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How to Plan an Event That Inspires Guests

How to Plan an Event That Inspires Guests

If you’ve ever planned an event, you’ve likely realized the challenge of planning a fun agenda while ensuring guests leave knowing the purpose of the occasion.

Putting on a good party isn’t enough to inspire guests to get involved, and most importantly, inspire them to give.

Here are some tips for planning an event that guides your guests through getting to know the mission and vision of your organization – and inspire them to play an active role!

Have a “Game Plan”

Greet guests with an outline of the activities and expectations for the event. This is best done with a program book they receive upon checking in. This will show them the order of events for the evening. But more than just letting them know when cocktail hour ends and dinner begins, this is an opportunity to tell them about the various “stations” and activities you have planned that they can take part in to learn more about your organization. When guests know what to expect, that are more likely to notice – and remember – the important elements of your event.

Highlight Each of Your Core Programs

Group your organization’s services and initiatives into 3-5 program areas. Then plan stations and activities throughout your event (yes, the ones that you should highlight in your “game plan”) that guide guests to learn more about your program areas through interactive experiences.

Make it Visual

Use signage, posters and any other visual element to grab guests’ attention. A unique item that represents a core program area is an opportunity to spark a conversation and answer questions. From centerpieces to the decorations on your stage or podium, there are so many ways in which you can incorporate visual elements. For guests who are visual learners, this is one more way to ensure you make a mark on them!

Make it a Game

Present the activities at your event like a game or a scavenger hunt and challenge guests to partake in as many activities as possible. They can earn points, stickers or stamps to track their progress and compete against fellow guests to earn as many as possible. This gives your event a purpose and your guests a goal!

Offer Incentives

In theme with the game-like activities, you should incentivize guests to step outside their comfort zone and interact with your “learning stations” throughout the event. The best way to do this is to offer a prize! You could reward the first guest to complete all activities or have every guest who earns so many points enter their name in a drawing for a grand prize. Think about what would motivate your audience and what type of prize they’d really want to win.

Leave Guests with a Clear Call to Action

Finally and most importantly, be sure your guests leave the event with a clear call to action. Do you want them to volunteer? Maybe you want them to donate? Or maybe you simply want them to spread the word about what you do? Make sure it’s clear to them how you want them to help. Include this call to action in your closing remarks, at the end of your printed program book and, if applicable, give them something on the way out the door so that they remember the action you want them to take.

Do you have another tip to share? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!

 

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My Personal Experience with Personal Fundraising: Tips to Help You Reach Your Goals

I am very grateful for my generous supporters who helped me exceed my personal fundraising goal--But I definitely had to work for it!

I am very grateful for my generous supporters who helped me exceed my personal fundraising goal–But I definitely had to work for it!

On Saturday, August 9th I took on a difficult challenge that pulled me outside my comfort zone. The physical endurance was only one aspect that made this experience unlike anything I’ve ever done. The personal fundraising for a charitable cause was completely new to me as well.

As I wrote in my blog explaining the GORUCK challenge, personally asking for donations isn’t something I’m comfortable with. I’m not used to not being in complete control of reaching my goals. Usually, it’s solely my hard work and efforts that earn me the prize.

From this whole experience, I walked away with quite a few new skills I never knew I had in me. One of which is my ability to set a fundraising goal – and exceed it. With the help of family and friends, I raised more than $1,200 for rare disease research. This was $950 more than I thought I was capable of receiving. What did I do to reach my goal? Here are some of the techniques I found to be most effective for personal fundraising:

Carefully choose your fundraising goal

In order to reach a goal, you have to first set one. I underestimated how important this number truly was for my own fundraising. If your goal is too small, donors may choose to give you a smaller amount than they would have it was twice that amount. Additionally, once you reach that goal, you have less power behind your plea for donations – even if you wish to continue to raise funds beyond it.

On the flip side, too lofty of a goal can turn donors off and make them feel like their small donation is merely a drop in the bucket. So where’s the middle ground? First think of the “safe” number that comes to mind, the one that you know you could reach with only about 60% effort. I would suggest setting your goal at twice this amount. This makes donors – at any level – feel like they can contribute to your success. It also holds you own feet to the fire to not get complacent or lazy with your fundraising.

Be strategic with who you ask

Simply put, people must be asked. If you don’t provide your family and friends with the opportunity to easily make a donation, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. And as I preach with any other type of communication, you must be strategic. If you start asking every single person in your social network (even ones who you have no real relationship with) you’re bound to come off looking spammy and desperate. Let’s be honest, only a small fraction of these people will actually donate.

Save your time and effort by narrowing down a core list of people who have your back and have supported you throughout other moments in life. These are the people that deserve a quality solicitation and will most certainly have the greatest return on your investment.

Make it direct and personal – don’t rely on social media!

Once you’ve narrowed down who you want to ask, you need to make it personal and genuine. Simply sharing a link to your fundraising page on Facebook may garner a few “likes” and words of support, but it does nothing to compel people to make a donation. Your network is able to easily hide between the virtual curtain and don’t feel any personal pressure to support you.

Combat this by writing an email, a letter or picking up the phone. Craft your message directly to that person and the relationship you have with them. While your core “ask” may be the same, add in a paragraph or two that shows this is not a mass message.

Be strategic with the timing of your asks

If you ask too far in advance, you are likely to get the response of “Sure, I’ll support you.” But then these people don’t feel the need to make the donation immediately and the task gets lost among their more pressing to-dos.

You should make your first ask about one month in advance of your fundraising deadline. You can even use this as the reason why you’re contacting them at this time. This also allows enough time to go back and follow-up with these same people in a few weeks, if you don’t hear back.

Ask for specific amounts

Asking someone for a certain level of donation can be tricky, but it is also effective for closing the deal. This amount will vary for every person on your contact list. Consider their personal financial situation, how well they know you and whether they have supported you at a certain level in the past. Together, these pieces of information will direct you toward the appropriate amount to ask for.

Why this is so effective is because it can compel people who have the means to actually give at that level. Otherwise, they may make a smaller donation than you were expecting. Additionally, for contacts who have limited means, you can encourage them to donate by asking for just $5. The direct ask lets them know that this amount is what you expect and what you’d appreciate; it’s not too small to make a difference.

Give away something of value in return

Even though this is a charitable donation and the “warm fuzzies” should be a good enough reward, people still like to feel as though they’re getting something for their contributions. This does not have to be monetary or material. I wrote a blog on why I was fundraising and this allowed me to initiate the conversation again with my networks. Moreover, it gave deeper insight into why this cause is so important to me.

People want to know that this is something you truly believe in, that it’s something you are committed to and something that’s unique from anything else you may have asked them to support in the past. Share this by writing a story, hand making an item to raffle off or giving a small token of appreciation to every donor.

Stay organized

Remember that list of contacts I told you to put together? Do yourself a favor and put that in a spreadsheet. You can then track who you contacted, for what amount, on what date and note any correspondence you’ve had with them. This will show you the appropriate time to initiate a follow-up or another means of communication. This will also be a big help when it comes time to thank your donors.

Follow-up, follow-up!     

Use that organized spreadsheet as a tool to carefully time when and how you will follow-up with each person you contacted. Sending an email with no response and failing to follow-up is your own missed opportunity – not your donors’. Much like hiding behind the virtual curtain of social media, people can easily brush off a single email or voice mail solicitation. Sending one or more personalized follow-up messages makes it harder to ignore. A no is as good as a yes, and that’s all you’re asking for. If someone can’t donate, that’s fine. Ask until you receive a response either way (then track it on your spreadsheet).

Thank donors immediately AND post-event

Finally, show gratitude! Once you’re alerted that someone made a donation, immediately thank them with a quick message. Then, hand write (yes with a pen and paper) your formal, post-event thank you notes. I’m a big fan of including a picture from the event along with a personal message to each donor. This is such a critical step for completing the fundraising process. You may have already gotten what you wanted out of your donors, but remember that for any future fundraising efforts, they will likely be the same network you come back to and will remember this experience!

P.S…my fundraising page is still live and open for donations! It would be a missed opportunity not to ask, right?

Have you had the experience of personally fundraising for a charity or cause? Share what you found to work – and not work by commenting below!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Life

 

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At the Intersection of Passion and Purpose

10494784_10202231742782727_9108465356469470019_nOver the last two years, I’ve taken my casual relationship with running and turned it into something more dedicated and committed. I feel stronger than I ever have in my life as I embrace this newfound passion for pushing my limits and accomplishing what I had always deemed “too hard” or “too uncomfortable.”

My passion for running and fitness couldn’t have peaked at a less expected time in my life. For 9 months of the past two years, I spent pregnant with my first son. And for another 13 months, I spent recovering postpartum and juggling the schedule of a breastfeeding, cloth diapering, baby food making, Hybrid Mom. Though I had what could have been a laundry list of excuses to skip workouts, I found myself looking forward to this sacred time in my day where I could refocus and reprioritize even during life’s most challenging moments.

Fitness had always been a part of my life, but what has made this new chapter so different is that instead of working out because I hated my body, I was doing it because I loved my body. A run wasn’t something I drudged through just to check off my to-do list for the day. It was personal time that I savored for as long as I could, throwing on extra miles and pushing myself to run faster to make the most of my time pounding the pavement. I was starting to see amazing results, running consistently under 7:30 min/miles for runs of 8+ miles and feeling like I had barely tapped into my potential.

Then, just as it does every year, fall turned into winter and the bitter, icy conditions forced my outdoor running into hibernation. At first I missed it like a best friend that moved away. Then I went stir crazy. I was stuck in the house with my infant son all day with no desirable way for us both to burn off some energy. My husband was in tune to my frustration and how much my lack of physical fitness affected my mood. At first, he hinted and then strongly suggested I try at least ONE class at CrossFit Pneuma, a CrossFit gym located merely steps from where we live. It took several months (and several miserably cold road runs) to convince me that I needed another outlet to fuel my passion during the “off months.”

My first class took half the time of what I would spend running, yet I was out of breath, sore and unable to do even one more burpee (wasn’t that evil to start me off with those?). So THIS was High Intensity Interval Training?! For the past 8 months, my passion for both CrossFit and running have progressed as steadily as my performance. I’ve completed both crazy and impressive workouts and am no longer intimated by a barbell (I have the calluses on my hands to prove it). Even with the much anticipated return of warmer weather, I couldn’t imagine leaving the CrossFit community now. Running fuels my independent athleticism while CrossFit provides the element of teamwork that pushes me further than I ever would on my own.

This is only the back story of my personal passion that now leads me to a big decision I have made in the past several weeks. Staying in shape has made me a happier mother and wife and a harder working entrepreneur, but I still felt as though it was lacking an element of purpose considering all the time and effort I put into this passion on a daily basis. Do I have anything to show for it greater than myself? I struggled with this question.

Then an answer presented itself – and I now stand at the intersection of passion and purpose.

Photo from last year's GORUCK Challenge

Photo from last year’s GORUCK Challenge

On Saturday, August 9, right about the time the sunrises, I will join a small team of fellow inspired athletes as we partake in a GORUCK challenge. We will endure 5+ hours of PT under the direction of an experienced Special Operations Cadre as we complete “missions” across Pennsylvania’s capital city. We will walk 7-10 miles while carrying things like boulders, cement parking curbs and telephone poles. We will get wet, muddy, sandy and maybe even a little bloody. And we will do it all while wearing a backpack full of bricks. This is not a race – it’s about teamwork. It’s not about facing the limitations of what you can’t do – it’s about pushing through them to discover what you can.

Photo from last year's GORUCK Challenge

Photo from last year’s GORUCK Challenge

This event is a vehicle for me to take my passion for fitness and pair it with a purpose much greater than myself. Starting now and through the challenge, I will be fundraising for Uplifting Athletes, a national nonprofit that raises money for rare disease research. Read more about my very personal connection to this cause on my fundraising page.

Asking for donations (even for charitable giving) isn’t something I’m comfortable with. I’m not used to not being in complete control of reaching my goals. Usually, it’s solely my hard work and efforts that earn me the prize, but for this challenge, I’m relying on you, my family, friends and acquaintances to get me to the $1,000 mark. This is all the more reason why it’s so important for me to take on this challenge. It will push me outside my comfort zone physically, mentally and emotionally. And most importantly, it will prove that my passion can have a greater purpose.

Photo from last year's GORUCK Challenge

Photo from last year’s GORUCK Challenge

Please take a moment to visit my fundraising page. Any donation would be a generous show of support for this challenging adventure and for the rare disease community. If you’re unable to donate, consider simply reading more about the mission of Uplifting Athletes so that you might be inspired to find a way to uplift someone around you who is fighting their own battle.

Together…WE ARE…Stronger!

-Stephanie

 
8 Comments

Posted by on July 28, 2014 in Life

 

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