Let's now dive into events and their role in engaging your members in fundraising. I've spent about 15 years of my career doing events, from community events to presidential, level events at a university and foundation events. So this is a topic near and dear to me. If you currently work in fundraising, take an inventory. What events are you doing? What more can you do to engage your members or your donors? Does it make sense to do an event? Events can be very useful tools for your organization, both for engagement and fundraising, but they are time consuming, require people power in most cases, and they can be very expensive. Let's focus our attention on fundraising events and taking an inventory. What kind of events are you doing that are out there specifically for fundraising, need a fundraising component or are meant to recognize donors? Here you'll see a short list of examples. Community events and celebrations are great for community spirit and engagement, and they require fundraising and sponsorship. Auctions, both live and silent, golf tournaments and fund runs are some examples of fundraising events organizations are doing. To recognize donors, many nonprofits host gala events or recognition events. Maybe you have the opportunity to have a celebrity or well-known speaker, and you host a reception and dinner around that, all of these are good options, and when executed well can be impactful to your organization, both from a fundraising and a stewardship perspective, and impactful to your donors. These experiences are what many of our members and donors look forward to actually. The annual fundraising dinner auction that gives them an excuse to dress up, the golf tournaments where they get to spend time with their friends, the recognition galas where they get to see the impact of their giving and the giving of others, all of these types of events help build a strong feeling of community and in turn help us retain our members and donors. Let's look at some additional ideas and talk about what more you can do to engage your donors. I've been really interested in the new trend of virtual fund runs or online auctions, these give you the fundraising result you're looking for without the overhead and expenses. VIP access is a great tool for engagement. If you're doing a community event, having a special VIP tent for special donors or sponsors is a good idea or VIP parking at an event with parking issues. When I was managing foundation events, we did a pre-reception with the president for those donors being recognized at the gala that year that was followed by the regular reception before the dinner for all of the guests. The donors loved the extra special treatment and the opportunity to have personal contact with the university leadership. Maybe try a food and wine event. It's huge right now, so you could do a wine tasting event or a wine makers dinner. When I was director of the National Lentil Festival, we started a wine tasting event a few months prior to the festival to unveil the commemorative artwork. The festival had nothing to do with wine, but the event was fun. The primary reason for the event was to market the festival and give us the opportunity to recognize the festival sponsors. The wine tasting just gave us a great vehicle to do both because people wanted to attend. And think about what you can do that's kid friendly. Over the last 10 years or so, more and more guests at events I've done have asked to bring their children. It's become the norm. I've had donors want to bring their children to $200 a head dinners, receptions and even business launches. Be prepared for it and be proactive. If it makes sense for your organization, come up with ideas that incorporate children. Maybe a carnival or a game night themed event. If you have the opportunity to start something new and bring ideas to the table, be creative. You don't have to keep doing the same old same old just because that's how it's always been done. After you've completed an inventory of existing events and you've looked at new ideas to engage your donors to fit your needs, what next? Assess what makes sense to keep doing and what needs to be added in. As I've mentioned, events are time consuming and can be costly so make sure your organization has a defined goal for every event, and the resources to make them happen. You don't have to keep doing events just because you always have if they no longer make sense. And you shouldn't do something new just because it's trendy if it doesn't fit the goal and mission of your organization. I strongly believe events need to have a purpose. Events for the sake of events are fruitless endeavors. Events with a purpose however, will help further your mission and accomplish your goals. So when you decide to have an event, define your goal. Is the purpose fundraising to cover operating costs? If so, what can you do to raise the most funds? An auction, a dinner with a well-known speaker. One nonprofit I know does a fun dinner event every year with dueling pianos as entertainment. It raises a ton of money for them, which is the purpose and it's a fun event that guests look forward to. What if you're needing an event that stewards donors, like a recognition event? How can you make the event impactful and memorable? What message and feeling do you want people to leave with? In this case, the event is a public relations tool and a well executed event helps to convey the message you want those donors to hear and feel. You also need to define your audience. Who are you trying to reach and why? And what do you want from them? What message do you want to convey? With the goal of your event defined, this part's pretty easy. If the goal is stewardship for instance, your audience is your donors or your members. Treat event audiences like your annual giving audience. Decide on your list criteria and segment accordingly for your purpose. To make events for fund raising or recognizing your donors work well, finding event hosts, donors to underwrite expenses or a corporate sponsor is key. When I was doing campaign events for Washington State University, we had donors who would host dinners or receptions in their homes. It gave us the opportunity to engage alumni and donors across the country in an environment that was both friendly and casual and allowed for open dialogue. Most of the hosts covered the costs of the event or at least part of the costs, so expenses were minimal and the impact was high. Some donors will allow you access to their private clubs and special venues as well. This gives you a great opportunity to give your donors or members access to places they don't normally get to see or experience. I used to work on a luncheon series and a donor gave us access to his club for all of those lunches. We covered the costs of the event but wouldn't have had the chance to use the space without the donors help. One of the draws of the luncheon was the location, so it helped us bring in the right audience to hear our message. One of our donors graciously offered up a fantastic space for an event in her region and also wrote a check to cover the catering costs. These are just a couple of examples. I could go on for hours about past events and how donors have helped make them happen. Just remember though, your donors and members want to help and events can give them opportunities to help further the cause of your organization. Corporate sponsors are great partners to find. You need them to help cover the costs of your event and they need to tie their brand to quality organizations that can increase their marketing reach. It's a win win in most cases. The question is, how do you get them and what can they do for you? Let's start with how you recruit corporate or business sponsors for events. You have something good to sell so don't be afraid to go out and recruit sponsors. Nonprofit events, whether they are community events or high end donor recognition, offer sponsors some real tangible benefits. Visibility, prestige and goodwill are just a few of the benefits. Your event is another marketing tool for businesses. When I was running a community festival, the sponsors were the lifeblood of the event and we wouldn't have been able to operate without them. Every year I sat down and looked at the overall event and the many different sub-events to define areas of interest to a sponsor. I built a sponsorship package with multiple levels for support, basically, a friend supporter that would get very limited benefits to name event sponsors for the main stage activities. The sponsorship levels were built to support the costs of the different events. For instance, if the 5K Fun Run cost a $1,000 to produce, the sponsorship would be a $1,000 or more. With the 5K, the priority benefit for the sponsor would be the logos on the website, the brochures and on the t-shirts as well as signage at the event. The sponsor would get visibility and community goodwill, and we would get funds to cover the costs of the supplies and marketing. Moving back to my discussion about assessing your event and defining sponsorship opportunities. I'd like to add when you're building your sponsorship package, keep value perception in mind. It doesn't have to have tangible value but it does need to be perceived as valuable by your sponsor. For some events, especially those with large attendance and high visibility, logos and print and web materials, vendor booths, event signage and some special perks for the company's employees or clients, would make for a perfect sponsorship package. I've seen some recognition galas that have business sponsors as well and the sponsor gets their logo on the invitations and print material and they're recognized at the event and undoubtedly get some complimentary tickets to the gala. The value here, rather than visibility is prestige and goodwill. They're tying their business name to an event that recognizes donors at the million dollar and upper level. Times have changed and just hanging a banner doesn't cut it anymore. You need to think creatively. Here's just a quick list of ideas for building out a sponsorship package. Sharing the sponsor's brand on your materials or at your event is pretty easy and gives them the visibility they're looking for. Recognize the sponsor or sponsors at your event. If it's a dinner, the MC should recognize them in a meaningful way during the program. If it's a community event, make announcements from the main stage area. Offer your sponsors a space at your event if it makes sense. I haven't been to a collegiate athletic event that didn't announce sponsors during the game in some way or a stage performance. If you have the opportunity, give them VIP access at your event, offer complimentary tickets. Maybe it's just two tickets or a whole table. The ideas are limitless. Just keep in mind that you don't want the benefits to outweigh the sponsorship value.