Running a great fundraising event requires effective communication with your participants. We’ve put together some best practices to help you out.
A good rule of thumb for communicating before, during and after the event: Put yourself in your participants’ shoes and ask, “What kinds of things would I like to know?”
Before the Event
Pre-event communication is all about setting up participants to have the best event experience possible. Explain how to get there, where to park, where to check in, etc. For first-time participants, this will help reduce the stress of the unknown.
Make sure participants are ready to deal with whatever weather is on the way. For hot summer events, we often alert participants about the projected heat index. Last month, organizers of the Boston Marathon let runners know about the 80-degree temperatures forecasted and offered a deferment to those who wanted to avoid the steamy conditions. This decision presumably helped reduce the instances of dehydration and other heat-related ailments.
During the Event
Every participant will have five basic questions — make sure the answers are crystal-clear.
These questions reinforce the importance of good signage. From the moment a participant arrives, clearly stated, prominent signs should guide him/her through each stage of the process. If you do it right, the participant will start the event with everything he/she needs and in a good frame of mind.
As the event gets underway, keep up the communications. You can do this through traditional sound systems and/or social media channels like Twitter and Facebook. Weather and route conditions are two big concerns for participants. If rain or extreme heat is on the way, send out word right away. You can also monitor social media for first-hand accounts of issues that participants are encountering — and then address them accordingly.
Lastly, always keep in mind that an event should reinforce your organization’s mission. Explore creative ways to communicate your cause to participants during the event, such as posting “impact statements” on signs along the route or an honor wall where participants can share their thoughts.
After the Event
A post-event survey can help you find out what participants liked — or didn’t like — about the event. People appreciate being able to share their feedback, and this type of “crowdsourcing” can inspire great ideas for next year. Once the survey is completed, let participants know what you learned and what changes you plan to make based on their input.
One point that may seem obvious but is sometimes overlooked: Always thank participants after the event. Sending a little keepsake (e.g. a route map) is a nice touch. And when communicating after the event, be sure to reinforce your cause once again. By highlighting mission-oriented accomplishments (e.g. research milestones, people served), you can show participants the impact they’re making.
And If Anything Went Wrong …
There’s no such thing as a flawless event. (For two extreme examples of this fact, check out our April blog post.) So when something goes wrong during your event, be prepared to respond quickly and effectively.
For example, during an event last year, the sprinklers under a tent turned on as participants were sleeping. First, we had to take care of the participants’ immediate needs — dry clothes and a new location. Then, we had to apologize and take responsibility for what happened (even though we had confirmed the sprinkler schedule with the site).
After the event, we again apologized and took responsibility while also explaining what steps we would take to prevent a repeat performance next year. Trust us: People are much more likely to forgive if you fess up and take your lumps.
"Patrick and Sarah’s Experience Hub" blog posts are featured monthly. Director of event production Patrick Riley and director of event production Sarah Coniglio have many years of hands-on experience in almost every aspect of event operations and production.