October, 2018: Immaculata, PA: The Exton Region Chamber of Commerce held its fourth in the series of the “Creating Truly Engaging Events,” sponsored by Fox Rothschild LLP and My Benefit Advisor on Friday, October 19. The discussion was moderated by Bill Friedmann, Blue Dog Printing and Design.
The expert panel was comprised of local professionals: Catherine Friedman, Executive Director of Friends Association; Ed Hart, Whitford Charitable Fund Chair; Mary Beth Henley, Director of Events at the WCU Foundation; and Rebekah Ulmer, Director of Operations at Team CMMD.
Each panel member had different viewpoints, challenges, and overall takeaways when it comes to large-scale events. Some of the key points are noted below:
- Cost: Try to keep your expenses in the 25 to 30% range in comparison to the entire event. If you can reduce, reuse, and recycle facets of the event year-after-year, this will help to decrease expenses. Related to expenses, make sure you are still having the “Is it worth it?” conversation. Most organizations do not like to think about the number of staff hours contributed to the event, but that time & energy should be taken into consideration. Lastly, success depends on what’s being communicated; is everyone on the same page?
- Volunteers: Be clear on the roles you want to fill and what you want to have done; these parameters must be communicated. People truly want to be told what to do in a volunteer-type situation; even high-level executives. If volunteers are difficult for you to find or perhaps the “right volunteers,” try to redirect these individuals to other tasks. You need to decide if you are having a working volunteer task list or if their help is a work in progress.
- Uniqueness: There needs to be an interactive element to your event; get the audience involved! This can be something that exceeds expectations, surprises you, or moves you. Attendees want to feel like they are a part of something, while also feeling informed. You and your team should have the conversation of “how can we change this event?” often and check out other events. While ticket prices may be high and not in your organization’s budget, think of it as an investment to do research on what other events are out there.
- Keynote Speaker or Lack Thereof: Let the people impacted tell your story. This may not be achievable for some organizations in the human services field. It is very important to protect and preserve the dignity of these individuals. Some donors have unrealistic expectations of wanting to “watch a family open up Christmas gifts they’ve donated,” which is just not possible. Continue to pepper in a reminder as to why everyone is at the event in the best ways you can illustrate.
- Event Timing: Individuals on the panel and audience had varying experiences related to electronic bidding software. The positive experiences noted that attendees are really driven by the electronic bidding and receiving the alert that they’ve been outbid. Some suggestions for software include 501 auctions and gesture. Another aspect of the electronic auction that were successful include the “Buy it Now” option, which allows attendees to purchase an item directly. In terms of the live appeal, it is very helpful to have a charismatic speaker and determine the best time to engage your guests. While a seated dinner seems like the best time to begin the appeal, you’ll have to figure out the most ideal time for your own event.
The Exton Region Chamber of Commerce is proud to support member nonprofits with an Interactive Speaker Series that will help their organizations meet the needs of their mission. Special thanks to the members of the Non Profit Council who bring us “In the Know for NPO’s.”
Don’t miss the next panel discussion in the series on Friday, January 11, 2018 at 8:00 am at the Chester County Library in Exton, PA. Please note the location change! The next topic is “Utilizing Community Foundations.”