When thinking about the health of your event it’s not always about how big it is - but how effective it is. So when thinking about growing your event - think less about how many people attend and instead think about making sure the right people attend. And who are the right people? People who are excited to show up and support your mission!
Before your event
Long before your event - you will want to have a plan in place for growing your network of friends and supporters. One effective way to do this is through friendraising events. A friendraising event is one in which you invite people to learn more about your organization without an expectation to give. There are many formats for friendraisers that work well (reach out to explore the best format for your organization). The biggest thing to remember with this type of event is to follow up with attendees to learn more about why they came, and the ways in which they might like to be involved in your organization in the future.
Another related event type is an educational forum or series. Your organization is an expert at what you do - so use your expertise to host educational events, town halls or meet ups to discuss the issues impacting the communities you serve. These formats are excellent for connecting with people who are interested in and passionate about your work. Be sure to have ways that people can get plugged in and connected to your organization at the event.
Additionally, always plant the seed to your existing supporters, board members, staff and volunteers that all events are an opportunity to bring like minded people together.
If you have a healthy mix of educational and friendraising events throughout the year - you should have a good balance of people interested in and committed to your organization and who, when provided an opportunity to do so, will support you financially if you ask!
Now - about your event. Here are some specific strategies on how to get the right people to your event.
Ideas for table/ticket solicitation
As mentioned in my blog post Three Ways Your Board Can Support Your Event - your board will play an important role in getting the right people to your event.
Give your board members a range of options to bring guests to the event such as:
Another group to solicit to bring the right guests to your event is your tried and true fans and friends. These are your long time donors, people who attend your event every year but who maybe have not bought a table and who you know would do anything for you. Ask them if they would be open to bringing another couple who would have the capacity and interest to participate at a level at the event like they do. Many donors are happy to do this and it’s much easier than trying to fill an entire table.
Another group is your current vendors. Are there people you do business with who you think would be excellent guests or even sponsors? This is a good question to ask board members and committee members too (and even volunteers). You just never know where these phone or in-person conversations will lead. If you want an exercise you can lead with your board or committee volunteers to explore potential sponsors - reach out!
Past attendees of your event - especially ones who gave generously to the event are ones you need to reach out to. Hopefully you had a plan in place and stayed in touch with them throughout the year. If you don’t currently have a stewardship plan in place - now is a good time to ensure you do for this year!
A good 3-6 months before the event be sure to send out a save the date to your past event attendees. A simple postcard along with an email blast can do the trick.
1-2 months before the event you can have your board, committee volunteers and staff get on the phone to previous attendees who have not yet purchased tickets or tables to remind them of the event coming up, thank them for coming last year, and build excitement for the event this year and ask them if they would be interested in buying a ticket or table. If people are not able to attend this year - it’s a great opportunity to invite them to support the event with an absentee paddleraise/appeal gift - if you need support in how to make this ask - reach out!
Another important element to attract new supporters as well as engage existing ones is to build excitement on your website and social media for the event.
Make it easy
Most importantly, make it easy for your donors to purchase tickets and tables. Make sure your website is ready for the event and that there are clear links to register. And be sure to use a user friendly event registration platform. Need ideas on which platform to use? Reach out for referrals and suggestions.
With a solid year round plan you can ensure your event is one that is well attended and filled with the right people who are excited to show their support for your mission!
Michael Faith Benefit Auctioneer and fundraising professional