To ensure the success and health of your event, one of the most crucial relationships to nurture is your repeat participant. These are the people who come back year after year and typically bring new friends along with them. They are team builders and fundraisers and inspire others to act as well. Because of this, it is essential to give them the VIP treatment. They may not ask for it, but everyone feels good being recognized for their efforts, and loyal participants should receive the royal treatment.

VIP participants come from a variety of backgrounds. A cookie cutter approach to ask your VIP’s in helping to grow the event may sound like a good idea, but your participants are all unique individuals. If you take the time to identify who these people are, what makes them participate year after year, and what makes them choose your event over others, you’ll find that your participants will recognize and appreciate your efforts. Whether it is team building or fundraising, outlining clear goals will be key to a successful relationship with your VIP.

It’s not always about swag. Participants are looking for your support for their efforts and recognition. People are drawn in by small touches such as personalized recognition; a fast pass to the head of the line or a simple registration discount will encourage continued participation. Additionally, this will make your participant feel as if they have some of ownership over the event. Making yourself available to answer questions about training, fundraising, and team building will make your participants feel like they are getting one on one attention. A great way to provide recognition would be to host a fundraising coffee chat or “meet a team night.” Invite your VIP participants to present at these events to encourage team building, training, shared knowledge and fundraising ideas.

First time participants find it encouraging interacting with repeat participants. During a coffee chat or team night, act as the initial facilitator but find opportunities to leverage your VIP participants. The participant perspective will encourage and inspire new participants to show up to the event.

Acknowledgement will get you far with VIPs and first timers. The first timers want to achieve a VIP status and will continue to support your event to obtain that star power, and the VIPs will value their status and work to maintain it. When determining how to acknowledge this unique group, keep logistics, cost, and time in mind. At the beginning of the recruitment cycle, offer a specialized discount code for early bird registration to ensure they will keep coming back and encourage others to follow suit. Mid-way through the cycle, consider holding a VIP reception. The focus should be on getting your VIPs fired up about the event and encouraging growth. Again, keep in mind to outline clear goals so that everyone knows the desired outcome. On the event offer them a piece of swag or head of the pack at the starting line. They won’t ask for much, if anything at all, but giving them these privileges will show that you appreciate them. People will return if they know they are appreciated.

The great thing about events is that it brings people together organically. Their backgrounds may begin at opposite ends of the spectrum, but when brought together for a common purpose, the synergy is unmatched and indescribable. The heart pounding enthusiasm and charitable adrenaline running through their veins will launch them into being one of your best advocates if treated properly. Leveraging your VIPs simply means recognizing their strengths, addressing their needs, building on their passion, supporting their efforts, and showing thanks. 

Programs & Participant Support Manager, Kat Thomas, is a strong supporter of Event 360’s mission and enjoys the flexibility and diversity of what the event community has to offer. Seattle Field Marketing Coordinator, Aubrey Cushing, is passionate about event fundraising and advocacy. She believes that everyone can make a difference simply by putting their heart into something bigger than themselves.

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