Philanthropy and Giving Insights





7 Ways to Make Your Nonprofit Event Stand Out


With how many events happen each day in your area, it can feel like you’re just another fish in the sea. How do you make your event stand out from the noise and make meaningful connections with your supporters and your community? Thankfully, there are still many ways to differentiate your event and showcase what you are doing for your cause. Here are seven ways to make your event stand out:

 

Personalize the experience

 

Connecting your guests to your cause is one of the most important ways to make an event stand out in their minds. There are many ways to do this, but one of the biggest is to personalize the experience. Make them feel like the fact that they came meant something, and not just because another seat was filled! Personalize your communication to them leading up the event and following it—and try to have a staff member greet each person who attends. One tip: create a cheat sheet for your executive director of attendees they may not know well. You can pull photos from LinkedIn and use your database to provide information like how long they’ve been a donor. Make sure that it is done discreetly and not left in the open!

 

Switch up the venue

 

One of the first steps in planning an event is deciding where to hold it. Typically, this means pulling old files of previous locations or doing a Google search to find event venues in your area. Just one problem—doing it those ways leads to stale venues that look just like last year, or just like the other nonprofit event that was there last week.

 

So get creative—think about supporters of your cause who may have offices they would let you use part of, especially if it’s in a compelling location. Look at museums or galleries, check out a business that may be closed normally when you do your event, a behind-the-scenes opportunity at a local landmark, or consider hosting something at your own location. Any of these options can provide a unique experience for your guests. And if you get stuck at one of the stereotypical locations? Switch up the flow of the event and the decor. Think of cheap ways to change the feel of the space, such as donated decorations from a local farm or maker (a rustic theme is popular these days) or make each room have a unique theme to it. While not all of us are thespians, groups like Chicago Shakespeare Theater add performance and themed decor in ways that make for a unique event.

 

Tell a story

 

The biggest mistake nonprofit event planners make is failing to connect their guests to the cause. The biggest way to do this? Storytelling. Featuring a compelling story of impact, especially one told by one of the folks you’ve helped, will remind supporters of the emotional connection they have with your cause. And emotional connections=support.

 

Find a framing story to carry through the night. It can be told by the person or people impacted and referenced throughout the night to provide a memorable experience for your guests.

 

Cut the bloat

 

If one of the biggest mistake event planners make is failing to connect their audience to the cause, adding too much comes in a close second. Event planners, just like marketers, often fall victim to a common lie—it can’t hurt, right?

 

Adding more and more to your event in hopes that something will be helpful to someone is not a good strategy. It confuses your message, dilutes the parts of your event that are working well, and makes your guests feel tired and ready to leave. So cut the bloat—keep your event simple with a consistent thread that ties everything together.

 

Leverage technology

 

Work smarter, not harder. With the countless technology options out there to streamline your event, there’s no reason to do everything yourself. Check out our recent article about all how you can do this well [link to “Utilizing Technology to Streamline Your Event”].

 

Document it well

 

Make sure that you put the effort in to document this memorable event. Consider hiring a photographer or videographer (or both) to capture the event. If your event has something particularly noteworthy, like a big reveal or announcement, you may even want to live stream the event on Facebook or post stories consistently on Instagram—it just depends on your audience!

 

Make sure that you use the photos or video. You can post a gallery of images on social media a day or two after, or send follow up emails or cards to your guests with a photo included.

 

Leave them with something meaningful

 

The amount of cheap event giveaways most people have cluttering their desk or junk drawer at home is telling—if they don’t leave the giveaway at your event or throw it away immediately!

 

Brainstorm how you can leave your guest with something meaningful. Perhaps it’s a signed card from one of the folks you’ve helped, a special note from your Executive Director, or a personalized gift that recognizes how long and how much they’ve supported your organization. No matter what you choose, seek the opinions of people who might attend the event but you can trust to be honest—it does no good to pay for a giveaway that people will just throw away!

 

Overall, you want to make your event a personal, meaningful experience for your guests in ways that will have them excited to tell their coworkers and come back the next year. These simple tips will help ensure that your event will stick with them for weeks or even months after!