Special Events: The Impact of Size And Scope

Determining the size and shape of fundraising special events and choosing a site are critical factors in planning for an event.

In his book, Planning Special Events, published by Jossey-Bass as part of the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy’s Excellence in Fund Raising series, James S. Armstrong suggests that there are certain criteria that can be used for both scope and site choice, as well as supporting elements.

Armstrong emphasized five elements to supporting scope and choice when planning an event:

  • Defining the scope of the event. An accurate description of the event is essential to gathering support for it. That might mean highlighting more than just the big items.
  • Selecting elements of the event profile. Also called the event prospectus, the event profile helps recruit leadership and other volunteers, attracts underwriting, sponsorship and large gifts, and informs the general public about the event.
  • Selecting a site. This begins with a thorough articulation of the activities that are planned for the event. In most cases it is not wise to find a location and then try to shoehorn in an event. This will also include inspecting a site and working on a schematic layout.
  • Choosing caterers and menus. This can be made a fun activity by involving people in the process. People might not remember every element of an event but they will remember the food.
  • Arranging for entertainment. Armstrong suggested an entertainment agent and appointing a subcommittee to deal with entertainment issues. Regarding getting big-name entertainment, he offers the proverb: “He who seeks to ride the tiger should be careful not to end up inside.” It’s not usual for that to go south. It is not unusual to have an entertainer do it for expenses only but those expenses can become astronomical and more than just hiring the person.