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Cincinnati Music Hall

How to Make Your Nonprofit Conference Successful

2015-06-23

Trying to stretch the budget and yet still put on a great conference? Take a look at these ideas. 

Every meeting planner has the problem of making a lot happen under a tight budget, but nowhere is that more true than when it comes to meetings involving nonprofits.

You’re dealing with attendees with varying budgets and not a lot of cash for the flash. All of that can lead to a huge headache for meeting planners.

So what are you to do? How do you extend that dollar while still putting on a great conference?

Go Where Your Industry’s History Lives

They say that those that don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. That’s true. But diving into the history of an industry is more than just trying not to repeat mistakes. Sometimes it’s looking at long-forgotten processes and figuring out that you now have the technology and skills to make it work.

For example, in 1875, Cincinnati became the first city to have a matching fundraiser. Reuben Springer matched funds raised for our Music Hall from Cincinnati citizens. This was at a time when communication was not as fast-paced and wide-spread, and yet it worked. Don’t you wonder how they achieved it and if parts of the campaign could work for today’s nonprofits? By learning from local historians, your attendees could potentially flip the script on their own matching fundraisers.

Go Where the Future is Now

There is one fact that we must all face, especially nonprofits: There will be another recession. Although economic forecasters differ on when it will happen, they all agree that it will come. How many nonprofits can really say they are prepared for when disaster hits? Or if they worse case scenario happens, can they really dig out of a hole?

One organization that has done an amazing job of coming back strong is the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. At a time when symphonies are having trouble getting people to concerts, our symphony is reporting many sell outs. At a time when symphonies are cutting musicians, our symphony keeps hiring more. What are they doing that’s different? Wouldn’t that be an amazing topic for any nonprofit conference?

And when you can work with local organizations within your meeting’s host city to find speakers, you are easily slashing your speaker budget by not having to pay for travel fees. And that frees up some of your budget for fun activities, while still maintaining a high level of content. That is a win-win if we have ever heard it.

Go Where There are Affordable and Luxury Lodgings

There is a misconception within the meeting planner world that when you choose lodgings for your conference that you have to go to one hotel so everyone is together. But that is a risk: What if the hotel you choose is too expensive for some of your attendees? Or what if it’s not posh enough?

A growing trend that we love is, instead, getting smaller blocks at multiple hotels. That way, your budget and luxury attendees can get the kind of accommodations that will make them comfortable. And in a compact downtown like Cincinnati’s meeting rooms are still within walking distance. Worried about bad weather? The Duke Energy Convention Center is connected to several of our downtown hotels, making weather not a problem.

So how are you making your nonprofit conference successful?