(or Event Objectives)
I led a marketing workshop recently for Knoxville Leadership Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports other area nonprofits through education, partnership development, organizational assessment and other resources.
After the workshop I conducted a group exercise for Executive Directors of current KLF partners in the Center for Communities program. The EDs gathered into groups of about 4 people and were given the following scenario and questions…
You are the executive director of a nonprofit organization that provides literacy services in Knoxville. Your event committee chair is new to the organization but eager to help. She has asked you to attend the first committee meeting to set things off on the right foot.
- How do you determine the objectives for the annual event? Collectively with your breakout team, identify the primary, secondary (and optional tertiary) objectives for this hypothetical event. This is for discussion purposes only; there is no wrong answer.
- Based on those event objectives, determine the target audiences (identify primary, secondary and optional tertiary) for this hypothetical event?
- How would you go about crafting a message or messages to motivate the target audiences? Together, with your breakout team, develop a core message/call to action for the event.
- Are there any sensitivities, terminology or other circumstances that you need to be mindful of when crafting this message?
- Now that you understand your event objectives, your audience and your message, provide a brief outline of the marketing elements/initiatives you would use to promote the event and the specific call to action for each audience. (Think before, during and after the event.)
Although the workshop that came before this breakout session was described by one witness as “a firehose of information” (based on time limitations) that left attendees a little stunned, it was in the breakout session where the application really sunk in. I am a firm believer that every nonprofit event should have a specific objective (if multiple objectives, they should be prioritized) and a specific target audience (likewise with prioritization).
When these talented Executive Directors stepped out of their own shoes and into a fictional pair (an organization with a different mission and target audience) they began to see how important it is to determine the objectives and target audiences of the event. The resulting event plans were very impressive. More importantly, these professionals learned something tangible. If the only sip they got from the fire hose was the need to determine an audience and objective for an event, my time with them was well spent.
When you consider your organization’s next event, the first step should be to determine the objective of the event (Is it fundraising? Awareness? Recruiting volunteers?). While you can accomplish all of these objectives (if you’re really good!), prioritizing them will make decision-making and messaging much easier. I serve on a pretty high-profile event committee in Knoxville. Recently we were presented with a fantastic idea that would have made for a very entertaining evening. But when we stepped back to evaluate if this new event format would accomplish our objectives, the answer was an overwhelming NO. It was a good idea, but it would not have given us the results we wanted or needed. Because we had the objectives already determined, we were able to turn a subjective decision into an objective one (and I’m glad we did). The clearer the target, the easier it is to hit it.
Once you determine the objective of the event, then think about how you are trying to reach to accomplish that objective. Mentally surround the issue with every profile of person who is connected to it. For literacy (a cause I selected because currently no KLF partners have that as their primary mission), they came up with educators, school administrators, county officials, retirees (grandparents), etc. That was just the top layer; when encouraged to go deeper, these leaders added more and more to the invitation list for their fictional event.
Once the objectives and the target audience are identified, it’s all about the messaging. If you know WHAT you are trying to communicate (the objective) and WHO you are trying to communicate it to, crafting a message that motivates and calls people to action is within reach. Now that is strategic planning!
Carol Reeve, Girl on the Roof