From Stale to Stunning: When to Rethink or Re-invent Your Event

Written by A-mazing Events on April 26, 2017

An area non-profit organization held a holiday boutique shopping event for 14 years. In the first few years, the idea was considered innovative and exciting. Women (in particular) flocked to the elegant meal and boutique booths to support a worthy cause and to see and be seen. Volunteers were energized and many saw their work as both charitable and a whole lot of fun.

Fourteen years later, the original volunteers have aged and many have stepped back from their responsibilities or even passed away. The next generation of attendees hasn’t shown the same level of interest, and many more similar boutique shopping events have crowded the non-profit fundraising scene. Vendors are backing out because they don’t make enough profit to make their time and travel worthwhile, thus the event is in a downward spiral.

Have you stopped attending an annual event because it seems to have gone a bit stale? Are you concerned that your agency’s fundraising event isn’t going to hit its fundraising goals, or you need to actively pursue attendees to generate a “buzz” when it’s starting to feel a bit bland?

There are both objective and subjective measures to gauge the lifespan of your event. At A-mazing Events, our goal is to help clients benchmark key statistics from year to year. We can then help them change or re-invent their special occasion to keep it fun and interesting for their guests.

Data-Driven Measures:

  • Calculate the Net Cost to Raise a Dollar

Calculate direct costs (food, venue, invitations, and entertainment) and indirect costs (committee time, board time, and staffing resources) needed to execute the event. Determine the net revenue from the event, and then calculate the net cost to raise a dollar. The standard appropriate cost to raise a dollar should come in around 20 cents. Here is the equation:

Total Expenses (direct + indirect costs) ÷ Net Revenue (gross revenue – total expenses)

An example follows:

$80,000 direct expenses + $16,000 indirect expenses = $96,000 total expenses

$210,000 gross revenue – $96,000 total expenses = $114,000 net revenue

$96,000 total expenses ÷ $114,000 net revenue = $.842 per dollar raised goes toward your cause (and thus, about $.15 for every dollar raised goes toward fundraising expenses, which falls in the acceptable range.)

  • Talk to Your Vendors

Survey the vendors who provide the food, drink, and entertainment. They will have valuable insights into how people interacted with them as servers and entertainers. “Most plates were sent back clean. They loved the food!” Or “You hired a band, but this crowd didn’t get up and dance. Maybe live instrumental music during dinner next year?”  These are all the equivalent of data points on your scale of success.

  • Social and Media Buzz

Did you generate shares on social media? How did your event hashtag perform? Were there photos posted during the event from attendees? In this era, any fundraising event must have an active and engaged life on social media.

  • Ticket Tally

How many tickets have been sold, and how does that number differ year-to-year? Have sponsorships fallen off, or are they getting harder to secure?

Word-of-Mouth Measures:

  • Talk to Attendees

Don’t rely entirely on paper surveys or online feedback requests. Call a number of people—from all walks of life—who attended your event and have a conversation about their impressions. Learn what was cool and what they thought was a bit klutzy.

  • Revealing Relationships

Did a key backer step forward in support, either in the planning stages or at the event itself? Do you have reason to believe that this new relationship will help the event blossom in the future? Develop this connection further while the affinity is fresh.

  • Mission is Critical

An expertly planned and produced event shows your guests you are serious about their time, the work you do as an agency, and the way you spend money in support of your mission. If the energy in the room is waning, it’s time to carefully examine the way the world sees your event, and by extension, your charitable cause.

Are you interested in boosting your attendance or re-energizing your long-established event? The staff at A-mazing Events can help you plan anything from a small team-building excursion all the way to an expo hall packed with professionals. Contact us at 920-788-3000 or j.reader@a-mazingevents.com to kick off a friendly creative discussion.

Written by Patty Hoffman of A-mazing Events

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