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Event Production

The Art of Donor Cultivation

As an event planning company dedicated to assisting nonprofit clients in their fundraising efforts, we are often asked by many of our clients the perennial question: “How can we do better in our fundraising?” It is no secret that fundraising is a business and as such subject to the same dynamics as many other businesses. The challenge for many of our clients is to evergreen the process in order to ensure that their fundraising goals are met—or exceeded. Here are some golden rules:

Learn About Your Donors

Donors are the lifeblood of nonprofits. Without loyal and dedicated donors, most initiatives of many nonprofits could suffer or be severely curtailed.  So, getting to know the principal donors becomes critical in the nonprofits’ ability to sustain viable operations.  To get to know the donors, here are some key questions:

  • What programs do they care about?

  • What motivates them to give?

  • What other causes do they support?

  • How engaged do they feel toward your organization?

  • What are their views on how you take their views into account?

  • How important is the cause for them?

  • What suggestions do they have for your organization [anything].

Clearly, you can’t reach all donors or be able to have meaningful interactions with all of them. In that case, effective outreach tools must be devised to “survey” a larger pool of donors.

It’s All About Retention 

Let’s face it, regardless of the cause or the level of efforts you put in producing a fundraising event, there are donors that are “captured” somewhat at random. Maybe it was your celebrity appearance, or the venue, or a friend arm-twisted a donor to attend your gala event and/or make a generous donation. For many nonprofits, to secure a new donor is a challenging task indeed.  It is, therefore, far more cost effective to put most of your efforts into retention strategies.  

Converting a first-time donor to make subsequent donations is—or should be—the No. 1 task in donor engagement.  Take a closer look at your donors—especially first-time donors. They make up a valuable pool of possible regular donors. While only about 20% of first-time donors are typically retained, nearly 65% of repeat donors are retained.  To convert that 20% into the 65% pool, a number of steps must be taken: 

  • Reach out to the first-time donors. 

  • Find out why they made their donation. 

  • What in your mission appeals to them?

  • How can you get them more engaged?

  • What are their broader gifting goals?

Devise An Outreach Plan 

Different donors have different motivations for giving. A blanket fit-all strategy does not work. However, there are still some basic questions that can capture the bulk of most donors’ motivations on the basis of which a cultivation strategy can be devised. Questions such as their capacity, inclination, prior giving, and interests. Every new donor presents your organization with a goldmine that can be a potential source of reliable giving.

Make It Personal

It is no secret that there is stiff competition for any donor’s gifts—and their commitment to any cause. Make your donors feel special. Put in place steps that recognize all major donors. Here are some tips:

  • Thank them for their donation personally.

  • Make a point of periodically stopping by to renew your acquaintance.

  • Ensure that your appeal or acknowledgment make your donor feel great about themselves.

  • Make all your communication feel personal [i.e., no form letters].

  • To the extent possible, call your donors to enhance the engagement [i.e., don’t hide behind an email or letter].

  • Inject genuine sincerity in all your interactions with your donors.

Putting It All Together

Regardless of the cause, nonprofits rely heavily on donors to be able to carry out their planned programs. Donors are one of the key stakeholders; lifeblood of the work nonprofits do; and a source of continuous encouragement and motivation for nonprofit executives. However, the work of nonprofits when it comes to donor cultivation never ends. It is the constant in any nonprofit’s activities.  The success of any fundraising event or the wellbeing of the nonprofit depends heavily on how it goes about to secure and retain donors.

Let the professionals at Your Great Event help you roll out a durable and effective donor cultivation strategy.

Los Angeles News - Entertainment Report

Once again, the City of Angels gears up to live up to its name by playing host to the annual gala and fundraiser for Face Forward—the renowned charity that has made it mission to provide emotional support and reconstructive surgery for women, children and men who have been victims of domestic violence, human trafficking or any other cruel and human-induced atrocities.  In a city crowded with so many well-meaning charities, Face Forward has distinguished itself as an organization committed to bringing hope and optimism to an otherwise overlooked group of victims.     

Over 500 of LA’s celebrities, business and community leaders and committed citizens are expected to assemble at the Beverley Wilshire for this 9thannual gala and auction to support the organization’s notable cause.  Planned for Saturday, September 22nd, the night will be star-studded with the A List of Hollywood’s committed celebs.  Playing the emcee, Jeremy Piven will be presenting such luminaries as the Grammy award winner Ne-Yo.  Other Red-Carpet attendees will include such celebs as Jason Bateman, Linda Perry and Caitlyn Jenner who will be lending their moral support to such an admirable cause.

In an interview, Face Forward’s president, Deborah Alessi, expressed optimism that the unique nature of the charity’s cause will attract the generous donors whose commitment to human dignity will strengthen this organization’s founding principles.  In rolling out this milestone event, recognition will be bestowed on such dignitaries as Jay McGraw and Christopher Bollenbach who will be among the event’s honorees.  

Your Great Event is honored to be the event planning company trusted with organizing this well-deserving philanthropy.  To reserve your spot at Face Forward’s 2018 gala and fundraiser, go to  ladolcevita2018.org 

5 Keys to A Great Event Design

Planning for a “perfect” event?  Make sure your event design includes these five critical elements.

A great party, a great event, a great wedding – all include the following elements in their design:

  • Lighting

  • Color

  • Texture

  • Movement

  • Scale

First among these is lighting. No other element can transform a boring space into a wildly spectacular one. LED up-lights for the walls can brighten the room and, when paired with your theme, begin to take your guests to the place you’ve envisioned. Gobos – your logo or graphic elements from your invitation – can make your dance floor or your backdrop exciting. Bathe the entire room in color – blue for a soothing effect or red for a Cirque feel. Use your imagination so your guests walk into your space and say Wow!

Hand-in-hand with lighting is Color. Don’t be afraid of it - use it to evoke the mood you want. Bold colors for a Latin themed event are perfect. Pastels for a wedding say romantic. Black and white says Old Hollywood. What would a Valentine event be without red?

You can bring texture into your design in a number of ways. The most obvious is your table scape. Your table linen and napkins, whether they be polyester, jute, brocade, or sequined, will give your guests a feel for your theme. A beautiful wooden table topped with succulents bring an entirely different texture to your event. Your centerpieces should complement your theme and your table.

Nobody wants to sit still for 3 or 4 hours. Plan your party with movement in mind. Your guests enjoy a cocktail hour or silent auction in the first space they enter. Plan something fun to move them into the dining room – a conga line, a flash mob, percussionists – all inviting guests to follow them to the next space. Schedule an interactive audience element during the program – a salsa or Charleston lesson. Have guests use the flashlight app on their phones (most everyone has one) to wave during a particular song. And finally, move your guests to the dance floor.

Lastly, choose your event venue carefully. Does the space have low or high ceilings? Is it too big for your guest count? Will you need tall elements to fill a large space? Will you have to section off a portion of the space to make it less cavernous? Although it seems counterintuitive, for rooms with low ceilings, tall plants and arrangements of boughs or other organic elements will draw your eyes to the plants and not the ceiling.

Take these five key elements into account next time you plan that special event and sit back and witness a much more impactful result or let the professionals at Your Great Event take all that burden away from you to guarantee you an unequivocally-successful event. 

Branding Your Fundraising Event with Graphics That Make an Impact!

The goal of your fundraising event is to attract attendees and sponsors to help raise money for your cause
and organization. You want your fundraising event to not only attract a lot of donors, (yes!), but, equally as important, showcase your organizations’ mission within the community, and raise awareness as to its good works.

Great graphics can bring attention to both your event and your mission!

Artistic and meaningful design can enhance the stature of your event, enticing the very attendees and sponsors you wish to attract! It promises your guests fun and excitement and a sense of what the mission is, all dressed up in a beautifully designed presentation.

The event design should sparkle, intrigue, and make an impression! 

Choosing a theme and carrying it out graphically throughout your key artwork and collateral pieces lends
cohesion to your marketing. It begins to brand your event in your potential donors’ minds. 

Always hire a professional designer. The event company you have wisely chosen to produce your event will have recommendations. Listen to them.

Good event design begins with your theme. The designer will take your ideas and design the concept artwork.
The primary goal: to make it a signature special event that shouldn’t be missed!


1. Development of theme and key art. Generally, two concepts are presented. Working with a professional designer can help to develop and produce a polished vision for the event. The designer should be practiced in professional design, budgets and deadlines, and empathetic to the larger cause of the organization.

Once the final art is approved, it is now branded into the following collateral pieces used at each stage of the marketing campaign.

2. Event logo and header: These initial graphic elements are used in all your early solicitation efforts. This will start to create a visual connection to the event for potential guests and donors.

3. Save the Date/Digital Eblast: This piece, whether a printed postcard or in a digital format, announces the event well in advance of the event date to start building interest, and get the date marked on people’s calendars.


4. Invitation package. This signature piece presents the event details in an attractive and well-designed presentation.  And also, importantly, delivers the sponsorship opportunities and donor levels, as well as the RSVP. The invitation can also include an insert with the “sponsors to date”, to spur others to donate as well. This is generally the most impressive and important piece of your event marketing.

5. Program Book: This is the journal that commemorates the event!  Within its pages there is valuable information about your organization, your event sponsors, advertisers, and vendors. This item goes home with the attendees. This can be a selling point for contributors and advertisers to the program. A PowerPoint sponsor loop during the event, and additional advertising both before and after the event also carries the brand to the audience.

A fundraising event can and should be branded from the original concept design, throughout the marketing and solicitation stage, and on to the event itself. Exciting and interesting graphics work in tandem with your organizations fundraising effort to create excitement for potential attendees and donors.

After all, your signature fundraising event plays an important role in raising money for your organization, and in
developing relationships with new and returning donors that carry into the future.

Impactful professional graphic design can brand your event.  This in turn enhances the success of your organizations fundraising, ensuring that your event is both successful and memorable! 

your great event_graphic designer.jpg
By Elizabeth MacFarland -  Graphic Design

By Elizabeth MacFarland - Graphic Design

Fundraising Events are not for everyone

The perennial conversation around non-profit organizations’ board tables is “how can we raise [more] money?”  It feels like that question has singularly become the “raison d’être” for many non-profit organizations.  However, in some cases, the non-profit organization’s belief that a fundraising event is an effective way to raise money may be misguided at times.  This may sound counterintuitive.  Let me hasten to clarify: Some non-profits fail to do their homework and factor in the direct (venue rental, food, décor, entertainment, etc.) and indirect (staff, board and volunteer time) costs before they embark on holding a fundraiser.  Without due consideration of all the factors involved, it would be folly to take on a time-consuming and intense fundraising event.  Engaging a professional event planning company with solid expertise in working with non-profits can lighten the load and ensure success.

Some non-profits shy away from engaging an event planning company on financial grounds: “We can do it ourselves and save the cost”.  This couldn’t be further from the fact.  Numerous studies have shown that to be successful in holding a fundraising event, using a professional event planning company with proper credentials is paramount.  An event planning company can become your catalyst for success in your fundraising effort.  It brings to the table a discipline that is often lacking when an organization tries to carry out such an undertaking on its own.

Here are areas that an event planning company can guide you when embarking on a fundraising event:

1.     Identify your stakeholders:  In an age when so many non-profit organizations are competing for limited funds, knowing the universe of your donors and other stakeholders is a critical first step.  Your event planning company should help you identify the pool of possible donors depending on your cause and devise outreach strategies to “recruit” as many as possible.  The donor outreach program should also entail educating the prospective donors about the organization, the cause and its relevance to them—directly or indirectly. 

2.     Engage your donors:  Once you have identified and educated your donors, you still have a hurdle to overcome: To get the donors engaged—and keep them engaged.  Engaged donors make for life-long donors.  Much like everyone else, donors want to make a difference.  Your event planning company will help you devise strategies to create fulfillment for your donors.  The company should be able to come up with creative ways to make the need for donation a source of personal fulfillment for the donor.  In an age of social media frenzy, it’s relatively easy to reach out to a wide range of committed donors/stakeholders and create a lasting—and rewarding—following. 

3.     “Donors are forever:”  There is always the risk that an organization may view their donors only in the context of the event at hand.  Your event planning company should help you formulate a long-term strategy for keeping your donors engaged—and how a one-time donor can be converted into a life-long donor.  In fact, if your resources allow, you may want to consider to have a dedicated function for “donor relations”—much like many universities have an alumni department. 

4.     Fundraising with a purpose:  Fundraising events are not only about fundraising: This statement may sound oxymoron. However, a sustainable fundraising effort must be based on solid foundations. The organization’s mission, its goals and its cause are critical to the success of your fundraising—not just once, but on a recurring basis. Your stakeholders will need to remain engaged.  You need to devise a plan on keeping them engaged.  To do so, you need to have a multi-year action plan to “evergreen” your cause.  Your event planning company can help you with your “cause marketing.”  In the end, fundraising is about more than fine dining at a ritzy venue with top-rated entertainment.  It’s about engaging a collection of interested individuals and converting them into a group of committed ambassadors for your cause.  Only thus can you have a sustainable roadmap to long-term success.       

The Roadmap to Successful Fundraising Events

Non-profit organizations often live off fundraising events.  However, fundraising events can only be successful if important steps are followed.  Here’s an 8-step roadmap:

1. Visioning:

The organization must first decide what the purpose of the intended event is: Just fundraising or something broader (such as outreach or cause marketing)? The purpose affects the nature of the event.

2. Financial Goals:

The amount of funds an organization hopes to raise determine the kind and nature of event.  Realistic goal setting is paramount in the success of an event.  Your professional event planning company should assist you in this important step.

3. Organization:

No event—corporate or non-profit—can ever succeed without proper structure.  The event planning company can only be held accountable if the organization has put in place proper lines of authority for every aspect of the event.  Ambiguity breeds chaos.

4. Target Audience:

Define your ideal audience.  Targeting the right audience is the only sure way to success. 

5. Event Logistics:

Don’t leave your event logistics to volunteers.  Too much rides on your success.  Trust it to professionals—whom you can held accountable.  But remain vigilant. 

6. Event Marketing:

Events’ success depends to a large degree on how a fundraiser is marketed to the target audience.  There is considerable competition for any event—and for any cause.  You are vying for a limited resource—funding.  You need to convince your target audience that your organization and event are worthy of their time and money. Ask for a detailed and professionally-done marketing plan from your event planning company. 

7. Role of Volunteers:

Non-profits are often blessed with having many dedicated volunteers—regardless of the cause.  Volunteers can be invaluable resources if they are provided with adequate guidance and leadership.  To avoid confusion and properly use this valuable resource, put your event planning company in charge of how and where to use the volunteer staff.   running smoothly.

8. Post-Mortem:

It’s critical that a post-event meeting is held with all the stakeholders to evaluate successes—and shortcomings, if any.  Your event planning partner should provide you with a detailed final report outlining how everything unfolder and funds raised (against the goal) and lessons learned.  Your future successes depend on learning from the past.  

5 Ways to Spice Up Your Traditional Golf Classic

5 Ways to Spice Up Your Traditional Golf Classic

We recently produced a golf classic for our friends at Five Acres. Rather than a typical golf classic execution including a day of golf, auction and awards dinner, we introduced a touch of plaid!  Here are five ways we spiced things up for Five Acres.

Event Theme

Golf Tournament.jpg

Encourage guest engagement by adding a theme. This year, we created the “30th Anniversary and Five Acres Mad for Plaid Par-Tee!” Everyone arrived in their best plaid and embraced their inner Scot!

Creative Catering

Don’t get stuck with the same old F&B! Include themed meals and interactive food stations!  Our reception and dinner menu included a nod to Scottish fare and the family-style bread pudding was simply mouth-watering!

Golf Gala and Auction.jpg

Signature Drinks

Everyone loves a signature drink.  Spicy cocktails are on trend and add a little heat to your cocktail receptions.   

Décor & Live Entertainment

Auction.jpg

To round off our Mad for Plaid Par-Tee, we transformed the club house into a Scottish tavern that included an authentic Scottish/Irish Band, Scottish Dancers and rustic tavern decor. 

Looking to spice up your next golf tourney?  Let Your Great Event help theme your next guest experience!  Your Great Event is a leading event planning and production company serving the needs of non-profit organizations throughout California. 

 

Managing Volunteers at Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations rely very heavily on the dedication of volunteers.  Volunteers are the backbone of many nonprofits.  To benefit from this potentially-vast resource, nonprofits must have a “volunteer management system” in place.  Much like employees, volunteers expect their work to be truly engaging and rewarding.  There are strategies that can elevate the volunteers’ experience and help with volunteer retention while allowing the nonprofit organization attain its larger goals.   

1.     Organization’s Goals

By nature [and applicable statutes], nonprofits are purpose driven; and are thus expected to have more focused goals.  An organization’s overall raison d’être is what draws volunteers to one nonprofit as opposed to another.  Volunteers must relate to and embrace the organization’s primary purpose to feel a sense of lasting commitment.  Harvesting the volunteer force also requires a set of distinct goals of its own.  Volunteer management must be carried out in a disciplined and focused manner to create a harmonious interconnection between volunteers and the organization.  The more organizational involvement for the volunteers, the better the retention rate.       

2.     Volunteer Recruitment Plans

Nonprofits rely heavily on the availability of volunteers for many of their essential tasks.  Few nonprofits can afford to do away with volunteers or replace them with paid staff.  How does a nonprofit go about finding and recruiting suitable and qualified volunteers?  One possible pool is the donor list.  With proper coaching and inspiration, many non-volunteers could be prospective candidates as volunteers.  In general, by seeing all your organization’s supporters as potential volunteers, you’ll be able to develop deeper relationships with passionate individuals who really consider themselves a part of your nonprofit as a whole.  By ignoring donors or members as potential volunteers, a nonprofit could be inadvertently shutting out a heavily-impactful group.

3.     The Role of Technology

Technology has permeated every aspect of our lives.  Managing the volunteer program (recruitment, onboarding, retention and recognition) is no exception.  There are simple and complex purpose-driven applications for any and all aspects of volunteer management as are more generic CRM software that can be adapted to help an organization in this important task.  The right volunteer management software can help the organization to store volunteer data and empower it to amplify its understanding of volunteer management.  In its core, even a simple volunteer management application should have the following important attributes:

  • Time-keeping capabilities. Staying on top of volunteer hours can be a major burden without the help of a proper tool. With the right application, a nonprofit should be able to more accurately capture and track volunteer activity (and view/retain it in one centralized location).

  • Detailed volunteer profiles. To help the volunteers succeed in their roles, it’s important that the organization understands their personalities and needs. The right software can enable the nonprofit to maintain all volunteer data, including communication preferences, contact information, volunteer history, and relevant skills or interests—and retrieve same when needed.

  • Volunteer communications. Automate and send individual or batch emails directly through the right software.

4.     Volunteer Recognition Program

While volunteers give of their time and expertise because they believe in the cause, it does not mean that the organization should take their involvement for granted.  To retain and earn the loyalty of the volunteer workforce, an organization must develop a systematic practice of showing proper gratitude to volunteers for their services.  While thanking volunteers every time they serve is a good gesture, the organization’s gratitude must be shown in as many ways as possible to result in lasting loyalty and retention.  Like everyone else, volunteers want to know that they’re valued.

To go beyond verbal or written thank-you notes, an organization must invest in an engaging appreciation program including:

  • Social Media. Social media makes it easy to connect with volunteers. Consider posting regular volunteer announcements on your organization’s Facebook or Twitter page. Or, dedicate a full page on your nonprofit website to highlighting your volunteers as a whole.

  • Broadcast. What have your volunteers done for your organization? Broadcast it! Share how specific volunteer involvement has impacted the world around them, in small or large ways.

  • Volunteer appreciation events. The internet is a great place to extend gratitude to your volunteers, but there is also value to in-person events. Recognize your volunteers at purpose-planned and exciting appreciation events.

  • Developing an effective volunteer management can be a challenging task. However, it is imperative for nonprofits to have an appropriate program to be able to manage and benefit from engaged and enthusiastic volunteers—a potentially vast, valuable—and free—resource.

Your Great Event is a national event planning company dedicated solely to the needs of nonprofit organizations.  Let us help you put in place an effective volunteer management program. 

Make Your Groundbreaking Ceremony Extraordinary

We’ve all seen photos of groundbreaking ceremonies—smiling faces cutting a ribbon with a big scissor. How about making your groundbreaking ceremony into a cutting-edge ceremony? Something people would like to see. Something they will remember.

Invite your guests—supporters, customers, employees—to a buffet lunch—on the ground you are breaking! You can put up a tent with clear side walls so your guests can see the actual first shovel hit the dirt without worrying about wind and dust.

Design a program to thank supporters and sponsors and encourage your guests to mingle. Keep it short and simple; but be sure to include information about the purpose of your expansion—or the new building—or a second location.

When you are ready, you can still cut the ribbon with big scissors if you want. Give the invitees assigned to hold the ribbon hard hats to make the photo opportunity special.

Your Great Event can help with any groundbreaking—or any other—event you may be contemplating.

Your Great Event Produces Cirque Fantastique!

Your Great Event Produces Cirque Fantastique!

Glendale Memorial Health Foundation’s annual fundraiser Wine and Roses celebrated its 30th Anniversary this year with an evening of excellent food, spectacular entertainment, and a very special award presentation.

As a part of the “Human Kindness in the Making” initiative, the Glendale Memorial Health Foundation’s goal is 5 million dollars over five years. We are proud to say that the 2017 Wine and Roses gala, recently held at the Langham Pasadena, raised more than $340,000 toward that goal. Led by committee co-chairs Dr. Kathleen Dennis-Zarate and Haig Youredjian, Wine & Roses started off with a delicious dinner followed by the posthumous presentation of the Human Kindness Award to Edwin “Eddie” Johnston. Eddie was a well-respected businessman who supported Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center for many years. His family accepted the award in his behalf. 

Interspersed throughout the evening were performances by cirque artists including, Michael Raymer whose signature trick is spinning a McDonalds cheeseburger on an umbrella. Joining Michael were Sofie Dossi, contortionist extraordinaire, Marawa who holds the world record for 200 hula hoops at once, Maya Kramer, world renowned aerial artist, and Chris Crabber who balances more than 20 feet in the air on 9 chairs. The audience danced the night away to the music of Splash, a group of talented performers who have entertained at the Oscars and the Emmys.

We were excited to, once again, produce Wine and Roses for the Foundation. We’ve been creating events for them since 2006.  They took a risk by changing it up with a new theme, new entertainment, new start time, new everything. But these changes paid off by in a big way. At Your Great Event, we believe that our clients should experience event excellence – and be a guest at their own party.

We can replicate the same magic that was created for Wine & Roses for your event. Contact us today!

The event was also covered by the Los Angeles Times. Read more here.

The Crescenta Valley Weekly also covered the event. For the full article click here.

Dinner Set-up at the  Langham Huntington Pasadena Hotel    

Dinner Set-up at the Langham Huntington Pasadena Hotel

 

Silent Auction at the  Langham Huntington Pasadena Hotel

Silent Auction at the Langham Huntington Pasadena Hotel