5 mistakes to avoid when organising charity events.
Updated: Jan 24, 2019
This is it. The BIG one. The event you've been dreaming up, which is going to smash all income records and cost next to nothing. You just know it's a winner.
It's actually really sad to see the devastating effect on Bahamians and other event stakeholders, some of whom gambled everything they had, to be a part of the next big thing - that never was.
It's so easy to believe the hype isn't it? Event worse, believe your own hype without being checked as they did at #Fyre. 'Event' is a broad definition for a multitude of activities that can have many objectives. Without defining these from the very beginning, it's easy to get drawn in different directions that dilute your message, don't maximise opportunity to make money and see attrition rates for participants, donors or volunteers rise. I'm sure you will never have to worry about global denouncement and world-wide outcry for anything on the scale of #FyreFestival epic fail, but I've highlighted a by-no-means exhaustive list of 5to1 considerations when organising your next event.
Mistakes #5: So what, who cares?
Early on in my charity career, when I was deep into the design process of defining outcomes, experience, key messages and budgets for an event, a valued mentor simply reminded me to ask the question of "so what?", and even sharper, then came the question "who cares?" I was lost in the hype. I got carried away. I went back to the drawing board, both metaphorically and physically and asked myself the same two questions about everything I wrote, sketched and scribbled down so I could answer those critical questions of "who cares?" and "so what"?
Mistakes #4: Message
The budget is nearly there, the target audience is perfect, the date is pencilled in the diary and you've got so much you want to say about your amazing event... Remind yourself what the primary objective was from the very beginning and then test it. Ask others outside of the event management team/organisation to tell you what your event 'says' or what message is it that they see? Do the colours, tone, text and images define your message or not? You get the raw feedback you might feel uncomfortable about, but that will in the long-run be critical to delivering your primary message and a successful event.
Mistakes #3: Time
Plan your planning. Map out a timeline that accounts for sickness, bad weather, stakeholders pulling out and any other eventuality that 'could never happen' to you. What's your plan B?
If it's a first-time event, double your allotted time on researching similar events, finding contractors (and obtaining references), venue stakeholders and other providers that are critical to the event going ahead. A common mistake is to allow too much time to promote your event that is not matched against key milestones or objectives. You don't want your event to become wall paper, or too distant to be compelling for participants to sign up. Spending your organisation's or your own money on ads, leaflets, posters and digital is wasted if you're not in the right place at the right time, with a clear idea of your target audience.
Mistake #2: Calculating Success
Is your success target the number of participants that sign up, the money raised or the media profile you generate the most important success factor, or is it all three? The latter certainly came back to bite all those at #Fyre. Defining your success factors from the beginning helps clarify your message, determine your audience and set out meaningful planning and sustainable objectives. Under-promising and over-delivering is not a phrase I'm keen on, but I understand the principle. I would rather have a realistic matrix of success factors that are clear from the beginning and measured as you go - there should be no surprises!
Mistake #1: Data is King
It's not! Controversial I know, but in reality data is only ever as good as the output - what you do with it. If the right opt-in questions aren't asked at the beginning, you might end up with tonnes of data that tells you zero about the participants connection with your organisation, or how well your marketing worked. With GDPR at the forefront of everyone's mind, responsible data collection is not just about collecting emails, names, addresses and telephone numbers. The data you collect from your event participants both in advance and at the event itself, should help you tell a story about your supporter or event participant. Participant data must form a part of their wider 'donor journey' and identify the potential to support you in the future.
Thanks for reading. Get in touch if you'd like to talk about your event planning, creation or delivery. Call me on 07814 939230 or email firstname.lastname@example.org