Improve your fall event through better design: Part 2

Matt Radel

Matt Radel

Design Director

Part 1 of this article introduces the concept and value of Design Sprints. You'll find it here.


In our Design Sprint workshop at the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum in Miami, once a few concerns were answered, the light bulbs in the group started going off. The questions were: How am I supposed to get five people in a room for a week? That’s the first test of whether the idea is worth it. If you can’t get five people in a room for a week, then the idea may not be that important to everyone. Another question: What happens if we get to the middle of the sprint and we fail? Generally speaking you don’t experience that in this process. But if you get to Wednesday and the idea isn’t working, then you’ve only invested three days instead of three months or three years.

What happens if we get to the middle of the sprint and we fail?

Normally with things as big as an event, you can build it, hope, cross your fingers, and maybe watch it crash or maybe watch it succeed. Or you can put people in a room for five days with a whiteboard and test those same ideas and get feedback on what you need to adjust. With Design Sprints you’re picking these things off faster and you’re learning more in the process.

Who to invite

Another question we had from the workshop was about getting things approved, which may require many people. When forming the team, ask who truly is the decider. Is it a board member? Then put them on the team. They need to speak on behalf of the board.

When you're building your team, also bring the troublemaker. You want that person to be there to poke holes in your strategy. In the workshop, eyes rolled when I mentioned the troublemaker because everyone knew exactly who I was talking about at their nonprofit. Those are the people we usually try to avoid, but you may see a remarkable turn when you involve them. They can get invested very quickly and often present the best ideas.

When you're building your team, also bring the troublemaker.

It’s also best to involve people in the group who are closest to the problem you’re solving. If you’re looking for a solution to better event day registration, invite the person in charge to be in the group. To keep the group from getting too big, Monday of the sprint, have Ask the Experts and briefly bring in people who aren’t part of the team, but can provide insight. If you did a participant survey, someone should present that data to the group.

Design Sprints can be a great tool for bringing reality to nebulous initiatives. Somebody in the workshop brought up: I’ve been charged with creating a viral campaign. I don’t know what that it and the board doesn’t know what that is, but I’m supposed to create a viral campaign. Where do you go with that? Instead of pulling random people into meetings or brainstorming, it’s better to say: We have a focused group that tested that idea and it didn’t work or it did work.

Real-world examples

Here’s an example of how you might use a Design Sprint for your fall event: If you think that day-of registration and sign-up is a bear, then that’s a pain point. Maybe there are different ways you need to try it. Traditionally you’d say: Let’s set the table up this way, but you don’t know if it works until you test it when the actual event day arrives. With a Design Sprint you have an actual prototype to test - it could be in your office, where you set up some tables, grab T-shirts, and use a few iPads for the actual registration. So you get your test group to walk up to this thing and see how quickly you can go through a registration. You can time the process and take that data back to your board.

You can’t say: ’Hey, let’s get a thousand people to the place we’re holding the event to test it.’

A more ambitious example is testing a new event. If you’re toying with the idea of a new initiative, how do you prototype it? You can’t say: Hey, let’s get a thousand people to the place we’re holding the event to test it. But you can take the idea and it could manifest as event flyers, a fake website, anything you could test to find out if there’s interest in the idea. How do you communicate it? Will people get that? It can take many different shapes and you can figure it out in a Design Sprint.

With Design Sprints being adopted by so many successful businesses, I’m sure the words will be one of the next big buzz-phrases for nonprofits too. Nonprofits that put this rapid prototyping program to use will find that it saves time, is more effective, and can be used for a variety of problem solving, even outside of fundraising and events. A best of all, a Design Sprint only takes five days, so you can solve your biggest event problem now and put the fix in for your fall event.


Download the Design Sprint worksheet 

Ready to learn more about how DonorDrive can help you?