or two key people who you think must be at the event before choosing a date. Even choosing which day of the week and what time of day should be carefully considered.
Arizona has an amazing array of unique venues literally from a-z; arena to zoo! Do you want to be outside or inside? Are you looking for a relaxed or an elegant feeling tone? Most resorts and venues can accommodate both settings if you ask. Do you need your event close to your program or administrative office, or do you want it in the center of your supporter base?