October 18, 2010

events, events, events

As you all may know, the Literacy Coalition hosts an awesomely fun early springtime event called Austin's Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee for Literacy.  If you don't know anything about this event, really - you are missing out!  A uniquely Austin event, the Bee supports the important cause of literacy while also providing an uproariously fun time to all of those involved.  Businesses enter teams of 3 spelling adults who compete against other corporate teams on the main stage at Austin Music Hall, all while wearing funny and amazingly creative costumes.  You'd be surprised how some of these teams manage to spell ridiculously difficult words!  If you haven't heard of it, you should definitely check it out on our website.

I've gone off on a tangent, so back to my original reason for this post: events.  When I started this gig, we only had our hallmark big spelling bee, three satellite spelling bees, and our key advocacy event Literacy Day at the Capitol held every other year during legislative sessions.  All of our events happened between February and April.  Since I've come on board, though, we've been adding some events.  We host a 'getting to know us' event (sometimes more than once a month), are starting up Happy Hour Spelling Bees once a month (more information about those to come!), are hosting another fall fundraising event focused on individual donors, and thinking about adding more...  And let me tell you, it's a lot of work  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE events.  Really, I love them.  However, I do think there is such a thing as being overstretched.

On that note, I've gathered some words of wisdom and tips for non-profit events. Here are just a few things you should think about before you decide to take on a new event:

1. What is my goal?  Do we want to raise a lot of money? Or do we want to just increase our visibility in the community?  Be sure and make a goal!  This will help the events coordinator and events committee stay on track.

2. What will this cost the organization?  Does your organization have policies about what makes an event "worth it"?  Some organizations don't hold an event unless it's completely underwritten by donations and sponsorships, so that the org can yield 100% profit.  Are there things that could be donated to help reduce the cost to the organization?  Ultimately, with your organization's money and staff time, this will help you evaluate whether or not your event idea is really worth it.

3. How will you promote the event?  For some events, promotion is everything.  If you don't promote your event effectively, you might have just wasted a lot of time and money on something that will not benefit the organization in the end.  Before you start heavily planning, evaluate your organization's connections for promotions.  Do you have the money to print invitations or flyers?  How will people learn about the event?  Would a logical partnership make promotions a lot easier?  (For example, does your cause align with a local sorority or fraternity's philanthropy goals?  If so, get them involved to bring in the college crowd!  This could be a useful partnership to get volunteers, too.)

Here are some helpful websites that give great tips and things to think about:

And, the internet can be your best friend... if your organization has an idea for a unique event, Google the idea and:
  1. Make sure another organization isn't already doing that 'unique' event in your area
  2. Look into what other cities are doing and learn from their mistakes and successes
  3. Learn as much as you can about other general tips for non-profit events!

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