Was Your Recent Nonprofit Special Event Well Attended?
Like all of us in this industry, we are invited to many nonprofit special events every month. These events represent breakfasts, luncheons and dinners that contain elements of meetings, seminars, lectures, receptions and other activities. Think about how much staff time and special event coordination is used to prepare a long list of items needed for a special event to succeed.
For a special event to be perfect, many elements need to be in sync. One major success indicator is actual attendance at these events. In the last month alone, I attended a variety of nonprofit organizational events where I was completely surprised at the number of empty seats and no-shows. I learned that in every event case, many invitations were sent. The fact is many potential attendees did not attend. Is this a behavioral trend that all of us should be worried about in our planning? If so, what can we do to stimulate attendance at special events?
According to EventStant, attendance at events does not happen just by magical thinking. There are certain things you can do to increase attendance at your next event.
Think of these elements in your planning cycle:
- Generate excitement—mention the event to your target market.
- Send a calendar date—tell about the event, when it is to be held, etc.
- Credibility is important—choose your guest speakers carefully.
- Show your track record—show previous attendees and testimonial data.
- Include the main benefit in the name of your event—so attendees know they are getting.
- Now you can send out a detailed invitation—send electronically with a personal note.
- Make phone calls to those who were sent invitations—spread out this assignment.
- Highlight the event on your website—create relevant details here.
- Make sure your website has a URL—for instant response.
- Visit blogs and websites that may have readers interested in your event—entice comment.
- Mention your event on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
According to The Balance, the most important step to overcoming fears about lack of attendance at an event or to increase the RSVP list is to recognize that people really do enjoy attending well-executed seminars and other events. Elements to guarantee event attendance re having a great agenda, which focuses on a single theme; select a venue that is near most attendees; select a venue where attendees would enjoy themselves; and a venue that is experienced in hosting special events. Invite people early and follow up. Use the phone and call those on your prospective RSVP list. Excite attendees about the event.
Planning Pod understands that poor turnouts at a special event are very deflating. Keep in mind that people procrastinate to the last minute to RSVP. Many times, half of an event registration comes in within 2 weeks or less of the actual event, so your goal is to push those RSVPs/registrations earlier.
Weemss provides a question for every event planner to answer. The question is will people attend my event?
Seven key ideas that is needed for enhanced attendance are:
- Pick a venue close to your attendees.
- Build an event website to maximize conversations.
- Compile an email list of interested prospects.
- Promote your event on social media.
- Convert prospects with email marketing.
- Run a post-event survey.
- Thank everyone and showcase user-generated content.
Was your recent special event totally successful? If you had the attendance you hoped for, the answer is yes. If you missed the attendance mark, the answer might be no. You can see from the various writers in this blog, several suggested ideas repeat the same ideas to generate special event attendance. I suggest you have a special event critique meeting with key internal and external stakeholders. Determine a solid game plan to make your next special event a smashing success with an emphasis on attaining attendance goals. If you take away one major point from this blog post, personally contact every invited person on your event invitation wish list to see if they received the invitation, and, if so, do they plan to attend?
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy.