It’s that time of year again! Summer vacations are over, football season is in full swing … and events are gearing back up for many of our shops.

It will be so, so easy to tackle this year’s events just like we have in years past. So many shops will do just that. But we all know that when we go through the steps without adding thoughtful strategy, we leave incredible opportunity on the table.

As we start this event season, let’s make the events impactful, relationship-moving opportunities we can leverage all year. Here’s a checklist you can use to get started:

Before the event:

  • Identify your event goal. Whether it’s prospect identification, fundraising, stewardship, or something else, that goal should shape your strategy for everything you do.
  • Invite your best champions, both internal and external, to attend. Who is passionate about the work being highlighted and shines in talking with guests? Give them a specific goal, like talking with and sharing their passion with five people at the event.
  • Know your next steps coming out of the event. Do you want attendees to tour your site? Take a meeting with an advancement officer? Whatever your goal, make sure the event program and remarks support that outcome.
  • Identify individual guests you’ll want to have strategies for, whether you’re using this engagement to leverage their interest in an initiative, meet them for the first time, or to help show them the impact of their philanthropy. Then write out those individual strategies, considering everything from who should make sure to spend time with them to what happens after the event.

During the event:

  • Talk to your guests! Yes, this sounds obvious, but let’s be honest: How often do you look around at a work event and find colleagues in conversation with each other? It’s our comfort zone, but it’s not effective. Instead…
  • Play the role of host as a comfortable opener. (“Thank you for joining us! I hope you found the location easily.”)
  • Then ask a question to open the conversation. (“Have you been here before?” “Have you attended one of our events before?” “Tell me about your connection to the organization?”)
  • Know how to gracefully end the conversation and set next steps. (“It was great getting to talk with you, but I should let you go enjoy the event. I’ll reach out to you on Monday because it would be wonderful to find time to get together to learn more about your alumni experience and share how we’re engaging alumni in supporting our students. In the meanwhile, the food station is that way!”)

After the event:

  • Follow up, follow up, follow up. Your guests are feeling energized, so capitalize on that momentum to secure meetings or other next steps.
  • Think about those who did not attend. Can you invite them to meet to learn more about what was showcased at the event?

Ultimately, these events can be about so much more than building our brand or letting our guests have a good time. They can be an essential element of effective donor strategies, if only we make them. So, for your next event, pull out this checklist, see how many you’ve already done and identify where you can add strategy to get the very best results. And if your team needs support, KDD Philanthropy offers training on salon events, event strategies and more!