Ginny Cooper of The Cooper Group opened PR Pro Bono Day with a presentation on her area of expertise: Events.
In Lee County, there are more than 2,100 nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations, with another 1,800+ operating in Collier County. Clearly, there is a lot of competition for donor dollars.
A quick look at the Gulfshore Life charity register reveals 326 major fundraisers in our area, most of which are held during the high season months, all battling for the attention of donors.
How to compete?
Be daring, be different, and be diligent.
Be Daring: Don't be afraid to strike out and do something our area has never seen.
- The Red Cross "Star Struck" dance competition was the first of its kind in our area, and has been duplicated many times. Cooper helped the Red Cross create "star" themed silent auction packages, and the creative merchandising of the packages brought in 30% more profit.
- The PACE Grand Dames Tea was another new, one-of-a-kind event. Cooper suggests that the event itself shouldn't be the only fundraiser, and that you should continue the opportunities for giving beyond the event.
- Another PACE event, Love That Dress, allows people to create ownership in the event by donating dresses and by hosting dress donation parties.
- Take a different approach. Even though more than 10% of our local fundraisers listed in the Charity Register are Golf Tournaments, it's possible to make even a common-sounding event stand out. Several years ago, the Lifetime Family Center started a Golf Marathon, which allowed people to play as many holes as possible and take pledges from supporters to raise funds.
- Use a different theme. The golf marathon was during the peak of the series "Survivor," and the tournament was branded using a "Survivor" theme, with mini events and challenges, survival-themed gifts, and even a million-dollar hole in one competition.
- Find a way to stand out. Eleven years ago, when VHS tapes were the medium of choice, the Edison Ford Gala was the talk of the town by issuing their invitations on videotape.
- Never assign yourself an event duty. Instead, delegate responsibilities, and allow yourself to check in to make sure things are being accomplished the way you want.
- Plan everything way in advance. Prepare your timeline by starting with the event date and working backwards. For example, know when you need the number of guests for the caterer, and set your RSVP date at least a full week before that. Make sure guests receive their invitations at least 3-4 weeks before the RSVP date. Prepare the rest of your timeline accordingly.
- Know that there will be problems. (and just hope that they're ones that your guests won't notice)
- Never run out of food and drink (and chances are, your guests won't notice the problems if they're still well-fed).
Sponsorships: Sponsors get involved for one of three reasons- either for cause marketing, for image building, or because they're devoted to their communities.
The sponsors have three primary expectations. First, they expect to get a 3-to-1 return on their investment. Second they don't require (and often don't want) tickets to the event. Third, they do want proof of performance after the event, in the form of testimonials, photos, screenshots, copies of ads and articles, and more.
Caterers: When you're shopping for a caterer, make sure you're comparing apples to apples. In other words, present them with a menu and a budget, and see what they're able to do with it. If everyone is presenting you with different menus and different prices, you'll never truly know which is the best value.
Event Management: Cooper reminds to not forget permits and codes when preparing your event-- especially if you're in a nontraditional location. You don't want the fire marshal shutting down your event. In addition, she cautions to write everything down, because you have a lot to remember, not only for this year's event but for future events. Also, remember to budget carefully and always allow a 10% contingency.
Thanks to Ginny Cooper of The Cooper Group for helping our guests learn how to make the most of their events at PR Pro Bono Day!