When people come to special events supporting The Cleveland Play House, a Cleveland-based organization that produces professional-level plays and conducts theater-focused training and educational programs, they expect drama and something spectacular, says Judy Comeau-Hart, director of development for the play house. Given that fact and the incredible competition that Comeau-Hart says exists when it comes to special events, the organization spares no expense for decorations and food.
“You have to make it spectacular so that people will look forward to coming every year,” she says.
Special events are not the most effective way to raise funds, Comeau-Hart says. They’re actually the least efficient fundraising method, in her opinion. But she says they are extremely important in terms of getting the organization out into the public view.
“The reason you do special events is for the visibility and the publicity it gets you in the paper and in the social columns and the fact that it often will attract people who normally may not visit your organization,” she says.
A special event might be the first time an individual encounters your organization, so it’s a good opportunity to present who you are and what you do in the best possible light.
“Since we’re about theater, it’s about drama and it’s about creativity,” she adds.
The drama not only grabs people’s interest and gets them looking forward to events, it has helped shape and become a part of The Cleveland Play House’s brand.
To capitalize on the power of that branding, Comeau-Hart says the play house makes it a point to hold all of its events on site. “We’re in a 300,000-square-foot complex, and we have four stages and we always host our event at the play house because the idea is to get people into our building.”
The play house’s events have a pretty loyal following, but the organization also strives to recruit new attendees. Comeau-Hart says special-events recruitment is all about word of mouth. The organization relies on its board and the event’s benefit committee, both of which should be made up of individuals capable of recruiting people to events. In the case of its gala dinner, each of these individuals hosts a table and is responsible for selling seats at their table, a strategy that she says is beginning to be very successful.
Judy Comeau-Hart can be reached via www.clevelandplayhouse.com