Invitations and Invite Lists

Dear Kim:

I work for a small, non-profit arts venue with a lot of community support (emotional, not financial). We are about to have our fifth anniversary and are planning a big semi-formal celebration & fundraiser. We have a very small budget for the event which we hope to stretch, and we are soliciting donations from local businesses to help with the costs. My question is: who should get our invitations? We want to do cool looking invitations with response cards and envelopes, but our budget is really too small to send these to all the people on our mailing list (over 2000) and to all the “friends” who might be able to spend the most on tickets to the event. We also don’t want to offend by being too selective… any advice?

–Putting on the Ritz on the Cheap

Dear Ritz:

My first question is how many people do you want to come to your event? You need to invite about three times a many as the number you want to attend, so that gives you a pretty clear number of invitations to send.

My first caveat is be careful not to be ‘penny wise and pound foolish.’  The cost of printing 3000 invitations is not going to be that much more than the cost of 1000.  Postage is a factor, to be sure, but if an invitation costs $1.50 to send out and brings back $100 for two tickets to your event or even $20 from someone who can’t come, it is well worth it.  Your mailing list may need cleaning up anyway—if you have 2000 people on it, but you say most of the support you get is emotional and not financial, that tells me you are keeping a lot of people on your list who don’t support you financially.  Mail to people on your list who give you money, and/or who you know personally and/or are important to your organization in some way.  That should cut your list down to about 1000 people.

Finally, while I am in favor of cool looking invitations and I think arts groups especially have to have attractive materials, the real secret to getting people to your event will be follow-up calls. Without a lot of follow-up calls, you will not get the audience you need. So spend the money to look nice and don’t pinch pennies too much, but don’t undermine all your other efforts by not making those follow-up calls.

Good luck!

~Kim Klein