Tired of hosting “me-too” events?

TCT Art of MurderMany non-profit organizations have golf tournaments, 5k runs and fancy dance-dinner parties with silent auctions. But when you can make your purpose and mission part of the experience of the event, the result is far more powerful and memorable. It reinforces your mission like nothing else.

Note: The principles addressed in this piece apply equally to for-profit/business events for employees and customers.

EAC Capper 14A participant lets her inner child take a joyous ride on a tricycle.an evening as a child: a playful fundraiser

One organization we admire provides services to children with disabilities. Their signature event is “An Evening As A Child.” While the goal is to raise money, participants enjoy activities that harken back to their own childhoods. It’s unlike any other fundraiser in the community and it’s 100% identifiable as belonging to only one specific agency. Attendees are loyal and engaged—both physically and financially—in the organization’s success.

the art of murder: the art of fundraising

Another organization faced a tough challenge. As a theatre that presents plays and musicals as their primary business function, how do you create a fundraising event that’s more than just another show? Also, having a theatre that seats a limited number of patrons means that a limited amount of money can be raised within their own walls. The answer was to develop a unique theatre experience outside their location. With a resident playwright on staff, a unique murder mystery is written each year and presented at a different outdoor location within the community. The “victim” is a role available for Jim OgleThe "victim" enjoys the event after being "murdered" in the first scene at The Art of Murder: Zoo Dunnit?purchase by donor businesses or individuals (the rest of the roles are cast with actors). Spectators stroll throughout the location (a park, a zoo, a campus, etc.) and enjoy food and libations and see the different scenes of the mystery on different stages. The final scene is presented for all spectators at the end of the evening. The result is one-of-a-kind outdoor theatre experience that celebrates the organization as well as valued community partners who host the event.

start with your mission
Make sure the mission and purpose of your organization is at the heart of your event. It’s more than just about raising money. It should raise awareness and engagement, and enlist new brand ambassadors.

employee participation
It’s a given that employees need to take part in major fundraising activities for their organizations. But beyond a requirement, engaging them in the creation and planning process seals in the enthusiasm. When employees can be part of the charge, not just the grunt workers, they’ll make your event sing.

make it fun
Know your audience and design your event for what they will find fun and entertaining. Keep their lifestage and lifestyle in mind as you develop the central activity of the event. Is it fun for them? Is it unique and novel so it generates lots of chatter?

four people wearing fake mustaches at an outdoor eventA board member and guests get in the western spirit of "The Art of Murder: Ho Down It?"board participation
Your board should be integral to the planning and execution of your event. They need to attend and bring guests. They also need talking points for speaking with media, sponsors and other important audiences.

look for meaningful partnerships
For many non profits, developing a stand alone signature event can be hard. It seems that there’s a fundraiser of some kind or other on every Saturday of the year. If that’s the case, are there other organizations who share your purpose or complement your services? Look for partnerships that deliver a win-win for all involved, gaining greater exposure for both organizations.

A truly powerful signature event should be repeated annually. If you don’t, someone else may replicate your event and poach your unique idea. Build on past experiences to make each subsequent year bigger and better. Soon patrons will be anxiously awaiting the opportunity to take part in your event each year.


If you need help developing a signature event, contact Martha directly at 785.969.6203.

tags: fundraising, event planning, brand, employee engagement, mission

MB Piland Advertising + Marketing: Culture Quiz
MB Piland Advertising + Marketing: Health Check