The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

5 reasons people come to an event

I had a lot of interesting reaction and comments to last week’s post, An Open Plea for Better Events. (Read the comments here.) So I wanted to follow up on two questions: What drives event participation and what are ideas for fun events?

What drives event participation?

For an answer to this question, I turned to my friends at Event360. They have a great five-point model to describe event participation. (Get a free download here.) A good event speaks to as many of these factors as possible. Here are the highlights:

1. Affinity to third-party group. Often participation in an event is not because of the activity or the beneficiary at all, but rather due to the efforts of an affiliated (or unrelated) third-party group. For example, individual donations to the United Way come mainly from corporate appeals conducted in the workplace; employees give out of loyalty to (or pressure from) their company. Similarly, many events use large corporate teams in which affinity to the corporation is the defining motivation.

2. Affinity to activity. Some people participate simply because they like the activity in question. For example, marathon runners like running, and that is usually their primary driver for participating in an event.

3. Affinity to participants. Some people participate because of others who are participating. A person who participates in a walk because a group of co-workers or friends are also doing it might fall into this category.

4. Affinity to cause. Many people engage in fundraising events because they share support for the cause which the event is designed to impact. A breast cancer survivor, for example, might participate in breast cancer walks, runs, concerts and galas.

5. Affinity to organization. At this level, loyalty or community with the nonprofit organization itself is the participation driver. An executive who dislikes galas but attends one anyway to support the organization is an example of this type of participant.

Don’t assume everyone is in feeling #5! Design an event that appeals to as many affinities as possible, as described here.

What are ideas for fun events?

John Scott Foster of the Wesselman Nature Society, who made the plea in my last post, offers some cooking-themed ideas that speak to many of these five factors. Here are the events, in his words.

The first – 100 men who cook, an event held by Old National Bank with a different non-profit benefiting each year. In 2012 they sold out, 800 tickets. But with 100 men cooking, no catering fees, an additional 20K goes to the recipient. The cooks competed in terms of decorating or theming their serving area. This year one of the hospital surgical groups that cooked set up their area like a surgical ward, and carved pork tenderloin. Costumes, props, the works. Fun. Cooks had tip jars and the person who got the most tips won the golden spatula award. The winner raised 2.4K in tips that he started collecting two months before the event (karma for all the people who sold him girl scout cookies, boy scout popcorn and PTA gift wrap). The cooks entered the hall in a parade (chef’s hats and aprons provided) led by a Harley motorcycle – loud (an auction item, starting bid 12K) and the local schools drum “boom” squad- even louder. Fun for the cooks, fun for the participants. Although corporations purchased tables, you got to get up and move around, socialize with whoever you wanted. Most people did not sit down at their tables until the auction started. Socializing was the key.

Kate Miller/Courier Press photo

The second – A YWCA event, in a conference center, but their twist was that they had individuals (celebrities, celebrity chefs) and businesses cook cakes. Each table had a cake, but you didn’t have to have the cake on your table. So during the happy hour, you cruised around checking out which one you wanted. Then there was a sit-down dinner, but the minute you finished dinner, you popped up and went foraging for cake. It forced you to be social, to move around. And because the cake you wanted may have been at a table that you didn’t know a soul at, you had to talk to new people.

What are you doing to drive the five factors?

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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