Out of the blue, a few of my charity clients asked respectively over the last few weeks of whether it’s a good idea of organizing an event to break some sorts of world records. They got so excited about the idea because they saw someone else had just done exactly that, which draws a lot of media coverage.
My first response to such enquiries was always “Tell me why you believe it’s a good idea for having an event to break a record?” Without any exception, their responses were simply that they think it helps in making noise to raise the awareness of their brand or advocate their cause. Stop! Take a step back, think again what are you going to achieve from this campaign, a one-off media coverage or long term brand building? And what’s the relationship between breaking that record and your organization? Many times, not only for my clients, more than often in life as well; we are not fully aware of what we truly want, the consequent goals and hence the corresponding actions to take. It’s time for us as a consultant to help them identify their underlying goals, helping them get to the core, figure out what they can do and cannot, in another word, what’s possible. I’m not saying they should never toy around the idea of organizing something to break whatever Guinness record but this has to be reviewed carefully and thought through before the go ahead.
To help brainstorm a charitable event or campaign, one has to answer the following four essential questions upfront to determine if any of the tabled concepts is worth pursuing, whether it is breaking a record or whatsoever:
- What’s your goal of organizing this event?
- What you want from this event?
- Why you want them?
- Make sure it’s your goal, not someone else’s.
The reason for answering the first two questions are pretty obvious for any experienced nonprofit or fundraising executives, but the other two are always being neglected, in particular, the fourth one. The answers to these questions help you settle on nature/format of the event. First, the goal of organizing the event, is the primary purpose of fundraising, PR, donor recruitment, donor relationship building, advocacy or what? Many would say, because of sources constraint, we can’t afford to have very specific purpose events from time to time. A one-size fits all event that serves multi-purposes is what we love to have. Again, stop and think! Is this notion really a good one? If the fundamental purpose or positioning of an event is not clear, the most obvious outcome would be a mixed, not clearly defined while not strong enough message. Likewise, it affects how you organize the event, which in managerial terms, the strategic direction. For sure, the format, scope, profile of participants, and even which day of the week to have it; are greatly different from one that is positioned to do PR or advocacy. Fair enough?
Number two, what do you want from it? Like I mentioned earlier, if you are interested in media coverage, would it be a one-off reporting but come with a viral effect that creates a huge bang that nobody would miss it or do you prefer to catch the public and press’ attention which helps in securing manifold press interviews and feature stories that last throughout the year? Do you want to increase the monthly donation sign-ups or to get impulsive, larger gifts solicitation like those fundraising TV shows?
OK next, why do you want them? At a glance, one might think it’s a repeat of the first question, but it is not. Take fundraising as an example. You can fundraise with or without an event, right? So why do you wanna have an event rather than launching any other kind of campaigns? Similarly, is it necessary to have a press conference to draw media attention or make an announcement? Think thoroughly of what value is added to have that event, what benefit it creates? If there is no additional value created or only marginally, is it still worth pursuing the idea?
Now, comes to the fourth and the most neglected question. Is this really your goal? An organization might think it’s worth doing this or is expected to deliver that, but is it really something that aligns with its mission, vision, resources, expertise, It is always easy to fall into the “it shouldn’t be wrong, following them trap.” Someone else does a campaign to break a record is fine, but they might have a set of different rationale in doing so. Also, it is sometimes our decisions were influenced by outsiders/outside factors. So it is crucial to ask yourself is it something such outsiders expect you to do or that it is really your own determination?
In addition to the four basic strategic question it would be better if you can also make a list of supplementary tactical/execution questions that include: what is attainable, which one is doable, what is relevant, what’s the priority, what is desired, what’s wanted, what does it mean to the organization and its cause. By answering them, you are indeed helping yourself to point you to the right strategic direction on your next event/campaign creation and it is true that it applies to other tactical decision as well.
Photo Credit: Photo by britt gaiser on Unsplash