University fundraising events are more important than ever. Why? Well, for one, traditional revenue streams for public universities are predicted to slow in the year ahead. That means those same universities will need to to bring out their best fundraising ideas and plan events flawlessly to diversify revenue streams in 2018. And it all starts with upping the ante on university events. Below we’ve rounded up three ideas university event planners can implement to bring in more money and incentivize giving.
- Competitive events
- Informal networking opportunities
- University-hosted entertainment
For the best fundraising ideas, sometimes you have to think outside of the box.
We’re not talking sports here, we’re talking gamification — because competing increases engagement. In fact, a recent study from Talent LMS showed that 79% of respondents feel they would be more engaged in learning if their programs incorporated gamification elements. And if it works for learning, it can increase engagement for giving too. But the question is, how can universities gamify the giving process? One example lies in a world that schools know all too well.
Example: Brackets for Bucks
The American Gaming Association estimated that March Madness bets would top $10 billion dollars in 2017. So why not capitalize on that with a university event? Reach out to alumni and students to create a bracket pool — just like 40 million people are already doing each year. Name a price for participation and incentivize participation with a prize pot for the winning bracket. Potential donors will be more engaged thanks to the gamification element, and incentivized to give thanks to the prize.
Once the brackets are submitted, host watch parties where attendees can get together and imbibe in all the March Madness. By teaming up with local breweries or pubs, you can strike up a mutually beneficial partnership that allows them to showcase their brews and gives you the kind of sponsorship that lures viewers out of their local watering holes and onto your college campus.
American Gaming Association: $10.4 billion to be gambled on March Madness.
Perspective: $10.4 billion was Ford’s 2016 profit, before taxes
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 14, 2017
Informal Networking Events
We’re all familiar with job fairs at universities, but that doesn’t mean you have to run the same networking playbook every time. Informal networking opportunities are just as important, and can even be more appealing as younger generations become the majority of fundraising pools. After all, when it comes to events, “Millennial planners—and attendees—want to have opportunities to engage,” says Steve Enselein, VP of Catering and CS at Hyatt Hotels Corporation.
At the end of the day, traditional networking events take away from that engagement by stressing competition over a connection. By easing up on the formality and creating events guests and alumni actually want to attend, universities have the opportunity to increase attendance, bring in more from admission, and create organic opportunities for connection amongst attendees.
Example: Give it Some Flavor
Invite local food trucks or breweries on campus and sell tickets for entry, taking a “food and new friends” or “beer with new buddies” angle. Attendees will have the chance to experience authentic local flavors, and network informally with fellow professionals and potential new employers — while food trucks and breweries will be more than happy for the chance to bring in the extra bucks.
Did a famous comedian go to your university? Or maybe the lead singer of a famous band was in your economics program once upon a time? Chances are, you can reach out to them about coming on campus for a university event. Sure, schools put concerts on mainly for students, but there are plenty of folks out in the community who could be interested in a good show — plus universities generally have plenty of space to put on the event or rent out to tours coming through the area.
Example: Events at University Stadiums & Auditoriums
What does a major football university do with their stadium in the off-season? Well, Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, and Beyoncé will all be gracing Buckeye stadium with performances in the summer of 2018. Meanwhile, the Foo Fighters will play the first-ever concert at Georgia State University on April 28, and Georgia Tech reported their share of the 2015 Rolling Stones concert at Bobby Dodd covered $250,000 in new cost-of-attendance increases the following year. And don’t forget Folsom Field at CU, which just played host to the iconic band, the Dead and Company.
Still, all of these examples don’t mean schools have to settle for renting out university space as a venue. Just look at Lehigh University, who teamed up with comedian Mike Birbiglia to bring his “Thank God for Jokes” tour to the university, selling tickets through the university to both students and the general public — with general public tickets selling at a higher rate.
Bringing the Events to Life
With these event ideas in your back pocket, you’re poised to execute events that bring in more money for your school. But with bigger, better events, comes the need for more effective planning — which is why having the right event planning technology can make a world of difference. Check out how Social Tables technology can help universities spend less time stressing the planning and more time coming up with great, revenue-generating events.
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