If your nonprofit is planning a fundraising event this year, chances are you're also putting together an event committee. For full-time staff, event committees tend to fall into one of two categories. They're either 1) rockin’ their responsibilities and are committed to making the event a success or 2) they're wildly dysfunctional and more impossible to tame than an Amazonian Rainforest Jaguar, creating more work for you than it's worth.
Does #2 sound familiar? We’ve all been in committee meetings before that lack good volunteer leadership, are unfocused, or just don’t have the right people around the table. Result: major headaches for you.
We want your next event to be a smashing success and we know that having a top-notch event committee can make all the difference. To help you get there, we’ve rounded up 6 tips to create your best event committee ever.
Tip #1—Start with a clear purpose
As you start the preliminary planning for your event, you’ll likely be thinking about the event committee. One of the first things you can do is define the purpose of the event committee. If you wanna get fancy, some call this the committee’s “terms of reference.” This is typically a one-page document that defines the purpose, scope, and authority of a committee. In other words, it'll help keep the committee focused on the most important tasks rather than slipping into endless conversations about selecting napkins and tablecloth colors.
To define your event committee’s purpose, think about what skills or support they could provide that could be of highest service to your event (being able to juggle scarves isn't gonna cut it). That could include securing sponsorships, inviting community VIPs, or shaping the event program.
Tip #2—Get the right people on board
As Jim Collins, author of Good to Great says, “First get the right people on your bus and the wrong people off it.” This is solid advice for forming a high functioning event committee. You need to have the right people around the table from the start and it’s easier to select those people when you know the committee’s purpose.
You might want to have committee members that represent different demographics and social circles in your community. It’s also helpful to look for potential committee members who have larger personal networks or connections with potential sponsors.
It’s also important to make sure the right people are in the right roles on your event committee. This could include: committee/event chair, vice-chair, live auction, silent auction, registration, clean up, décor, ticket sales, VIP’s, table sales, social media/publicity, logistics and/or post-event follow-up.
Tip #3—Teamwork (and clear expectations) make the dream work
It takes a lot to make an event happen, but you don’t need us to tell you that. Collaboration and teamwork are at the top of that list, and right behind them are your committee members living up to expectations. Sure, members may have specific roles on the event committee but chances are there will be tasks that are everyone’s jobs. Hint: ticket sales.
As a staff member overseeing the committee, there are strategies you can try to encourage effective teamwork. This includes:
- Understanding people’s working styles and placing them in complementary working groups
- Encouraging friendly competition to motivate people
- Assigning a committee “taskmaster” who can send gentle reminders to people before and after meetings about their action items
- Setting clear expectations upfront so that committee members know what’s expected of them when they join
Tip #4—Maximize meetings
We’ve all been in meetings that are a total snooze fest and that’s the last thing you want to happen at your event committee meetings. Set a clear agenda ahead of time, keep the conversation and discussion moving along, and encourage participation from all committee members (not just the extroverts). Above all, bring in the fun, high energy that’s so needed for events.
Meetings are also an opportunity to get in some face time with committee members. Check-in with them to see how their volunteer experience is going and what (if anything) you can do to support them. This kind of outreach can encourage great volunteer engagement.
Tip #5—Streamline non-meeting communication
Inevitably, your event committee will need to communicate outside of meetings. But having endless email chains with a million things being discussed is a recipe for disaster. It’s helpful to give committee members tools and guidelines for effective on-going communication. Tools like Slack can make communication easier outside the inbox. If you have a committee member who is fond of Facebook, you could consider setting up a private, closed group for members to discuss committee business. The most important thing is to choose a tool that the majority of people are most likely to use for the duration of the planning process.
#6—Give your committee the tools it needs to succeed
We know you want your event committee to be a success and are committed to supporting them. One of the helpful things staff can do for volunteers is to give them the tools they need to succeed in their roles. This could include things like putting together sample email copy to sell tickets, creating shareable graphics for social media posts, creating a great sponsorship package that can be used in outreach, and so on. These are all examples of tools that can make your volunteers’ jobs easier.
If you’re not sure what your volunteers need, make time during meetings when you can ask your committee what they need from you to execute certain tasks.
We said it before, but we’ll say it again. Events are a lot of work, fundraising friend. We want to see you succeed and we hope these tips to create your best event committee ever help to put your organization on the path to success. We can’t underscore the importance of starting early and getting the right help to make your event a success. No fundraiser is an island and your event committee can increase your overall capacity for the event. Not to mention events are more fun with friends!
If you need more fundraising event strategies and tips, sign up for our free Plan, Raise, Engage 10-Day Event Strategy Course and make your next fundraising event a smash!