In Praise of Special Events

September 14, 2016

Ah, special events! Don’t you love the sense of accomplishment at the end of the planning process? Aren’t you excited about working with your all-volunteer event committee? Isn’t it wonderful to be creating a meaningful and profitable fundraising experience?

It’s hard to believe, but some people don’t really love hosting special events. In fact, lots of nonprofit professionals seem ambivalent at best when faced with the prospect of creating a glamorous gala or fun-filled festival.

Does that sound like you?

No worries. You’re probably just suffering from event burnout – an ailment common among nonprofit organizations.

Event burnout isn’t your fault. The issue lies in everyone’s high expectations for special events. Couple this with dizzyingly tight budgets, and you can see how a nonprofit professional could blow a gasket. The pressure is enormous.

Here’s the typical scene:

Your board wants you to produce an entertaining event so their friends can have fun. The CFO wants you to pull in stratospheric sums that will be the savior of next year’s budget. The ED needs an event to touch the guests’ hearts. To top it all off, you are expected to work with a committee of volunteers who have absolutely no training in either event planning or fundraising.

Just thinking about all that can give you hives!

Step away from the stress for a moment, put the unrealistic expectations aside, and consider the upsides of what you can accomplish with this event.

You can energize your board by giving them a simple plan for soliciting donations and selling tickets. Watch them light up as they realize how many great assets they have at their fingertips. Most boards just need a little prompting and some easy to follow protocols.

Work with your CFO to create realistic monetary goals and figure out ways to augment the event’s revenue stream. Let your committee brainstorm on what connections they can bring to the table. It is amazing the amount of auction donations, sponsorships and ticket sales they can drum up with some help identifying their potential contacts.

Work closely with your ED to ensure she knows the event’s goals and understands your strategy for both revenue and guest engagement. Bring her to a committee meeting so she can strengthen relationships with your loyal volunteers. Take time every couple of weeks to meet and discuss how the process is progressing, giving her confidence in your planning abilities.

Choose event committee members wisely, as they are the key ingredient in your recipe for success. These volunteers will bring in donations, help with sponsorships and sell a boatload of tickets. Competent committees will also take much of the event production workload off your shoulders.

Truly the best part of hosting an event is building and strengthening relationships.

  • A well-run event brings pride to board members, and encourages their future enthusiastic participation
  • Your organization’s staff feels satisfied by their experience working as a team and experiencing success
  • Your volunteers feel appreciated and excited to work with you on future events
  • Your guests have heightened awareness of your organization’s mission, and look forward to participating in more meaningful ways

And don’t forget, your event also made money. A well-organized event can potentially make a delicious profit.

Special events can definitely be sweet. When else can you have the undivided attention of hundreds of good-hearted folks for your personal call to action? This isn’t an internet video, this is real life, baby! And real life is where meaningful relationships are born.

So take another look at those special events you were so busy hating. Appreciate the exquisite opportunity they present to your organization.

Sure, there will be hard work, some headaches and a few surprise glitches during the planning process. But you didn’t become a nonprofit professional because it was easy. You chose this work because you could make a genuine difference in the lives of people and communities.

There’s no better pathway to achieving that goal than special events.

Now is the time to pull it together and face your next event with a positive “can do” attitude. Join me in singing the praises of special events, because we both know their hard-earned, sweet success makes it all worthwhile.

A.J. Steinberg has been creating successful events for nonprofit clients since 1999.

headshotcolor1-219x300In 2015 A.J. created Queen Bee Fundraising which focuses on the art of nonprofit special event management. A.J. teaches volunteers and nonprofit professionals the strategies for producing successful fundraising events along with guidance on how to successfully lead volunteer committees to achieve their goals. Her workbook series, Successful Nonprofit Events, will be published by the Charity Channel Press in 2017. A.J. Steinberg leads webinars, workshops and appears at speaking engagements that teach the art of committee-based nonprofit special event management.

Ready to make your next event the best possible? Join AJ and me for Winning Events | Basics & More™. Registration is open now.


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