Events are transitory, missions are permanent
I was skeptical when someone suggested I read Atul Gawande's book, The Checklist Manifesto. I was in the same camp as Steven Levitt, who wrote: "If there is one topic that I have no natural affinity for, it is checklists. I don't use checklists. I'm not interested in checklists."
But I bit my tongue and read it, and I'm glad I did. It's filled with fascinating stories and advice that have wide-ranging implications for event planners, marketers and fundraisers. No matter how good you are at something, a well-designed checklist and help you improve your outcomes.
So in the spirit of The Checklist Manifesto, here's a checklist of six things to keep in mind when you are considering holding a new event:
- Events are a development function: Fundraising events are meant to raise money, not to raise friends. In order to have a successful event you need to view it as a valid development function, used in conjunction with all your other development efforts.
- Events are a means to an end: You don't do events for their sake; events are done to further the mission of your organization. Realize that the event you are planning is a tool, a vehicle to take you from a goal to a result. The event is not an end in and of itself; unless of course your mission is to feed people yummy dinners and dress people up in their Sunday best.
- Set the goal first: As in, before you set the budget. You should never work on your budget or try to figure out the event details until you have a goal. A budget is just a recipe for how to spend your money. Figure out what you are trying to accomplish before you attempt to figure out any budget.
- Metrics affect outcomes: Metrics are how you measure your goal and there can be several metrics for any kind of stated goal. For example if you are raising money you can measure total dollars raised, average donation per attendee or rate of return. Although, for fundraising events, the best metric to use is net dollars raised. How you choose to express your goal and how you plan on measuring that goal will impact many of the decisions you make.
- Remember the rule of one: You can only have one top priority. You need to be specific about what your number one priority is and what goals go along with that. Different members of your organization may have different goals in mind for the same event. Hash out internally what individual problem you are addressing. You can have secondary or auxiliary goals as well, but only one main focus.
- Events are transitory, missions are permanent: Everything you do should be about advancing your mission, events are just a mile marker along the way. That doesn't mean to hastily throw together a shoddy event; because people will remember that and it will reflect poorly upon you. However, remember the event is never the goal; it is not what your organization is about. The event needs to be used to help your organization realize its larger vision.
Adapted from Jeff Shuck's Network for Good Nonprofit 911 teleconference.
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