Producing South Africa's biggest inner-city art exhibition, Night of 1000 Drawings (NOTD) for the last four years has given theSQUAD Creative Events lots of insight on how to run a charity event. As with other charity initiatives, NOTD is more than an art exhibition. It’s a year-long campaign during which the NOTD committee inspires the general public to donate A5 artworks,as well as search for legitimate education focused charities, sponsors / partners, suppliers and volunteers. After this, we put on our “event planner” hats and produce the epic fund-raising jol.
1) Mission Statement: “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” John D. Rockefeller
Having clarity on the mission statement for your charity event will be of benefit every step of the way. Keep it fresh and define your target audience - which should include hipsters. According to Eventbrite, Millennials are increasingly spending their time and money on event-based experiences –in fact, more than 3 in 4 would rather pay money for an experience or event than a product.
2) Find People with Heart : “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” Elizabeth Andrew
With charity work you need experienced people on the job -but also those who’re in it for the long haul -people with heart! Finding them can be tricky because of juggling paid and non-paid work commitments. The ideal is to form a committee of like-minded people who have grit, see the long-term picture and who believe in leadership through service.
3) Efficient and Effective: “Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.” Peter F. Drucker
To have an efficient and effective committee create an eco-system of specific skills. From experience, this could take time to get right - one year we started with eight people on the committee and ended with three!
Here is a list of skills needed to drive an effective charity campaign:
- Project Manager–Having someone dedicated to overseeing everything is super-important and makes the difference between good and great. The ideal person should have epic attention to detail skills, budget and event experience as well as a sense of humour
- Creative Strategy and Design Agency – This person / company will steer communications in the right direction, ensure design is superb and create a cohesive look and feel.
- Digital Agency – Helping to design and maintain a kick-ass informative website is critical to a fabulous charity campaign. Our digital agency volunteers also send out a monthly newsletter which is an effective way to reach people regularly.
- Social Media Agency – A charity campaign marches along on its social media communications. It’s vital to grow and engage your social media audience with regular updates and have a well managed Event Page - including the link to ticket sales and event information.
- Other partners - Head-hunt a sponsor or two to join your committee - in our case we have an awesome stationery supplier on board.
4) Paint a Picture : “Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future.” Seth Godin
To support the event mission statement, also paint a picture of the goals in a comprehensive pitch document. PowerPoint format converted to PDF is fine and should include the following:
- Who you are and the history of the charity event. It is worth crafting your story well as this is the main motivator for people to invest into the event whether it’s time, financially, with their services as well as just driving attendance.
- How the event runs and which charities benefit.
- Who the past beneficiaries have been and how they have used donated money.
- Highlight the broader community reach; you may also be supporting local food, artists, the venue etc.
- Clearly explain how people can get involved at all levels of the campaign.
- Define the specific sponsorship needed, i.e. - money, donations, volunteer help and in our case a lot of artwork!
- Highlight the leverage sponsors will receive from being featured on the website, social media and at the event itself.
- Have the charity and event management contact details including email and cell phone.
5) Implement like Hell: “In reality strategy is actually very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell.” Jack Welch
How you implement will be specific to your charity. In our case, it includes encouraging people to have doodle sessions, make art and drop it off, followed by photographing the donations and thanking people on social media. And that’s just the start... But wherever possible, in the omnichannel (see more below) of communications, involve people and thank them.
On overview of cost effective marketing channels are:
- Regular emails with shout-outs to sponsors, donators and updates on the event.
- Organic social media traction as well as paid posts if you have budget to spare.
- Sponsored Public Relations including radio, TV, print, and online event websites.
6) Agility: “The manager must perform with the courage and agility of a circus performer, carefully crossing the highwire between short-term problems and long-term objectives.” Buck Rodgers
It helps to have an “agile attitude” when running a charity event. For example, the price of A5 artwork on sale at the NOTD event has been R100 per item since 2006, but this year we increased the price to R150 per piece. Not an easy decision as R100 has been part of the 1000D “ethos” for many years, but you also have to move with the times and remember you’re raising money for charity.
Other areas which require agility – especially as the event looms into view – are website and social media updates. These will come in fast and furious and being quick to update is a mark of turning a good event into a great one.
7) Ticket Sales: “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” Leonard Bernstein
To market ticket sales effectively, go back to defining your audience – is it a black-tie affair or relaxed with children included? If relaxed, do children pay an entrance fee? You will need to source and negotiate rates with ticketing providers- we’ve found Webtickets to be effective and Quicket is another option. Also have a “donate cash” option for people who can’t make it – using a SnapScan code makes this so simple. With regard to ticket sales, it will feel as if there’s never enough time and never enough sales – but hopefully this will all come right on the night.
8) The Main Event : “Some people look for a beautiful place. Others make a place beautiful.” HazratInavat Khan
Pre-production and production of the main charity event requires a team of event professionals as well as a technical crew and volunteers. Time and effort will be needed to make the space beautiful as budget for luxuries is limited (or non-existent!). There are many other logistics besides (free) venue space which need organising including:
Transport and parking logistics, queue management, suppliers (including food and drink), t-shirts for crew, Master of Ceremonies, musicians, artists, media on the night as well as and live social media coverage using a strategic event hash tag.
9) Post-Event: “Gratitude is the open door to abundance.” Anonymous
The post-event “thank you’s”are so important! Use personal emails, a well worded PR (not leaving anyone out) and updates on social media, including lots of event photos. People involved always want to know how much cash was raised so do them the courtesy of letting them know the amount of money going to charity as soon as possible.
10) Passion : “If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” Steve Jobs
As an events company, theSQUAD may be the driving force behind 1000D, but no charity event is possible without the help of the entire team who are passionately dedicated to making the initiative a success. I love being a part of something this fun which is also doing good in the world. If making a difference is close to your heart you’re halfway there to charity event greatness.
Kelly McGillivray, Squad Leader