Designing Engaging Nonprofit Events
Events provide nonprofits with great opportunities to spread awareness, to recruit donor and volunteer prospects, and to raise funds. Events help you get people in the door you may not normally reach. Once you have their attention, you can educate them about your cause, mission, and programs, capture their information and ask them to take action.
Nonprofits expect a lot out of their events. With such an opportunity, comes great expectations to fulfill so many goals. Of course, you want to design the best nonprofit event—an event that draws huge crowds, garners tons of press and social media attention, is fun, unique, and interesting, and on top of all that, surpasses every fundraising goal you set.
It’s hard to pull off a successful event, especially when many nonprofits follow the same event formula, leaving little excitement for potential attendees. In a noble quest to be unique and exciting, some nonprofits can lose sight of the true mission of their event.
Everything your nonprofit does should support your mission, whether by doing the work that makes a difference in the community you hope to help, by making the work possible through fundraising, or by spreading awareness of your cause and organization. Events, when designed creatively, can support your mission by doing all three.
You can develop any event into an effective event, whether it’s a coffee gathering, formal dinner, or golf tournament. What if, however, instead of hosting an event any other nonprofit could, you designed an event only you could host?
No other organization is exactly like yours, so why should your events be like any other organizations’?
People support an organization when they feel it is uniquely suited to accomplish its mission. Remember that as you conceive of events—what kind of event can you host that no one else can? What’s special about your organization? How can you showcase that?
Countless nonprofits host extravagant dinner events to fundraise. Of course, if this approach works to raise funds that will support your work, that’s what matters most. However, the optics around these fancy functions can leave some donors feeling uneasy.
If you work to support people in poverty, perhaps hosting a five-course dinner isn’t appropriate. These events will continue to happen—it’s the nature of the nonprofit event world. You have an opportunity to stand out with an event that doesn’t break the bank.
Covenant House, a nonprofit that provides housing and supportive services to youth facing homelessness, raises money throughSleep Out events across the country. Individuals join together to sleep outside on one night after individually raising funds and spreading awareness through their networks. Sleep Outs make a meaningful impact and build community. They are unique to Covenant House and extremely powerful, showing that events can coincide with mission.
You can also create an event that accomplishes your fundraising and recruitment goals all while advancing the work of your organization.
An education-based nonprofit could host a learning fair that is fun and educational for children. A nonprofit that promotes exercise could host a 5K race. An environmental group can host a beach cleanup day. You may be hesitant to ask people to donate to essentially volunteer, but if someone cares enough about your organization to make a donation, they care enough about your cause to promote it through work.
Once you design your event, there are many opportunities to make it more effective, and we’ll discuss those best practices on the blog soon. The most important first step is creating a unique and engaging event only you can host. What makes you special? Start there.