Events Must Drive Home An Experience

The thriving experience economy presents an opportunity and challenge for fundraisers. The key is knowing how far to push for the boundary for off-the-beaten-path destinations and encouraging exploration of new environments.

Setting the stage for an event was an element of a session presented by Carrie Johnson, senior director of education at PCMA in Chicago, during the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ annual international conference in San Antonio, Texas.

According to Johnson, the most memorable events celebrate local surroundings yet every event must have a unique objective for the audience.The space used must reflect each event’s specific personality and needs. From technological infrastructure, to architecture, to furniture and fixtures, space is critical to any event. It should be designed to adapt to the ways that participants will engage with one another, with the content of the event, and with the space itself.

Every event must have a message. The message needs to be that the mission is bigger than oneself and the getting donors to act on that message. Participants want to understand what’s important to the organization and experience events that deliver that message down to the smallest detail, allowing them to meaningfully connect with the experience and bringing purpose to their engagement, she told the audience.

Donors recognize that the dollars they spend are a reflection of their values, politics, or choices, and are looking for brands and charities that clearly demonstrate where they stand on certain issues.

Johnson explained that consumerized experiences are being traded in for authentic, location-true destinations, where enrichment comes in unexpected forms and through exposure to local cultures. Fundraisers need to leverage geography for deeper enrichment. Sterile spaces or generic locations are no longer acceptable, she counseled.