Adults dressed for a costume partyImagine your site at night, bright with twinkling lights and 700 adults enjoying a popular local band, primeval beverages, dozens of restaurant cuisines, and your new exhibit. Welcome to Zoobilee, a one-night event benefiting Tallahassee Museum’s educational programs.

Read this article to learn more about an extra-special special-event that attracts new audiences.

The Event

The Tallahassee Museum specializes in North Florida’s history, nature, and wildlife. From amazing native animals and rare historic buildings to beautiful natural scenery to exciting public educational programs, there’s something for everyone. One evening per year, that something is Zoobilee, an event that results in five figures of income. Zoobilee is held from 7 to 10, after hours on a fall non-football weekend after the summer heat breaks. In one year, Zoobilee tripled its revenue from the previous year; most of the increase came from reduced expenses.

Four keys to Zoobilee’s 20-year success include:

1. More Than Money. Special events are time-consuming. Besides money, Zoobilee reaches new audiences and creates relationships; over time, it has become a must-attend event for Tallahassee’s adult community—even though the Museum itself is still mostly considered a children’s venue. Besides funding, the Tallahassee Museum enhances its brand and reaches new audiences.

2. Location. Instead of onsite, the predecessor event to Zoobilee was held at the local armory. Zoobilee invites visitors to come to the Museum and see it is not just for kids.

3. Fresh. Although Zoobilee is an annual event, the theme changes yearly, and the Museum tweaks event production for effectiveness and efficiency.

4. Pricing. Zoobilee tickets are all-inclusive price ($40 in advance, $45 at the door). The price is reasonable for adults seeking a night out, but also costly enough to discourage college crowds in this college filled community.

 How You Can Attract New Audiences to Your Special Event and Enjoy Other Successes Like Zoobilee

  1. Serve New

Zoobilee serves the 20 to 30-something plus crowd. If you, like the Tallahassee Museum, are mostly a kids-kind-of-place, consider a special event to reach a new age group. While it may stretch your staff and resources, it will enhance your brand and may guarantee your future. If you serve adults, what would a children’s event look like for you? If you work with teens, what event might you offer for toddlers?

2. Create a Triple Bottom Line or More

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that it’s easier to call five or even 50 potential donors to ask for funding than create an annual special event. Special events take hours and hours of staff work, even with great volunteers. Therefore, your special events, like Zoobilee, should be about more than for money. Copy the Tallahassee Museum’s concept of making special events do more. They use Zoobilee to build their brand and find supporters. With planning, your nonprofit can ensure that its events lead to more than just meony now, by using them as a step in the process to greater community involvement, rather than just a stand-alone activity.

3. Bloom Where You Are Planted

Not only does using your facility save hall rental, holding events onsite introduces guests to your facility, helps them to know you better, and saves you time since you avoid multiple commutes to offsite locations.  Re-look at your site and consider if you can hold your special event there.

4. Be Fresh

Keeping special events fresh remains a universal challenge. Over the years, the Tallahassee Museum developed several formulas to refresh Zoobilee. Which of these can you use?

  • Sponsors. Music is a critical component of Zoobilee. Many attendees attend the “right band.” Over the years, the Museum struggled to find a band to please all tastes. They solved the challenge and increased their income by asking a bar familiar with local bands to sponsor (and pick) the band. This partnership provided new income, less unsolicited advice, great publicity for the sponsor, and the audience with hotter bands. What sponsorship opportunities can you develop to help you take a monkey off your back?
  • Themes: Changing themes each year has kept Zoobilee fresh and fun. The Tallahassee Museum uses current culture themes with and dress-up potential such as Biker’s Ball, Pirates in Paradise, Zombie Zoobilee, and this year, Prehistoric Zoobilee (coordinated with the new Jim Gary’s Twentieth Century Dinosaurs exhibit).

Every day, good nonprofit organizations find ways to improve their funding streams. One way to improve your income is to make your special events produce excellent outcomes, like the Tallahassee Museum. Even if this type of special event fails to fit your needs, consider new ways to strengthen your funding stream so you, too, can become a profitable nonprofit.

To learn more about creating an exceptional  event:

Read: How to Develop and Lead Exceptional Nonprofit Events

To learn more about keeping your events under control, read Help! We’re Caught on a Nonprofit Event Treadmill 

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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