Over the past few weeks I’ve had the privilege of being a guest at some incredible charity events. While the two events I went to were for quite different organisations; one was a young, start up organisation and the other a long standing well recognised community group, I noticed a few similarities at the events that contributed to their success.
First, let’s have a look at the two events and their differences. The first event was hosted by CareFlight Rescue, an organisation over 30 years old, while the second was in aide of One Girl, an organisation founded on three years ago. The CareFlight event was a gala ball, sit down dinner; the One Girl event was a cocktail style stand up function. The first had over 400 guests, the second had just over 100. I’m sure you’re beginning to see that some of the differences were quite vast.
Now let’s have a look at the similarities. I think it is here, you will find, what makes a successful event can be achieved by any organisation no matter what your size or history.
1. Food and festivities
People like to eat, in fact, they expect to eat good food at an event. And for many guests the food plays a big part in the evaluation of their enjoyment of an event. At these two events the food was great! The gala ball event was circus themed so upon arrival guests were greeted with fairy floss and popcorn to help get them in the spirit. It was fun and a novelty, and along with some canapes helped fill any hungry stomachs before the main event. One Girl had an constant stream of tasty cocktail food at their event. People also like to be entertained. While acrobats and aerial artists wowed crowds at the circus, African drumming and other unique musicians proved popular at the smaller event.
2. Unique and useful prizes
Most of the revenue raised through fundraising events comes from auctions and raffles so it’s important to ensure you have some excellent prizes. While some people still like memorabilia type items, more and more charities are finding great success with unique or useful prizes. Experiences are good; some at these recent events were a chef cooking a dinner party at your home, a guided tour through parliament house by an MP and a VIP tour of Google’s Australian HQ in Sydney. Useful prizes are practical things like travel books, cleaning vouchers and car services – things that people can logically convince themselves they need.
3. Elicit Emotions
Sharing the story of why you exist is an important aspect of an excellent event so you need to be sure you are well placed to tell it to your captive audience. By telling a story about someone you have helped will help pull at the heart strings of your guests and hopefully will leave them more connected with your cause. CareFlight had a carefully prepared DVD that told of the importance of their work through the eyes of three patients whose lives were saved by the service. At the One Girl event they had a special guest speaker, a young woman who had escaped the war in Sierra Leone as a child and came to Australia. She highlighted in a most poignant way the importance of education for girls in Africa. Clever and creative use of bamboo and rubber snake props in the bathrooms at the function gave guests an experience to learn about the perils African students face when at school if proper toilet facilities are not built.
So, it doesn’t matter if your organisation is only a few years old you can make your event a sensational success by ensuring you get a few key things right. And, another very important thing that isn’t actually specific to the night, but is crucial nonetheless, is planning. Both CareFlight and One Girl had a dedicated team intricately planning their events for many months in advance. I would recommend at least six months of planning wherever possible.
Have you been involved in any great charity events? What made them so wonderful? Would love to hear your successes.
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick.