There were three primary challenges I identified when setting up the CP that I wanted to address in the very structure of the organization.
Because the CP was unlike any other previous organization, most of which were centered around sports or food & drink, the appeal of an intellectually and creatively-focused organization would be untested.
Having spent quite a few months listening to colleagues express curiosity about my art classes, I had first done some surveying of the land to see if there would be interest. I already knew that there was interest in the first 3 events that I was planning and had support from some senior management.
Most social organizations were fully-funded, I offered a hybrid solution where we would be subsidized and undergo a trial period for 3 months. Attendees would make up the gap between the event and the firm subsidy. At the end of the 3 months, if we could prove the interest, our subsidy would increase to support a year’s worth of events.
Attendance is a common concern of any event organizer. Often you have more people signing up than plan to attend. Given that many events we were planning require significant planning and an outlay of expense and given that we were on a subsidized budget (rather than fully funded) we did several things to address the potential budgetary gap.
1. Limited participants
2. Participants purchase a spot, like a ticket and are responsible for last minute changes
3. Pre-calculated the cost per event and adjusted the subsidized price per ticket in advance with 5-10% cushion per event.
By limiting the overall number of participants, you’re effectively creating an on-demand system. By requiring that participants purchase a spot, they now have additional incentive to participate. (Note that our ticket prices are often heavily subsidized and we typically charged $5-$20 per event).
Building an event structure with the scope of a year and some additional event flexibility (Plan B, C, D) allow for the non-payers who inevitable occur and protects the overall budget from any surprise downside risks.
When selecting events, make sure to consider is this a quality event venue? Does it have a public calendar that gives significant lead time? How frequently do similar events cycle through? Do they offer bulk discount rates? Answering these questions will save you significant time for future planning.
By keeping a few principles firm, the club can grow quickly and organically. A simple structure allows for rapid growth.
The litmus test for event sourcing includes the following questions. Does this event teach folks something new as in a skill or knowledge that they could apply? Is this event challenging people to think differently and/or questions their assumptions about themselves or the world around them?
If you’ve got a safe, structured space where people can regularly challenge themselves to do something “outside their ordinary”, you my friend, have a Creativity Project!
Lessons Learned and Things to Watch out for in case you want to start your own CP!
1) No shows! Always keep a waiting list that is 1-2x your participant slots. Smaller firms and offices can keep shorter lists as there is greater accountability for participation.
2) Start small and grow up. Don’t skew high on your first events, skew low. It’ll give you a chance to grow into the proper estimation of attrition given your potential pool of participants
3) Take photos! You’ll get so many folks saying “I never thought I could…” and “Wow, I had a lot of fun”. Trust me, photos of partners getting elbow deep in wheel throwing is a good time!
4) Have a good range of events – keep the spot prices to your participants stable. Therefore over time, the less expensive events (at cost) can offset the more expensive events
5) Use your waiting list to help the last minute drop-outs as much as possible, but try not to absorb too much of the drop out cost! We want there to be a consistent message of “skin in the game”.
6) Always keep a few extra quick fix events in your backpocket.
7) Keep good relationships with your event spaces. Test out a range of events in your first year or two to get a sense of what people gravitate towards. Eventually you’ll find great programs that you’ll want to do time and again.
A example budget for the New York Creativity Project.