Thursday, January 19, 2012

Designing an Event to Fit Your Audience

Who are your guests? What type of event do they want to attend? How do they engage with the world around them? And most importantly…how do you balance both the need to wow your audience with the practicalities of a non-profit budget?

Answering these questions now is critical to achieving or exceeding your event goals. If these questions are something you or your organization struggles with, have no fear! You can easily design and shape an event that meets the needs of the guests walking through the door.

First and foremost, start with your audience. Who are they? Have they attended your event before? Are they a diverse pool of people or do they fit into a more defined demographic?

Next, figure out what your guests want from your event. Are they looking to socialize and network? An educational opportunity about the work they are supporting? Or something else entirely? Knowing why your guests come to your event is critical to crafting an event that fits their expectations.

Then, think about how your guests spend their time and interact with the world around them. Are they social media savvy and do you need to incorporate mobile giving and calls-to-action into your event? Do they communicate in more traditional means and expect that at your event? Or does your group just like to party?

Finally…figure out the ways you can craft your event to fit your guests needs and your budget. This is a great opportunity to get creative with your event elements (AV, lighting, catering, etc.) and still design a superb event. Lighting changes help you transition the mood throughout the evening (active lighting will increase guest participation), and background music facilitates socializing at your event. Your caterer can easily create a menu that accents your theme, appeals to your guests or reflects the values/mission of your organization.

Getting people in the door is critical to a successful event. Tailoring your event to your guests will get more of them in the door, and get them to return. When your guests are happy, their giving increases.

In 2011, Basic Rights Oregon redesigned their Annual Dinner & Auction to focus on fundraising first and “friend-raising” second. Besides renaming their event Ignite!, the key changes they made included:
o cultivating an intimate, fundraising dinner
o moving networking and socializing to after the fundraising
o adding a dance party
o utilizing text-to-give technologies
o removing the silent auction and refocusing those energies on creating a dynamic and engaging party

As a result of tailoring Ignite! to the expectations of their audience, Basic Rights Oregon saw their fundraising increase by 10%! This stellar example shows how an extra bit of front-end work can dramatically improve your bottom line.

Photos by Rosemary Ragusa and Jonny Shultz.