Supporting a charity is a great way to add another dimension to any event. There’s great potential in leveraging the power of an existing group of people (your attendees) to raise money for a worthy cause. Whether your event begins with a charitable purpose or seeks to add that as an element later on, there are certain principles that apply. Let’s look at some of the basic parameters for ensuring that everyone gets the most out of a good charitable partnership.
1) Pick a Meaningful Charity
This may seem obvious, but it’s really important to find a charity that is meaningful to both you and your client. Nothing drives a good partnership better than personal passion. When everyone is truly motivated to support a specific cause, enthusiasm drives creativity to higher levels, people are more apt to be cooperative and flexible, and where applicable, everyone works that much harder to raise funds.
A few years back, I worked on a corporate event celebrating the opening of the New York offices of a regional PR firm. They wanted to do something that would express how grateful they were to be in NYC. We paired them up with Million Trees NYC, a uniquely New York initiative of the NYC Parks Department and the New York Restoration Project. The folks from Million Trees supplied printed bags, buttons and other promotional materials for attendees, we included potted trees as part of the event décor, and the client made a donation to the project. It was a small but successful collaboration.
2) Integrate the Charitable Elements into Your Event
It’s one thing when your event is purely a charitable fundraiser, and the charity is your client. Gala events like that are fairly straightforward. However, when your event is more along the lines of a conference, a trade show or even a performance, it helps to have some thematic connection between the charity partner and the event itself.
In the same way that Million Trees NYC became the focus of the client’s desire to build a substantive relationship with New York City, the charity that you partner with should have some connection to the client’s identity or current goals. In a conference, the nature of the charity should be linked to the theme of the conference. If appropriate, spokespeople from the charity should be present to make some remarks and/or be available for questions. Wherever possible, coordinate gift giveaways, door prizes or auction items with the charity and its focus.
3) Think in Terms of Building a Broader Community
Charitable campaigns work best when they cultivate relationships over time. If you want to develop a substantive connection with your charitable partner and the people from whom you are requesting support, try and think about ways that you can maintain your relationship to this cause over time. Perhaps institute a fundraising campaign that launches at your event and then continues on into the future. Or, consider starting it well in advance of your event and announcing the final results to your attendees. In either case, people should feel like they are part of an expanded circle that includes all participants. In this way, you are cultivating genuine connections that have the potential to remain productive beyond the boundaries of your event.
4) Remember to Co-Brand
It’s important to think of you and your charitable partner as collaborators for the sake of leveraging one another’s power and reach. Remember Aristotle’s saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” It’s true. When you team up with an outside organization, you can pool many of your resources, including your social media reach. Coordinate with one another on messaging, including the use of specific hashtags. Make sure to tag one another and comment publicly on each other’s posts. Make sure that all press releases and other PR outreach brand all participants equally. The stronger your public facing alliance, the more traction you are likely to get in press coverage and overall buzz.
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