Events and nonprofits seem to go hand in hand.  Events are an invaluable way to raise funds and often the only significant approach nonprofits can take to raise critical unrestricted revenue.  Events are a reflection of the success of the organization, and the way they are planned and executed are a result of the culture and philosophy of the organization.

We just wrapped up our 12th Annual Legends of the Ball in Boston. The event was our most fruitful one yet—our revenue was up 50% over last year, attendance increased 57% and we had record sponsorships.  By all financial metrics, it was a great success.  But did our donors feel good about supporting our organization?  Did we engage their interest to keep them involved? That is the ultimate goal.  With that in mind, here is how we approach our event strategy.

– Fewer, bigger, better: With limited resources, efficiency is critical, and that translates to events, just like every other area of our business. Can we do everything we need to accomplish at one or two events, instead of many?  At this point, we believe we can.

– Execution is everything: We have a reputation for excellent execution, and we believe that translates to how we manage events.  Setting clear goals and putting a plan together to meet them is critical.

– Turn the Tables: Realize your Board, Host Committee, and guests have limited time, money, and energy. Make it easy for them to support you and make every interaction with them meaningful.

– Learn: Ask for feedback.  We sent a survey to our guests after the event and got a very strong return rate. Be willing to hear the good and the bad, and be willing to adapt and improve.

– Innovate: Add something new and innovative every year to keep the event fresh for attendees. One year it was a surprise flash mob that received rave reviews, the next we incorporated mobile auction bidding to fully capitalize on the competitive spirit in the room.

These guidelines apply not only to our event strategy but our overall organizational strategy, and the growth we’ve seen in both areas has been significant.  We’ll continue to adapt along the way, but as we do we will make sure it always aligns with our ultimate goals for Good Sports.  We are now off and running on our 7th Annual Legends of the Ball in Chicago and expect the same guiding principles will help fuel our growth in that market as well.

Here is a recap of the Boston event, which we think helps to demonstrate the energy and excitement of our donors in the room.

– Christy Keswick, COO