Special Events: Can’t Live With ‘Em, Can’t Live Without ‘Em

Face it: some point your organization is going to have to host a special event. It might be a meeting for the Board of Directors, a staff pizza party, an annual gala, or something in between. No matter what kind of event it is, it will take extra resources and skills that likely aren’t part of your everyday operations.

It might feel like you have to pull those resources out of thin air, especially if you’re a small or startup nonprofit in a budget crunch. Fortunately, there are ways to make an event run smoothly without spending a lot of money, abandoning all of your other work, or completely overwhelming your staff.

Thank your staff and acknowledge their extra efforts frequently and publicly.

  1. Plan events with purpose. Like everything else, your events should be mission-oriented. An animal rights nonprofit would probably do much better with an adoption day at the local shelter than family day at the zoo. You also want your events to complement your other programs. Don’t host a Fun Run if you’re trying to raise money for the swim team–swim laps for charity instead!
  2. Check your calendar. Do you have to prepare and submit an application for a major chunk of your general operating funds every year on July 5? If so, you definitely don’t want to plan a big Independence Day party. Your work plan has to accommodate your events schedule and vice versa. I recently worked on a project where I had to recruit classroom teachers for a focus group. It should have been easy, but my client insisted on bringing the group together for a weekday lunch meeting. The focus group ultimately flopped, of course, because classroom teachers can’t leave their jobs at noon on a Wednesday.
  3. Value your staff’s time and energy. Every event puts additional demands on your staff. (Yes, even the pizza party.) If you have more than one employee, try to divide the responsibilities for the event according to each employee’s particular skill set. Be more flexible with other programs and deadlines. Thank your staff and acknowledge their extra efforts frequently and publicly.

Does your organization need guidance with special events? Contact me for a free initial consultation.