To Theme or Not to Theme?
Having a theme for your benefit event can be a lot of fun. And when done well, it adds a special element, making the event remarkable and memorable.
On the other hand, themes aren’t for everyone. Maybe your donors don’t like to dress up. You also have to be mindful that the theme doesn’t overshadow your org’s mission.
Here are 5 things to consider before selecting a theme for your next event.
Do Your Guests Want This?
Consider your core group of donors. Would they appreciate a theme? Do they like to dress up? Do they like decorations? Would some of your major supporters decide not to come because they don’t like the theme? Some folks love pulling out their favorite go-to 80s outfit – others can’t imagine going out in anything less than a suit or ball gown. Know your audience. Do they enjoy “playing dress-up” or would they prefer to stick to formalwear?
If you do go forward with a theme, one of the most important elements to consider is this: is the theme in alignment with your mission, or at the very least, does it not conflict with it? Think about the people you serve or issues you address. For example, if you work with addiction issues, having a speakeasy theme would not be appropriate. Or if you are an environmental group, having a theme that generates much trash would not be in alignment with your mission. Contrarily, having a theme can enhance the mission. Our partner Bodyvox had a super fun themed event known as the “Glow Ball.” The tagline was “recharge your inner light.” It was an outstanding compliment to the performing arts org’s mission. Another amazing performance-arts focused nonprofit, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, went with “Champagne Wishes and Grunge Dreams.” Totally appropriate since PICA was founded during 1995, the heyday of grunge!
Make it Easy
You want guests to participate if you have a theme, so make it easy for them. Offer suggestions in the invite or show them ways they can match the theme on your social media channels. Also, avoid themes that force people to spend a ton of money on costumes. You want them spending money on your cause, not their clothing! Another suggestion: have accessory stations situated at the event where guests can choose items to add flair and get them in the spirit. At the aforementioned Glow Ball, organizers provided a “charging station” where guests could grab a glow stick or glow jewelry to complete their looks.
Make it Fun
People go to benefits to have fun. When choosing a theme, think of ways in which you can build fun and excitement into the night. Can your table decorations add to the theme? Can your revenue stream activities align with the theme? Can you provide elements in your program or other event materials that enhance the theme? Could there be a special drink or food item that serves as your signature indulgence? The more you bring it into the room, the more opportunities for fun!
Make it Memorable
Will people want to take selfies in costume? Would a photobooth help capture some of the fun? Will people leave feeling better than when they came? When done well, themes can make your event more memorable – and make your guests eager to see what you come up with next! An added bonus – they’re more likely to talk about the experience on social media, which, in turn, spreads your good word!