- talk with individuals one-on-one
- celebrate achievements
- create community
Talking with people individually is one of the best ways to keep them engaged with an organization and this goal should be pursued often. A side benefit of this goal is that an organization can think small and still get wonderful results. Typically when people think of events they focus on "going big"--lots of attendees, many silent auction items, an impressive location, pricey admission tickets--but that's rarely the right tactic when conversation is the goal. For example, if a nonprofit wants to show appreciation for and share updates with people who have steadfastly contributed then perhaps a small gathering of 20 people over cookies at a board member's house would be best. Why struggle to pick these important people out of the crowd at a larger event? How likely is it the CEO or Board Chair will be able to talk to them all at an annual gala?
The guise for galas and awards is often the idea of celebrating achievements, and sometimes a big special event is truly justifiable, but usually the same goal can be met in much less labor intensive ways that won't cause staff and volunteers to feel burned out. A good place to start when planning an event with this goal as well as the "create community" goal are two questions, the first of which is
- "What is the least we could do and still meet our goal?
It may seem counterintuitive to think about the minimum, but rest assured the plans will grow so starting at a place of minimality is a hedge against the inevitably of growth. This is also a helpful brainstorming question for a group of people planning an event. The second question is
- "How does this event fit with our mission?"
Mission is the backbone of a nonprofit, but its role is rarely considered when planning events. People often figure so long as the event is hosted by the organization that's good enough. Picking an event that closely fits with and advances the mission can be a selling point to constituents and shows that the event isn't just happening for the sake of having a party, but has real meaning and value. The answers to both of these questions could lead to great insight about the organization, new ideas for fun events, and/or the realization that an event isn't actually the best option at that time.