Found an important cause that needs some support? With the help of event management expert Jeff Wrathall, Luke Ryan has put together some tips for running a shindig with heart.
FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION You may know what or who you want to raise money or awareness for – now you need to work out how. Chugging back drinks with your mates might hit the spot on most occasions, but when there's an important cause involved, it pays to think more creatively. You could throw a silent auction, have a bake sale, stage a rally, put on a trivia night or host a clothes swap. You just have to ask yourself some key questions: who is this directed towards? What effect do I want this event to have? And most importantly, how does my chosen format help to tell a story about the cause I care about?
KNOW YOUR CAUSE You know when your mate ‘gifts’ you a bunch of their old junk you don’t actually want? Well, don’t surprise your chosen charity or not-for-profit by handing them a bunch of donations they don’t need. Take the time to get them onside. Reach out to them, explain what you're thinking and take on board any feedback they might have. Just because they're a charity, doesn't mean they'll automatically want their branding attached to your event. Having said that, most will be thrilled by your efforts and attention. Foster a good relationship and they might even help you out with collateral, advice and publicity. (Don't underestimate the power of a not-for-profit's email list!)
DETAILS ARE YOUR FRIEND There are two key components to running an effective charitable event. First, you have to believe in the importance of what you're doing. Second, you have to have flawless attention to detail. Resist the urge to say, "We'll work that out later." Create giant spreadsheets that contain every conceivable task and ensure you know who's doing what, when – and how much it's going to cost.
MARKETING IS NOT A DIRTY WORD But it sure can feel dirty at the time. When it comes to getting people through the door, you've got to be both creative and persistent. Start with a core group of friends, family and co-workers and move out from there. Don't presume they've seen your Facebook post or Instagram story. Reach out to people individually and tell them how much you'd like them to be at your event. If you're throwing a bigger do, ask them to help spread the word. Then, when it gets closer to the date, start doing follow-ups. Just remind yourself it's all in aid of a good cause; no one is going to begrudge you a little persistence.
ATMOSPHERE IS EVERYTHING Many an event has been ruined by harsh overhead lighting, an insufficient sound system or a room built to accommodate five times the number of people than are actually there. No matter how well you've conceptualised your event and planned your runsheet, if the atmosphere isn't right, people will feel uncomfortable, and uncomfortable people are rarely receptive to new ideas. That means they’ll be less likely to join your plight or fork out their hard-earned dosh.
FOLLOW THE FIVE SENSES A good way of thinking your way through the experiential aspects of your event is to consider them from the perspective of all your senses. When people are in the room, what are they going to see and hear? What kinds of fabrics, glassware and furniture are they going to touch? What sorts of drinks and foods will they get to taste? What will they be able to smell when they're standing around? (Hot tip: don't put your port-a-loos next to the dancefloor.)
GOOD PEOPLE = GOOD TIMES It's not everyone's favourite activity, but there's a lot to be said for networking. Not necessarily just schmoozing around, but ensuring you've surrounded yourself with good people who share your vision. Look for ways to create reciprocal relationships, so you're not simply asking for free stuff or for people to sacrifice their weekend. Tell them the story of what you're doing, why they're important to the project and – in the case of companies you may get said free stuff from – how you're going to make them look like heroes.
EVERYONE GETS A THANK YOU Last but not least, don’t skip the good ol’ thank-you email or card. It's only polite – and will make people a lot more responsive next time you come around asking for help.
This handy guide was created in collaboration with William Angliss Institute, who offer a Bachelor of Event Management course. If you’re keen to learn even more about planning events for a good cause, visit angliss.edu.au.