Event Planning 101

Event Planning 101

As the Frederick nonprofit community continues to grow, so does the advice that we offer to these organizations. While our specialty is on the legal side of nonprofit management, we want to offer our clients more. This month we invite Mary Ellen Mitchell, local nonprofit expert and CEO of Allow Me Consulting & Housing Frederick to the blog. We first met Mary Ellen as a client of ours, helping her launch and register both the small business and nonprofit organization. Over the next few months, Mary Ellen will be offering insider knowledge and tips for nonprofits. Let’s dive in.

Does anyone really enjoy the logistical and practical considerations of planning a nonprofit event?  Things like contracts? Insurance? Permits? Probably not, but it’s essential to take a hard look at your goals and figure out how you are going to have the most perfect centerpieces and still turn a profit.

Rule # 1:  Make your budget

All events begin with budget planning. First, set a goal; how much money do you need to raise? Or maybe your goal is to expand your usual audience and get first time attendees to purchase tickets? Either way, your need to develop a budget that accounts for all purchases to put on the event. The formula is simple: your organizations’ out of pocket costs, divided by your attendance goal equals your base ticket price and add a reasonable amount to ensure a profit. As an example, it will cost $10,000 to buy everything and 100 people will attend. With a base cost of $100 person, you may sell tickets for $125 or $150.

In your calculations make sure you consider: food, alcohol, printing, graphic design, room rental, equipment rental, security, insurance/event rider, credit card fees, etc. You are also wise to calculate staff time as the event may interfere with other work.

Rule #2 : Research the date

There is nothing worse than a poor turnout because your event conflicts with another one in town. Look at as many resources as you can before settling on a date: newspaper/magazine community calendars, the Chamber, tourism office, etc. As you call potential event sites, ask them as well.

Your choice of date may influence your budget too. Saturday night rentals are priced higher than a weeknight.

The date may also influence your guests’ experience. Will a road be blocked for a race or walk? Are road improvements and a detour scheduled during your event? Will parking be at a premium because it’s the holiday season?

Rule # 3 : Focus on the Customer experience

Each person who attends your event should be welcomed as if the event was planned just for them. And, frankly, as your guests, they should walk away delighted that they came and tell their friends good things about you.

When you are designing your event, focus on the items that affect comfort and your guests’ ability to participate. If the music is too loud, they can’t hold a conversation. If the room is too dark, they won’t be able to see the silent auction bid sheets. If there aren’t enough food choices, they may go hungry. (Example – if I paid $125 as a vegetarian guest, I want more than a carrot stick at the buffet.)

Event planners would be wise to take up Maya Angelou’s philosophy: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

Rule # 4 : Plan for after the event

Multi-billions are spent each year on hosting the perfect wedding reception. What if we focused our investment on the marriage instead?

Event planning focuses on the day, but rarely on the long-term benefits to be derived from a sell-out fashion show or black-tie gala.

How can your nonprofit follow up with attendees? How can you turn the awareness you just raised about your mission into more volunteers or community ambassadors?

If you would like to explore this topic further, please join our client Mary Ellen Mitchell of Allow Me Consulting at the C. Burr Artz Library for a class on Event Planning 101 on January 3 from 10:30 to Noon (SNOW date Jan. 10th)                                                        

About Mary Ellen

Mary Ellen is the CEO at Housing Frederick & CEO at Allow Me Consulting. After 20 years in the industry, she launched her own consulting firm to provide nonprofits and small businesses with capacity building and public relations expertise. She launched the nonprofit Housing Frederick in 2019 to collaborate, advocate, and educate the community on affordable housing.

She has a strong track record in program and event creation, strategic planning, and partnership building in the fields of education, health, and housing.

She serves the community through the Frederick Coalition for Financial Success, Leadership Frederick County Council, the Women’s Giving Circle, and as an appointed member of the Frederick County Government’s Affordable Housing Council.

You can reach Mary Ellen at me@allowmeconsulting.com or ceo@housingfrederick.com.