Create Events That Engage, Intrigue, and Inspire

By Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd, Principal
Behind the Scenes Events

When it comes to fundraising events, whether it be a gala, sporting event, or networking mixer, the end goal is to inspire guests to take action.

Sound easier said than done? It’s not if the events you plan evoke emotion.

You can do that by identifying a basic human element that they can personally relate to. Here’s how:

1. Have Them Say It “In Their Own Words”

Here’s why: From marketing your event to the big night and beyond—educate your attendees through stories from those who can tell them best. Stories from the field and words of inspiration have never been better told than from the person who has lived to tell the tale.

Here’s how: At a recent fundraising gala for a large cystic fibrosis foundation, the event featured a mother who gathered her strength and took to the microphone to tell the story of how the disease had taken the life of her little girl.

The program smartly began by offering background and statistics behind the disease, moved next into recognizing those individuals and organizations fighting for a cure, and then on to this young woman who had lost her daughter far too young.

The evening ended with several opportunities laid out to guests as to how they could donate money or time to assist the cause. After hearing just how close to home this fight could be, and how it was for one family, attendees were inspired to give.

Here’s what made it inspiring: The personal stories behind the cause should begin early as it’s important to engage potential donors on that very basic, emotional level. Utilize social media, websites, video, and more to offer sound bites or full accounts that help individuals understand the importance and personal impact of your cause.

2. Connect Personally With the Crowd

Here’s why: Those who are beneficiaries of the goodwill of others should connect with guests in as intimate an environment as possible. So whenever possible and appropriate, organizers of the group hosting the event should go beyond the podium and connect with the people in the audience.

Here’s how: Many were moved to tears recently when attending an event on behalf of Paralyzed Veterans of American, acknowledging those service members who have been injured while serving abroad. These brave men and women who had made such a sacrifice for our country and who will forever display the scars from their service, mingled with the other guests.

Though many graciously answered questions about their service when asked, most focused on the future, including the new mobility they were being offered through this organization’s programs, utilizing prosthetics and modified equipment they could now use to participate on their favorite activities—aptly showcasing how their lives would go on, undeterred.

Here’s what made it inspiring: Hearing directly from these veterans allowed supporters to listen, and see firsthand, the positive impact of their generous donations, helping guests understand just how important their continued contributions are to this organization.

3. Make Your Enthusiasm Infectious

Here’s why: Behind every cause you will find a community of motivated individuals. Mostly, these are the loved ones, families, and friends, of those who have been directly impacted. These cheerleaders are the lifeblood of many causes, having watched the stories unfold in front of them, who remain passionate and vigilant in spreading the word to raise awareness and funds. These are often the only voice behind a cause, spurring others to action when those afflicted are not able to join in the fight themselves.

Here’s how: At a recent 5K run benefiting Autism Speaks, guest speakers included family and friends of those with autism, telling their tales of how the disorder had impacted their children’s life, their family’s world, and how they are using every possible outlet to help others understand and cope.

Here’s what made it inspiring: Passionate and diligent in their efforts to engage other families who are similarly afflicted, the enthusiasm of these supporters was infectious, resulting in many guests waiting to speak to them directly once they were finished telling their stories.

The Botton Line

When you inspire your guests to action by showing them directly where their impact is being made, you allow them to see, hear, and meet those beneficiaries of their good will.

I think author Mitch Albom said it best when he wrote: “The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

Here’s to making your events so engaging, intriging, and inspiring that the guests will not only remember them for a lifetime—but will use your gala as a template for their next great bash. Until next month …


About Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd

Ranked one of the top meeting and event planners in Washington, DC, for 2009 and 2010 by the Washington Business Journal, Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd’s Behind the Scenes Events, opened its doors in July 2008. Her goal is to offer organizations and individuals access to affordable, full-service meeting and event-planning solutions.

Ladd has worked in the DC meeting and event industry for more than a decade, starting her career in 1999 at the Greater Washington Board of Trade.

Her extensive association and nonprofit planning skills are accented by experience working in the social and entertainment markets. Positions with the Walt Disney Companies and as a freelance wedding and special-event coordinator give her experience with A-list celebrity clients and top-ranking government officials.

For more information, visit Behind the Scenes Events.