My Wish List for Events

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

Events are back in full swing after over two years of virtual gatherings. It’s refreshing to experience the energy and engagement when friends and supporters get together in person!

As a veteran of an untold number of events, I thought I’d share with you my wish list for nonprofit events. Hopefully this simple list is helpful for your event planning.

  • Provide the logistics. Tell attendees what to wear, where to park, and what time to arrive. Also, provide good signage or volunteers to direct guests at large venues.
  • Give good swag or no swag at all. My husband and I have a rule in our house of “no free stuff,” since most of it is you-know-what. I’ve attended events where I’ve received: one-size-fits-no-one t-shirts; stadium blankets seemingly made by a toxic chemical plant in China; junky pens that don’t write; and so much more… I can’t imagine how much of this stuff is left behind in hotel rooms. Before purchasing any swag, consider whether you are spending donor and attendee dollars wisely.
  • Elevate sponsors and exhibitors. Recognize those who have invested in making your event possible. Figure how to make their experience special so they are eager to come back next year.
  • Make newbies and singles feel welcome. Encourage staff to seek out first-time and solo attendees so everyone feels appreciated and engaged.
  • Use name badges. I know, they may not look great with the tux, but everyone feels better when they can “remember” the names of other guests.
  • And make the font big. Don’t make attendees squint at each other’s chests. No further explanation necessary.
  • End on time. Of all the events I’ve attended, two types stand out: (1) the well-organized events with excellent speakers and (2) the ones that droned on until late in the evening. Don’t be the latter. Run a tight ship. It shows appreciation for your guests’ valuable time, and everyone will leave calm and pleased after a great event.

Events are excellent opportunities to engage and cultivate donors and other attendees, and most people I know are happy to be back at it. They are also a major investment of time and money. Maximize your return by making your event one that guests talk about (in a good way)!

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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