Don’t put ’em to sleep or tick ’em off – Make sure your event attendees get what they want

The October 7 edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports on a new study on how organizations are working hard to make sure their special events and galas measure up to donor expectations while still accomplishing their overall goal – raising needed funds.   Organizations are going out of their way to create a memorable and – hopefully – special experience that will set their event apart from the numerous events being held this time of year.  This is especially challenging here in Washington or in other large cities such as New York, Chicago, Houston or Los Angeles, where there are wall-to-wall events, galas and benefits.

The Chronicle article focused on a study conducted by CharityHappenings.org, an organization that sells tickets to charity events.  They asked 850 event attendees across the country about what they thought when it came to event logistics, format, ticket prices, venues, menus and invitations.  It gave gala-goers a chance to weigh in on how they view their own experiences with these types of events.  One lesson: Be careful not to try to do too much, or you will wear out all of those good feelings your guests might be having…even with those glasses of champagne.  This usually starts to happen when the presentations and speeches begin.  Your annual gala might be your first, best or only opportunity to get your organization’s message in front of so many people, but you’ve got to think about your audience and their experience.  To use the words of CharityHappenings chief Justin Baer says, “Like every great sales pitch, it should be fast, lean and targeted.”

You can get a free copy of the 2010 Charity Event Market Research report at the CharityHappenings website.

Some interesting – but in some cases not surprising  – findings:

  • The biggest complaint about events and galas – long speeches!
  • The amount of the ticket price that most respondents felt should be going to the organization – 75%
  • The time during which most people buy their tickets – 1 to 2 weeks in advance
  • One of the least motivating factors in why they attended an event – celebrity appearances
  • Percentage of event attendees who say they prefer galas to have some sort of “theme” – 66% (2 out of 3)
  • The most popular nosh – sushi (no more scallops wrapped in bacon…)

So take some time and think about your upcoming gala, auction or benefit.  Consider carefully the experience you’re providing to your attendees.  Use the CharityHappenings survey to fine tune your approach.  Yours might just be the event everyone said, “Were you there??  You should have been!!”

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Filed under Events and Activities, From the Field & In the Trenches

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