Rethinking Special Events

I was at a conference where the presenter mentioned the need for us all to rethink special events.  The presenter was Chuck Loring, and for those of you who don’t know him, you need to, and you need to attend his presentations.

I left really thinking about this idea – of rethinking or redefining special events.  How many times do we frame our development work in somewhat narrow terms? Or perhaps another way to look at is – how often do we compare our development work and success to someone else’s?

If we really look at what our development staff can do – really consider it – have conversations on realistic return on investment and define those words so we are all on the same page.  You can start to answer the question of “what does having a special event look like for your organization?”

I would recommend the following questions to hone in on how you can define a special event that could be beneficial within the context of your current development plan. (notice I said within the context of your current development plan, yes you need one)

What values describe your idea of a successful special event? What kind of event is mission aligned and makes sense for who you are as an organization?

What kind of capacity and energy do you have to build on the relationships formed at a special event? Are you truly looking to connect donors/prospects to mission or are you building a following around a specific event?

Truly, honestly, transparently, answer this – what is the goal of the special event?  Do not start with “we want to make money” and when that doesn’t happen say “well, we got some good PR out of it”.  Define the goal, measure against the goal, work to meet the goal, but don’t fail and then ignore that failure and shift to another goal.

Now I haven’t spent any time actually defining special events. Mostly because there are so many ideas out there, and everyone at the development table has a different idea about which ones are the best. So I recommend starting with the questions above and find the answers – even if it takes time.

An remember one of the most important aspects of any kind of special event – if you aren’t building relationships with donors that are enhanced by their attending the event you may be missing out in the long term.

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