Peer-to-peer fundraising event production is like a good Broadway show: You get to create something from paper and make it come to life. Like a good Broadway production, you can’t just raise the curtains on opening night to start the show. There are months, and maybe years, of planning to make this show flawless and seamless.
Nailing down every detail and contingency is what makes your event run as smoothly as possible. When I’m planning events, I use a system of Four S’s:
1. Site Plans
Your event site plan tells your story. It’s your blueprint for event day. You need to look at your site from every angle and think like a participant: What do they need? Is there parking? What will they be looking for once they arrive? Most likely it’s registration or check in.
Lay out your site plan not only based on your participant needs, but also on when and where they’ll need them. Where should you place the trash cans? Do you need a hand-washing station near the porta potty, or just a table with hand sanitizer? The more of these questions you answer when planning, the smoother your event will go.
Map it out
When laying out your peer-to-peer event site, map out an easy flow of traffic. Start with the parking lot where your participants, staff and volunteers will arrive. From there you want to make it easy to get to the first tent for registration or check-in. For staff and volunteers, it’s likely they’ll be there early in the morning, so you want the site to be well-lit with no tripping hazards. We all need generators for power at events, so talk to your power vendor about having cable ramps to keep those cables out of the way from tired feet.
Do walk-throughs, plural
Even after you have everything planned out, it’s important to do multiple walk-throughs. A tree could fall on your site the day before the event, or there could be a muddy area that wasn’t there last visit. You never know and you have to plan for those problems. Also, make sure you do a vendor and site-provider walk-through to cover all of your bases. More questions to ask: Can you use tent stakes or are you required to use cement blocks? Are you required to ground the generators or light towers? Can vehicles drive on the grass? Or do you need to build a plywood road? Every question you ask now will be one less problem you could have on event day.
Recharge your participants
Food and beverage areas are important for keeping participants happy. They need a place to rehydrate and refresh before and after the event. It doesn’t mean you have to give everyone a water bottle. You can have a cooler and participants can self serve. If you have a sponsor who wants to give out water bottles, that’s great. Having a spot where folks can go to cool off after an event on a hot day is also important, so make sure that there are areas for people to rest with seats.
Encourage your sponsor to enrich the experience
Ask your sponsors to not just have giveaways, but to create an experience for your participants. We have a potato-chip company that sponsors one of our bike rides and they created an obstacle course for kids. You want people to stay and enjoy your event, so your participants, volunteers, sponsors and staff all have a great experience. You retain them and then they want to come back and do more the next year.
I put a lot of emphasis on great signage. It makes your peer-to-peer fundraising event come to life. Signage is a visual representation of your event. The more time you put into sign design the better your event will look. You want participants to be transported into the event day and know this is their event. You also want to create plenty of photo-ops so your participants can share their event day experience and look back on that day with a smile. The memories from your event should last all year until the next event.
Your signs are like a map that tell staff and event participants where to go, what to do and what’s happening. They provide direction, information, brand awareness, and they tell your story. No matter how big or small your site, signage helps flow the event and gives it a consistent look and feel. Make a nice lecturn sign, since this has high visibility. Inflatables give your event a three dimensional feel. Inflatable arches are great for start and finish. Make sure your logo and key sponsor logos are in the right spots to get captured in photos and video so they’ll be seen all over social media and the web. Most importantly, when the participant arrives at your event site, they’ll immediately look for a sign that tells them where to start. Make sure that’s there.
Remember that without good signage your event is just an unmemorable crowded park, an open field or a parking lot. Signs make the event.
While we focus on creating events to go smoothly for participants, we also have to make jobs easy for staff and volunteers. It takes a village to put on an event, so understanding roles and responsibilities is important. The more you do beforehand, the easier it will be on event day.
Create individual operations plans for the opening ceremony, rest stops, and registration. You want staff and volunteers to be able to focus on their specific area, as well as understand an overall plan. They should know:
- exactly what they’re supposed to do
- exactly where they’re supposed to be
- exactly how long they’ll be there
- how many people will be there with them
Give everyone an event book and make sure they have rain gear. If you have walkie-talkies, make sure everyone wears a belt. Get everything out of your head and put it on paper so everyone has that quick reference.
Having the supplies you need can be easily overlooked. Through our years of experience, we know that separate plastic bins for each area works very well. You know an area has scissors, pens, clipboards, paper towels, power strips, and whatever they need to set them up for success. That way, during your event, people aren’t constantly coming to you when you have a thousand things going on. Each area should be able to self-serve. There should also be an accurate manifest of supplies to make sure your staff and volunteers have all they need, when they need it. When you get there, everyone will know where the zip ties are to hang your signage and where the clippers are to take them down. They know where the paper towels are, the tablecloths, everything.
At Eventage, we do inventory of supplies twice a year, just to make sure. After all, if the lid is off a Sharpie it won’t work six months later. You’ll have a better idea of what you need, what you have, how you’re going to get it there, and the time you’ll need it. So by the time you get to loading your trucks, your staff is happy and you know where everything is.
Just like on Broadway, getting every detail right is important for a great overall peer-to-peer fundraising event experience. The more flawlessly the production goes, the more likely you’ll get an encore next year.
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