In-Person Events: What You Need to Know in 2022
After close to two full years of cancellations, postponements and virtual pivots, in-person events are finally (knock on wood) making a comeback in 2022. Sharing stories of your mission and work to your community, hosting a social gathering, and making donors feel seen and important are key components of fundraising and have been missing from our world for far too long.
That said, we've all learned a lot from COVID, and fundraising and event-based fundraising, are no different. We've seen quite a few events happen over the past 9 months and have pulled together some key considerations for your 2022 in-person events, and beyond.
1. Use an Event Planner Checklist
While it's nice if you can pay an event specialist or event production company to organize and execute your event, most of us just can't afford that. Next best thing? Event Planner Checklists. Create and assign tasks to key stakeholders, staff and volunteers from the very beginning. We've attached a downloadable template here, but if you're a BetterUnite user, you'll find a built-in and editable version of our event planner checklist on your Manage Event Dashboard > Planner > Preview and Import Default Tasks.
2. Streamline Guest Communications from the Beginning
From the thank you and gift acknowledgement that your guests receive when they register for your event to the event reminders to the texts that you send following the close of your silent auction, all of these guest "touches" should be carefully considered and planned at the outset of your event prep. Additionally, be clear on what information you need to gather from your event guests vs what information is needed from ticket or sponsorship or table purchasers. Your communications strategy can often dictate some of your ticket level creations.
Then, consider adding a banner image to all emails (easy to do in BetterUnite - Edit Event > Communicatoins > Banner Image), adding Conditional Responses or Dynamic Checkout, and scheduling and filtering text messages to guests based on ticket/sponsorship level.
3. Keep the Giving Levels Visible
Prior to "The Era of Virtual Events" induced by COVID, Giving Levels (or Paddles Up or Fund-a-Need) were almost exclusively the domain of an auctioneer's call to action after the Live Auction. During COVID and with exclusively virtual events as our norm, Giving Levels were often given as an option to registrants as they signed up for the live stream - knowing that many would not actually tune in but would donate if provided the opportunity. This is a practice not to be lost - making Giving Levels available to guests as they buy tickets or sponsorships gives those that are unable to attend a chance to give and, if your story and images are compelling enough, they might even give both prior to the event and at it!
4. Guest Check-in Sets the Tone
When guests first arrive at your event, how they are greeted will set the tone for your entire event. Standing in a long line, answering a lot of questions and talking about credit cards is hardly an ideal kick-off. Do the advance work of getting as much information as you can from ALL guests (including those invited by table hosts, sponsors and ticket purchasers) - specifically email address and phone number (so you can text them). If you can, encourage people to preauthorize their credit cards before they even arrive by opening your silent auction before the event or sending custom communications about how this will help. You can also nudge your sponsors and table hosts to forward tickets to their guests to encourage pre-registration.
Then plan for a streamlined process at the check-in table. Have well-spaced check-in staff or volunteers with everything they need (paddles, programs, pens, wifi passwords, etc), enough staff for the number or people arriving at any one time (3 per 100 guests is a good rule of thumb) and make sure the check-in area is separate from music and the bar. Then tell your check-in staff to point guests to the fun once they've handed over a paddle and program.
5. Check-out - SKIP IT on Event Day
The way you END your in-person event will influence how your guests remember your organization and mission. Talking about money or silent auction disputes with a half-drunk donor does no good for anyone. End your silent auction and raffle after the event if possible and have winners pick up items from your office or have a delivery system with interns and volunteers. You can process all payments on the preauthorized cards in the days following your event, once all gifts are reviewed and items awarded.