If You’re New to Event Organizing, Start Here

If this will be your first event, here’s a simple step-by-step guide to organizing an event.

Your Hafla for Humanity event doesn’t HAVE to be a big show. You can invite 5 friends over to your house, watch some dance clips, and pass a donation basket if you want. We don’t care if your event raises $20 or $2,000, we’re just happy to have you on board!

Some dancers have donated proceeds from a weekend class, or a portion of sales from their web store. It’s entirely up to you.

However, if you want to produce a show we are here to help you! Here’s a step-by-step guide to how to produce a successful event.


Step 1: Secure a venue

Call around and find out which venues are available and affordable. Venue rental is often the most expensive part of hosting an event, so set aside time to do thorough research for this. Start with people you know or ask other event organizers in your area for suggestions.

It’s best to keep things small and manageable for your first event. If you commit to an expensive venue, you’ll have to sell a lot of tickets to cover that cost, and you could even stand to lose money. Affordable options include homes, dance studios, school gymnasiums, restaurants, community centers, and VFW halls. You can also google “event venues [your city].” You could also talk to Middle Eastern restaurants in your area and see if they’ll let you have the event during a slow time at no cost.

Be sure to let the venue know that you are fundraising for charity — some venues have steep discounts for nonprofits. Here is a letter you can download if the venue asks for proof that you are working on behalf of a recognized charity.

You can often negotiate price with a venue, especially if you’re willing to host your event during off-peak hours, like Sunday afternoons (more on why Sunday afternoon is a good choice shortly). It’s probably best to keep your date as flexible as possible so you can work with your venue of choice.

Keep in mind that you’ll need time to set up before the show and clean up afterward, so if your show is 90 minutes, you’ll need to rent the theater for about 3 hours.

Step 2: Invite your dancers

Look for a mix of professional and student dancers for your events. Professional dancers bring high-quality entertainment to your stage, and some may have a following — but often it’s student troupes that bring the most audience members to an event, because their friends and family are excited to see their early performances (and student troups are often big groups). A mix of both makes a great event.

For our event in St. Louis, we found that hosting on a Sunday afternoon meant that the local professional dancers were able to perform at our event. Usually they can’t make our community events, because Friday and Saturday nights are their peak times, so it was exciting for all of us to be able to include some of our top pros.

75 minutes is a good length for a show — by the time you add in an intermission, that’s a 90 minute showtime. Once you start promoting the show, people will be contacting you asking if they can perform, so you may want to leave some time slots open at first.

Step 3: Get your ticket sales ready

Now that you have a venue, a date, and some performers, you can start selling tickets. Ticketing services — Eventbrite and Brown Paper Tickets are both popular — make it super easy to sell tickets online, but be sure to read about their costs and include them in your ticket price. Setting yourself up with one of these sites will also give your event a web address that you can share.

Paper tickets can be hard to keep track, but if you’ll be making a lot of ticket sales in person, it’s worthwhile to order some from your ticket provider or make them yourself using business card stock. For most events, it’s easier to keep a list of prepaid tickets at the door and check people off as they arrive.

Step 4: Promote

Create a Facebook event for your hafla (you’ll find banner images for your event at this link). Invite everyone you can think of, and share it in your local Facebook groups and on your own page. Don’t just share once — not everyone sees every post you make. Share several times. with a slightly different message each time. Also, post in the event regularly.

Ask your performers to help you share the event, and remind them whenever you communicate with them.

You might want to send a press release to your local news media — I’ll share a template for that soon.

Share your excitement about the event often on your personal or business social media. Share a mix of posts about the charity you’re supporting, the great dancers who will perform, and other developments as your event progresses.

Step 5: Silent auction

If you feel like you can tackle another activity, you might want to solicit items for a silent auction. Ask anyone with a business — and especially those in your local dance community — if they’ll donate items that you can sell. Dance classes, gently worn costumes, restaurant and spa gift certificates, and handmade items are always popular. If you get smaller items, cluster them together into bundles or a basket.

Step 6: Get ready for the show

Ask the dancers to e-mail you their music at least a week before the show, making sure they know what their time limit is (usually around 5 minutes). Ask them if they’ll start on or offstage, and how they’d like to be introduced.

Listen to the music and create a lineup that feels like it has a good balance — don’t clump all the slow songs together, for instance, and mix up the troupes and soloists throughout the evening. It’s a good idea to open and close both halves of the show with your strongest performers or big showy group numbers.

Create a playlist from all the music and coordinate with your venue to make sure you’ll be able to play the music from your phone or laptop through their speakers.

E-mail the dancers and let them know when they’re expected to arrive, what kind of dressing room they’ll have available, and what you expect from them (“be in the wings 2 dances before you’re scheduled to appear” is a good guideline). Print out copies of the lineup to post backstage and in the dressing area for them.

Decide who will emcee the show. A good emcee will remind people to bid on any silent auction items and talk about the charity a bit, but mostly will keep things moving quickly and not talk too much.

Try to get a volunteer to be stage manager for you, especially if you’re emceeing or performing yourself. This person will help make sure the performers are lined up and ready to go when they are announced.

Also ask around for volunteers to man the ticket desk. If you’ll need to do any set-up and tear-down at the venue (folding chairs, for instance) ask for help with this as well.

Step 7: You’re ready for the show!

Arrive at the venue early to set up anything you need. Pick up some bottled water for the dancers (and maybe snacks) on your way to the venue, plus a cash box (or zippered pencil case, in a pinch) and some change for cash sales at the door. Make sure you have your printed lineups, the music, charger cable for whatever device the music is on, and the ticket sales list.

Organize the dressing room, post the dancer lineups. and check the sound system. When the dancers start arriving, be sure to greet them warmly and thank them for donating their performances.

Set up the ticket table at the entrance and make sure your volunteers have everything they need.

And now it’s time to relax and enjoy your show!

After the event

Once you’ve paid your venue and any other direct expenses, you’ll donate the proceeds directly to the IRC using this link: https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/hafla-for-humanity1