Nonprofit Insurance Program

How to Plan your Next Special Event

By Alexa Connelly
February 20, 2013

Planning an event for a non-profit requires a great deal of forethought to ensure profitability. The first step is to determine if you would like a large gathering with tickets priced low or a small gathering with tickets priced high. A great way to make this decision is to take a good look at the volunteers who give their time to your organization. Volunteers often spread the word to friends about events so if your volunteers can afford to pay upwards of $100 per ticket, they will encourage their friends to purchase tickets as well. If your volunteers have more modest means, it is best to price the tickets lower so they can buy tickets and encourage their friends to come along.

Once the decision has been made regarding whether the price will be high or low, it is time to evaluate if food is going to be served. If you would like to have an event where a meal is served, but tickets are only $30 or $40, a buffet will suffice. If you are charging more than $100 per ticket, a multi-course sit-down meal is a better option. However, no matter how much you charge, you are not required to have a meal. You can charge $100 for a ticket to a formal cocktail party in which only drinks and appetizers are served. You can also charge for wine tastings, which will require only minimal offerings such as cheese plates. The decision of what food to serve can mean the difference between events that makes money for your organization or an event that drains your nonprofit’s budget.

After the food has been decided upon, you must consider activities for the event’s participants. You do not have to incorporate your nonprofit’s mission into the events, but it should always be in a background. For example, if you have a nonprofit that helps rescue pets from high-kill shelters, you can host your event at a roller-skating rink if you so desire. However, you must make sure that your message about rescuing pets is somehow incorporated into the event. Perhaps all of the skates have neon-colored shoelaces with the name of your nonprofit printed on them. Perhaps people can go up to the disc jockey booth and request songs on behalf of their favorite adopted pet. Be creative, but do not let your message get lost in all of the excitement.

The next step is to figure out in which publications to market your event. If this is going to be a swanky affair, you need to purchase an advertisement in the local luxury magazine. If tickets are cheap, you should be able to advertise in the weekly newspapers for your city. When you call to get quotes for how much your advertisement will cost, be sure to mention that you are representing a nonprofit organization. Sometimes the publication’s marketing department will offer a discount.

Planning an event for a nonprofit can be stressful, and recruiting help can alleviate some of the pressure on your shoulders. But as the leader, you must remember to be positive so that people will want to come to the event.

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