We spend a lot of time talking about your nonprofit’s communications strategy. But when it comes to fundraising events, are you thinking beyond your save the date, invitations, and event website? Have you developed event branding that clearly communicates the goals of your event and organization as a whole? And do you have a plan to leverage it on the big day?
You need to have a plan for event branding from the get-go. You’ll put a lot of thought into your communications that promote the event and secure registrants. But it’s crucial to first build a brand that tells your audience why the event is so important. Too many nonprofits fail to see their communications as part of the bigger picture. They focus more on designing individual pieces than creating a cohesive brand for the event.
A Mission-Centric Brand
Hopefully, you came up with a creative name for your event that demonstrates what the day is all about. Something like Our Annual Gala is not going to cut it. But the name is just a small part of event branding. It’s more about how you communicate the significance behind the name into the rest of your event and associated communications.
For example, our friends at the Cooke School and Institute hold an annual Food for Thought gala every year. The school envisions a world in which all people with special needs are included as valued members of their communities, leading independent and purposeful lives (Thought).
The gala features cuisine prepared by some of the most noteworthy chefs in New York City (Food). The event’s brand is built on a name that connects what the event is about to the organization’s goals. While the specific fundraising initiative the event supports changes from year to year, the mission that drives the event’s brand remains the same.
For example, in 2018, Cooke focused their gala on the Building Futures campaign, which sought to improve the school’s facilities to help ensure that every child learns in an optimal environment. In 2019, the school stuck with the idea behind Building Futures. However, this year, the gala was focused on building the futures of people through Cooke’s SKILLs initiative, which aims to expand services for the students and alumni.
Before you can do more with event branding you need to consider the goals of your organization, how your event furthers your mission, and how you can touch on those points every step of the way.
Repurpose Your Materials
A big part of any brand is the sense of familiarity. When your attendees arrive, they should be greeted by familiar imagery before they even check in. So, before you go about designing any signage for your event, open your invitations again.
Doing twice the amount of work creating new imagery for your event is not only a waste of time, it actually disconnects your attendees from your mission and the event brand. Your signage should remind them of the invitation they received months ago. In turn, this will bring the reasons they wanted to attend the event in the first place back to mind.
Graphics, pictures, color-themes, and language should remain consistent throughout your event communications strategy. Your event itself needs to be part of that plan. Keep this in mind when you create banners, signage, nametags, and any other materials that feature your event’s brand.
Your Brand and Interior Design
Put as much thought into the design of your event floor as you do to your event invitations and website. We’re not talking about how many chairs to put at each table. Look at the event floor as another branded element in your communications strategy. Think strategically, so you can remind attendees why they came, no matter where they are at your event.
Many large, open floor venues have large pillars throughout the room. You can take advantage of this negative space and showcase your event’s brand. A large, plain white column in the middle of the room can be a distraction. Instead, consider hanging some gallery signs on these pillars. Show the people and faces that your organization works to support. Highlight statistics that demonstrate the impact of your organization’s work. Rather than getting lost and staring into space, your attendees will see familiar imagery in these places that enforces the event’s brand.
Take the same approach to any entrance ways or long hallways at the venue. Is that long corridor between the coat check and the main ballroom just a hallway? Or, is it a gallery, featuring visuals that communicate the impact of your organization’s work?
Don’t just print out a plain white sheet with the words “Check-In” and hang it on your registration table. Instead, create wayfinding sings that support your brand. Create different versions of these signs to direct your attendees around the event floor. Whether they are looking for the check-in table, sponsor booths, the buffet, or even the bathroom, your attendees should be hit with your event’s brand.
Consider using branded centerpieces at each of your tables during a gala. You don’t have to do anything fancy. Most venues will have house centerpieces, like a flower arrangement available for you. These look great on their own, but you can create centerpiece cubes that wrap around the base of them. These centerpiece enhancements can feature images and fun facts that tie in with your event’s brand and remind attendees of your message.
Leave No Stone Unturned
The examples we provided in this post are just some of the ways we helped one of our clients go further with their event branding. As in other communications strategies, there is no uniform approach that works for every organization.
We encourage you to come up with new and creative ways to feature your brand on the big day. Remember, your event website, emails, and direct mail invitations are just the start. The best events take that brand and incorporate throughout the event itself.