Planning Special Events

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2001-02-27
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass
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Using the same principles and methods that have proven so successful for other fund raising activities, James S. Armstrong takes you step by step through the four-phase process of managing fund raising events. This down-to-earth guide--part of the Excellence in Fund Raising Workbook Series from The Fund Raising School at Indiana University--will show how to produce events that will raise money cost effectively, expand your support base, and attract attention to your cause. Designed to be a well-thumbed reference, the workbook also includes answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Author Biography

JAMES S. ARMSTRONG, CFRE, a management expert with more than thirty years experience in politics, business and nonprofit agencies, is vice president and director of the Children's Hospital Foundation in Oakland, California. TIMOTHY L. SEILER is director of the Fund Raising School at the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy. He was formerly vice president of Indiana University Foundation and has been a faculty member of The Fund Raising School since 1986. He has authored and edited several issues of New Directions in Philanthropic Fundraising.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Designing and Producing Successful Special Events.
Understanding the Four Phases of Event Management.
Designing Your Special-Event Timeline.
Learning from Your Organization's Past Performance.
Preparing Needs Assessment and Your Case for Support.
Planning and Managing to Achieve Your Goals.
Selecting the Right Event.
Creating Your Budget.
Building Effective Teams.
Revising the Timeline to Stay on Track.
Constructing and Managing Your Marketing and Communications Plans.
Creating Compelling Promotional Materials.
Managing the Necessary Paperwork.
Managing the Details.
Handling Surprises and Contingencies.
Thanking, Acknowledging, and Reporting.
Conclusion: Applying Your Newly Gained Experience.


Understanding the Four Phases of Event Management

AS ANY VETERAN of special events will attest, getting your event off on the right foot is essential to its ultimate success. Getting started right means beginning your special-event campaign with a period of thorough planning. The planning phase sets the stage for the pressure-packed tactical and deadline phase. When the tasks of the first two phases are handled well, the event phase can truly be a period of enjoyment for all concerned. The special-event campaign is completed by the follow-up period, which should provide your agency with an afterglow well into the future.

The Planning Phase

The first step in implementation is the planning phase. This is when you create your event road map and set the direction for the journey ahead. This phase begins by assessing the agency and client needs that might be met by the net profit and other benefits that your event can bring. In other words, the first step involves defining a compelling reason to hold your event.

An initial case statement and copy platform for your event is drafted next. Once these first two tasks are well under way, creation of the criteria that will determine the type, location, and date of your event can begin.

During this period, a solid draft of the expense and revenue budgets should be developed. Early determination of costs will enable you to decide how to finance the campaign's initial and ongoing costs. By identifying potential prospects for sponsorship, underwriting, and other large gifts, you can both determine the best financing methods and provide sufficient time for cultivating, soliciting, and negotiating the larger gifts needed for success.

The event leadership prospects must also be identified and initial enlistments made during the planning phase. This includes not only enlisting volunteer leadership but hiring key staff and consultants. Getting these key people on board early will allow time to prepare the campaign team to plunge into the detail-heavy and pressurized deadline phase that follows.

The Tactical and Deadline Phase

The second phase, which is usually the longest one in event campaigns, is characterized by tactical efforts aimed at handling endless details and meeting numerous deadlines. This phase is an exercise in managing details and people while working against numerous and often competing deadlines.

Finalizing site selection and creating the event plan framework, including choosing the menu and outlining the program elements, begin this phase. Identifying vendors and suppliers and contracting with the venue and entertainment fall into this period.

Case material and other copy elements developed in the planning period are now turned into sales tools-invitations, advertisements, mailers, programs, and other printed literature. Some of the copy may also find its way into promotional and event videos or multimedia presentations. Work with designers, writers, printers, media specialists, webmasters, and salespeople also get packed into this phase.

The deadline phase is also when gift-accounting and other recordkeeping systems are designed, tested, and put into production. Legal, insurance, and other business issues are constant elements during this phase.

The Enjoyment Phase

When the first two phases are performed well, phase three brings great joy to the period immediately surrounding the event. This is because your event is displaying all the characteristics of a smashing success.

As gifts and revenues from ticket sales pour in, finally outpacing expenses, your event logistical plans are finalized. The event program, presentations, and entertainment elements are rounded into shape at this time. Little flourishes and final touches that enhance guests' comfort and enjoyment are added with confidence.

Your well-prepared contingency plan and compulsive attention to planning every detail are about to pay off. Your guests come, enjoy, and head home feeling great about your cause.

The Afterglow Phase

Finally, the afterglow phase allows your agency to capitalize on all the benefits that successful events can provide. The tasks of this phase also prepare your agency to plan future successes based on the knowledge and experience gained.

The thank-you and acknowledgment tasks form a significant portion of the effort. Gathering information, preparing the final event report, and informing your leadership and constituencies about the benefits gained are also important tasks for this period.

Taking the first steps toward your next big event brings this campaign to a close.


Excerpted from PLANNING SPECIAL EVENTS by JAMES S. ARMSTRONG Copyright 2001 by Jossey-Bass Inc.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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