So you’ve signed up to host a Gathr screening event… now what?!
When you step back and take a look at the hosting process as a whole, it can seem a bit intimidating. But in reality, it’s really quite simple. Here’s what one host, Sander, said:
“Hi! I am in Portland, Oregon. My wife and I sponsored “Walk with Me,” the story about Thich Nhat Hanh. We wanted to see the film and hoped for 40 or so people. We ended up with 178, which was the most watched film in the Regal Cinemas that night! About half the audience stayed for a short discussion afterwards. We got so many thanks from people. The theatre was surely filled with good vibrations that night!”
Sander, like thousands of other hosts across the country, are part of a growing community of people who are using screening events to a) see movies they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see, b) start a conversation about an important topic, or c) raise funds for a specific local organization. And the ways in which Movie Captains™ customize and sell out their screening events is beyond inspiring!
But many of you might be wondering, where did they begin? HOW did they begin?
Don’t fret, friends. We’re here to share their secrets with you.
There are numerous resources for you to use to help increase your reach, but three that I find to be the most effective:
Sponsorship, Fundraising, and Q & A’s.
Establishing a relationship with a local sponsor, which could be a business or a non-profit, can not only help you sell more tickets, but also provide an opportunity for extra funding as well.
Attaching your screening event to a charity of your choosing gives your attendees the opportunity to not only donate but also make a real investment in the screening event. It helps them feel like they’re part of this campaign.
Lastly, Q & A’s are one of the BEST ways to turn your screening into an EVENT. Find someone who the audience might like to hear from – the director of the local non-profit you are fundraising for, someone with a personal story to share, maybe even one of the filmmakers!
But that’s just skimming the surface. Let me delve in deeper to the Gathr pro-tips about how to buttress your screenings and ultimately, create a meaningful and impactful event for your community.
The key to finding a sponsor for your screening event is knowing who is going to have a stake in the film. What is the message of your film? Who comes to mind within that market? From corporate companies to local nonprofits, think of anyone who could mutually benefit from sponsoring you, and plan a call to action.
For example, if you are hosting Mantra: Sounds into Silence there is a good chance that local yoga studios, meditation circles, and even holistic healers are going to have communities and agendas that align with the message of the film. Same goes for films about women’s empowerment, suicide prevention, and animal care!
Here are the simple steps for finding a sponsor:
- Do your market research
- Make a list of 5 to 10 organizations and businesses
- Draft an outreach email (you can use the same one and tailor it a bit for each one)
- Hit send!
If you don’t feel that an email is appropriate, you may want to call or even show up in person!
In a very clever instance, one of our most successful Movie Captains™ for the film Embrace, a film about body image, partnered with a salon for cross-promotion and held a Happy Hour for a local charity where the proceeds went to an abused women’s shelter. That is the perfect example of a win-win situation for a good cause; and because all parties involved are in the business of supporting women, there was already an inclination to want to work together.
Here are the finer details when asking for sponsorship:
- Develop a budget for your event.
Think about all potential expenses and how many tickets you’ll need to sell.
- Think about who your target audience is.
- Reach out diversely.
If you send a letter, make it specific to that particular business and then follow up by phone or some other personal contact. Use phone calls, in-person visits, mail, and email interchangeably according to the circumstances. Just one contact method will not work. Use an integrated approach, and be systematic and persistent.
- Work your inner circle first, outer circle second.
Start with people you know as well as nearby geographic locations you can physically reach. Then reach out to mid-size to larger businesses in your area: Call those businesses and ask who handles their marketing, their charitable contributions, or their sponsorships, and how you should contact them.
- Cultivate a relationship with your sponsor to ensure future partnerships.
Stay engaged with your sponsors by sending thank you notes and invitations to future events!
- ALWAYS FOLLOW UP, ALWAYS LEAVE CONTACT INFO
“…Since the screening I have made a vigorous effort to maintain and expand the network I built over the few months up to the screening date. I created a Facebook group affiliate of the Houston Mental Health Support Network Meetup group and invited everyone who attended the screening and who joined the Meetup group in the ensuing months to join the Facebook group. I have also hosted a couple of free mental health workshops facilitated by NAMI and Mental Health America of Greater Houston, and have developed strong working relationships with them.”
Q & A
Hosting a Q&A after your screening event is a classy touch and an intimate way to connect with your audience. It provides an opportunity for a more personable discussion about the film and how it resonates with your community.
One of the most memorable Q & A moments in Gathr history was when a Movie Captain™ invited Kevin Hines, protagonist of Suicide: The Ripple Effect, to speak after the screening of the film itself. He was able to intimately interact with the audience and spread his core message of suicide prevention. People left in tears from the overwhelming love and support they felt from Kevin and their fellow audience members.
As before mentioned, you’ll undoubtedly want a guest speaker whose field is in alignment with the subject of your chosen film. Most commonly, we’ve found that guest speakers who have been invited in the past were happy to be a part of the project and volunteer their time. However, if you’re striving for a more exclusive guest (film team member, renowned professional…), it is critical to be as concise as possible in your letter, and/or have a valuable form of compensation prepared.
Provided are examples of what your request letters should include:
- Start with a story.
It could be your story, or the story of someone whose life you changed. This will get your proposal to stand out and make an emotional connection.
- Describe what you do.
This is your mission statement.
What’s in it for them? Ideally you want to have concrete deliverables (tangible or emotional) in exchange for their time.
- Describe your demographics.
So now you have your dynamite letter and you’re ready to send ’em out! I’m going to call back to my previous advice and remind you to make a list of everyone you can think of who would be interested in you event. Start with local professionals, but don’t be afraid to dream big! You never know who’s willing to participate, so why not aim high!
Sending out your invites should be a 4-step process:
- Send out a “first batch.”
This first round of invites should go to your top choices of speakers – not any speakers you’re on the fence about.
- Wait for replies.
Give yourself a designated amount of time for replies. If you need to follow up with anyone, send them a gentle nudge that you’d love to hear from them.
- Assess next steps.
Once you’ve received responses from your first batch of potential speakers, look at your list and replace speakers who have declined with second choices to invite.
- Send another batch and repeat!
We’ve included a sample template to help get you started:
Dear [ address them by their formal title, e.g.,.Doctor, Hon. Mr, Mrs, Ms, etc.]
I hope this message finds you well. I am honored to invite you to be the guest speaker at [event name] Our event is to be held on [date] at the [venue] in [location]. We know that you are a terrific speaker and our attendees and delegates will gain much from your talk on[subject/theme/charity group].
[eventname] is an event being hosted by [names with titles/affiliations]. We expect our audience to be in the region of [ number]. Our goal is to bring people from the local community together to give them inspiration about what our non-profit organization is hoping to achieve with our program for [state the charity objectives – include the type of people being assisted]. We want to provoke discussion about the program and raise awareness, which we hope will also raise funds and donations.
We believe your “voice” will be beneficial to everyone in our organization and to like-minded individuals who attend the event.
Please let me know by [date] whether you would be interested in speaking. Attached is the itinerary of the event and some background information on the charity we represent and our sponsors for this endeavor.
Thank you for taking the time to read our invitation, and I very much look forward to hearing from you soon.
Not only is it extremely rewarding to have 100% of donations made go to a charity of your choosing, but attaching a fundraiser to your screening event could actually help sell more tickets! Nonprofits and charities have access to an untapped market of optimal attendees, and unless you’re an active member of one, they have no way of knowing you or your screening exist.
You can also conveniently make your screening event a fundraiser at any time, not just when you sign up!
- Go to your ‘Dashboard’ by logging into www.gathr.us
- Click on your ‘Movie Captain Toolkit’
- Click the special request form that say ‘Fundraiser Request.’
- Fill out form with the information required
Yes. It’s that easy.
We here at Gathr want to encourage everyone to help grow their screening night into screening event simply by making the most of all resources around oneself. It’s an incredibly rewarding feeling to know that your tireless efforts were not only worthwhile, but ultimately a valuable contribution to your community.
“…You too can have a successful screening, but it takes a great deal of hard work, dedication, and an earnest commitment to furthering the momentum built up even after the screening is over. Basically, consider the screening a beginning, not an end. And you’ll do well.”
-Marcel Wormsly Suicide: The Ripple Effect Captain