Step 6: Mobilize
Once you have an issue, a goal, a team, and a coalition, it is time mobilize! But what should you do? In order to determine the best type of action for your work, begin by identifying the purpose of the event with your team. A stated purpose is integral to the success of your event. So what do you hope to accomplish: Raise awareness? Build coalition support? Fundraise? Making your purpose clear will allow you to identify what groups or organizations to engage and create achievable outcomes to support your work.
A. Types of Events
Most types of action take the shape of an event and therefore you must create a comprehensive plan for executing your event.Here are some examples of events you could have:
Launch Party, Reception or Networking event
Lecture or Group Discussion
Philanthropic or Service Event
Political rally or Social Action
You should also consider “non-traditional events,” such as flash mobs, demonstrations and friend-raisers. These events can be successful ways to get the word out about your cause, mission or future plans of action. While these events may not include fundraising components or a call for immediate action, they can start a conversation or raise awareness for your issue. Many start-ups causes struggle for media attention and often a non-traditional event can attract the media because they are unique and creative. They can also be great solutions to the “zero budget,” challenge.
a. Establishing Event Goals
Establishing a tangible goal is just as important as a purpose. If the goal is to get 100 students to show up in support of affordable housing, publish that goal. When people feel like they are part of a larger movement, they are excited to show up and help out. Moreover, goals give your team something to aim for and a sense of direction. It also gives you a tangible way to measure success. The goal should involve a future action or outcome and be related to the purpose of the event. For example, have attendees sign a petition, attend your next team meeting, join your social networks on Facebook and Twitter, sign up for your email list or make a donation.
No matter what kind of event it is, keep the following tips in mind:
Always have a purpose and goal for your event. Never create an event just to have an event.
You will need a committee of 5-10 people to put together an event. Don’t try to plan an event by yourself.
Work with your coalition partners to combine resources, including volunteers, supplies, and experience.
Create actionable steps for the event participants to continue supporting your cause.
Before you can even begin to plan your event, you need to first know what kind of budget you are working with. Take a look at your team’s finances. How much money do you have and how much money will you need to raise for this event? Below are two things to remember when putting together a budget:
Be realistic about your fundraising goals. It is much better to be under budget and raise more money for future events than to go over budget and pay for it yourself. A flexible budget is okay as long as it does not exceed your fundraising goals.
Stick to a specific percent expense. For instance, say you’d like to keep all expenses under 30% of total revenue. This provides flexibility if you are able to secure sponsorships or another fundraising early on and doesn’t limit you to a specific spending dollar amount.
a. In-Kind Donations and Corporations
In-kind donations are one of the most effective ways of limiting or eliminating costs. Ask a local business to donate space, a local restaurant to donate food, a local printer to donate posters or a local store to donate supplies. To get donations, draft a letter to each vendor or company including a specific list of items you need along with a description of what the items are going to be used for. When composing your letter, focus on the local impact of the event. Local vendors are much more likely to donate locally rather than nationally.
When approaching corporate businesses, keep in mind that the local branch may not have authority to make large in-kind donations. Typically items with lower value are at the discretion of the Store Manager, but larger donations require approval by the corporate office. Therefore you must plan to make your request well in advance of the event and consider ways you can partner on a wider scale. Companies typically value opportunities that build traffic, align their brand with a positive cause or engage their employees.
C. Event Logistics
Each event or program you develop will have a different set of steps for execution. However, there are some simple logistical steps you can take with every event to ensure its success.
Identify the following:
Budget and Expected Revenue
General Event Date, Time and Location
Potential Speakers, Guests of Honor or Entertainment
Now you can start planning. Each event will have its own timeline, tasks, and benchmarks. Reach out to coalition members who have hosted similar activities for advice.
a. Finding a Venue
Depending on the purpose of your event, your venue can be a make or break decision. If hosting an event that is open to the public, consider a high traffic location or trendy spot. This will increase the possibility to recruit new people who have not heard of your cause or mission. Another location consideration is accessibility; think about what mode of transportation the majority of participants will utilize or the venue's proximity to traffic hubs like parking, public transit or airports.
When considering the size of the venue, it is better for the space to be too small than too big. If you want a venue that can hold 200 people, make sure it looks full if only 75 show up. Always get a venue that will look full with the lowest number of participants you expect. No one wants to join an empty party, so make sure your event looks full and inviting.
It is also important to consider the level of intimacy you want the event participants to have with each other and the speakers. If you want to create a space for dialogue, consider a classroom where you can sit around a table. If you want to create a space where people can cheer and be vocal, consider an auditorium or gymnasium.
When considering venue options, you’ll have to decide how much of your budget it’s worth. Oftentimes event space can be donated or secured at no cost. Look for civic gathering places and community centers where you can hold events or businesses that would allow you to use the space for free with a minimum food and beverage purchase. School venues can also be a great free or low-cost option for attending students.
b. Find Speakers or Entertainment
Speakers and entertainment are an important part of attracting people to attend your event. Speakers and entertainment add value to your engagement and can often lead new potential supporters to your cause.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to recruit local talent. If bands are new and working to build a base, they will often play for free, particularly if they can sell merchandise or pass out information.
When inviting guest speakers, look for experts on the issue you will be addressing at the event. Invite elected officials to share their perspectives and hear from their constituents. Be sure to research the right person to contact to ensure that your invitation goes to the decision maker or manager.
c. Market the Action
The best way to get the word out is to use creative marketing techniques to captivate audiences. Today, this means using a combination of physical and digital marketing strategies.
Physical marketing techniques can include flyers, tabling, and class raps. Flyers can be posted in coffee shops, community centers, local libraries or classrooms, hallways, and dorms. Ask your coalition partners to share the flyers with participants at their programs or activities leading up to your event.
Identify your target audience or attendee and go where they are. If you are interested in attracting college students to your event, you should go to campuses and talk to students. If you are looking for young professionals, hit up the local food trucks during lunch.
Digital marketing strategies are abundant and there are many online platforms or tools that can support your event. Consider registration platforms like Evite, EventBrite or Formstack to track RSVPs for your event. If you are charging a fee, these tools allow for easy integration to payment processors. Remember that most people no longer carry cash and therefore you should set-up a system for accepting credit cards.
Social media can be used to publicize your event but can be a misleading portrayal of how many people will attend your event. Create a digital flyer that can be posted on blogs, email signatures or other customizable locations.
Based on the reach of the event and your attendance goals, you should determine which marketing strategy will work best for your event purpose. It is often easy to get lost in all the types of marketing strategies and media platforms available. Marketing across too many of these will be less effective and waste energy that could be focused on a handful of the most successful strategies. As you continue to host events and programs, you will learn what physical and digital marketing strategies work best for the audience you are trying to reach. Take notes so that you can use them moving forward and improve your marketing plan.