Tip Sheet: Special Events

Special events can be a great way for heritage organizations to raise funds, create public awareness and build support. They range from big to small, from car washes, to golf tournaments, charity auctions and gala dinners. You’ll need careful planning and execution to achieve the goals you’ve set for your event.

Your Fundamentals

Risk Assessment:

There are risks to holding events. Identify those risks, plan how to address them, and then decide if the benefits of holding the event outweigh the risks.

The biggest risk is losing money. Calculate all the costs involved – variable (proportional to the number of people attending your event i.e. catering) and fixed (costs you must pay regardless of your turnout i.e.venue, promotional materials). Do your projected revenues cover and exceed them?

Read the fine print in all the supplier contracts and understand exactly what you are committing your organization to.

Understand your liabilities especially where alcohol will be served. If your organization has insurance check what your coverage is for events. If you don’t have insurance, assess whether you’ll need to purchase it.

The 2nd biggest risk is underestimating the resources required to plan and execute an event. Do you have the staff and volunteer resources with the right skill sets to make your event a success? Will their normal workload be affected during the planning and execution of your event? You may find it will be worthwhile to contract an event coordinator to help out.

Critical Path:

Creating a Critical Path will help you manage logistics and keep you focused on everything that has to be done to make your event a success. Here are some steps to get you started:

  • List your main objectives (i.e. raise money and public awareness, find new supporters).
  • Recruit your team of core volunteers.
  • Decide on the event date and venue.
  • Confirm the logistic elements (i.e. catering, rentals, sound & staging).
  • Develop your budget.
  • Develop your Sponsorships/Partnerships Plan including costs of fulfilment.
  • Develop your Marketing & Media Plan including costs of materials.
  • Prepare your post-event plan (i.e. thanking attendees, sponsors and partners, volunteers, activating your onboarding process for new contacts)

Having a realistic budget and sticking to it is key to the financial success of your event. Begin by determining all your fixed and variable costs. List all of your projected revenues from ticket sales, sponsorships and partnerships, and donations of goods and services. When setting ticket prices keep in mind the costs you must cover as well as what your target audience can afford.