The Boring Dinner Journal Reinvented!

The Boring Dinner Journal Reinvented
Ideas for creating a better Dinner Journal for your Next Event

Dinner Journals seem to be a necessary evil for organizations trying to fundraise. Nonprofit organizations who are hosting an annual gala or celebration dinner feel the need to create a dinner journal to raise money because ticket prices usually barely cover the food and other expenses for the evening. But dinner journals require a lot of work... coming up with pricing, designing and printing an order form, writing a cover letter, mailing and emailing the request for ads, reaching out to follow up with potentially hundreds of companies, following up again and again, designing ads that aren’t submitted and then designing the actual journal itself and praying it arrives on time from the printer just before the dinner starts. And so often I hear, “I never get anything from those” when I’m asking people for support. 

So how can you upgrade the experience for both the organization and the advertisers and bring the dinner journal into the modern era? Here are some ideas: 

For Organizations: 
•    keep the form and the pricing simple and offer discounts for early response
•    Offer discounts for larger ads but keep in mind that 2 half page ads and 4 quarter page ads generate more money per page than full pages and result in less cost for printing since you can fit more advertisers into smaller space, e.g., 4 quarter page ads at $250 = $1000 for a full page where you might only be charging $850 for a full page
•    Produce the journal digitally so when the dinner is over you can host the journal on your website with live links in the ads for the advertisers; this will encourage engagement all year long and assist advertisers with SEO, a big benefit to advertisers creating more value, and ensuring the journal lives on long after the 3-hour dinner. Try Issuu or Scribd or even GoogleDocs for posting the document online
•    Printing in color costs money, lots of money, so instead, consider using colorful arrow shaped post-it notes or gold seal stickers on the inside of the journal to a call attention to certain advertisers. This is a far less expensive option and yes, it will mean that you and your staff will need to go through every book and add the arrows, however, this will make the book far more interesting and engaging as people look for the distinction and the cost for printing will be substantially reduced (just be sure you get the journals 2-3 days early to take care of this task)
•    Create an index of the advertisers that includes name, website address and phone, this makes a simple take away for everyone and creates a resource for attendees and again adds value for advertisers
•    Consider offering story opportunities in your journal in addition to ads. Similar to a newspaper, people will be more engaged to read short stories with interesting photos. People will also be more likely to hold on to the journal and read it later on. 
•    Use your social media accounts to promote the advertisers and let them know you will be doing it. Promoting the half page and full page advertisers with separate posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest and including their logos and website links will assist them with visibility and add more value for their ad dollar.
•    Consider more options for distributing the journal throughout the year, for example, in your lobby, at other events, in the local library, in your Chamber of Commerce office, the County Executive’s office, the County Clerk’s office, County Courthouse, local diner and restaurants
•    Consider combining it with your annual report so that it offers more information about the organization as well
•    Considering inserting an application to join your group with a dinner discount if they register by a certain date or at the dinner itself
•    Little pockets that stick to the back of your phone are all the rage these days as premium items, consider offering that opportunity as an ad for a company that already has them, they can be placed on the inside cover and people can insert the business cards they receive that night and keep them all neatly on one place
•    Consider letting an organization provide a pen to be attached to each book as an advertising opportunity and be sure to include a few blank pages in the back of the book and put the word “Notes” on top
•    Consider a page that highlights how people can make additional donations as there will be people at the dinner who didn’t advertise in the journal at the dinner; insert a pre-addressed envelope in the journal to make it easy for them to return the donation as well as a donation URL on your website for easy payment
•    Consider a page for upcoming events and other advertising opportunities during the year
•    Is there an event or discount or opportunity for people to get involved each month that you can highlight in the beginning of the book so that it becomes a referral source each month? 
•    Do you work with children? Let them design the cover and even inside pages to make the journal more interesting and perhaps gain additional dinner tickets from the parents of the children
•    Consider including quotes and photos from people impacted by your organization; people love to read human interest stories and it will show them how their dollars are making a difference to real people
•    Consider changing the name from Dinner Journal, to Annual Resource Guide to increase shelf life

And after the event, be sure to send hand-written thank you notes to each advertiser and next year when you ask again, they will remember you! 

For Advertisers
•    Sign up early to get a discount and design your own ad to maximize what it says; ads with photos are always more interesting than ones without. Be creative! 
•    Remember this is a marketing opportunity, don’t squander it; include all methods of contact and social media links. Keep it visually interesting without too many words; convey your core message or simply list the main problem you solve for your clients (for example - “Overwhelmed by social media? Call us today for more engagement tomorrow.”)
•    Offer a discount in the ad when people mention the dinner journal. This provides you with a way to track response
•    Consider setting up a special landing page on your website with the discount offer and promoting that URL in the ad so you can use analytics to track response
•    Consider setting up a special offer that will generate funds for the organization you are supporting so those in the room who are there to support the organization will see you as a strong advocate and be more likely to buy from you e.g., give a percentage of sales on a particular day or tied to a particular code to donations to the group. 
•    If you were going to take a full page ad, why not take 4 quarter page ads and spread them throughout the book, virtually the same cost, but with greater impact since people will see the ad over and over; put a slightly different message in each ad to keep it interesting
•    Consider highlighting a success story in the ad that includes one of your clients; it will provide them with visibility as well and perhaps introduce them to the organization to gain their support as well, then invite them to sit at the dinner with you
•    Do you sit on the organization’s board or another board? Why not include your photo and a brief bio if you are the face of your business? 
•    Are you hosting an event of your own, workshop or other activity? Highlight it in the ad.
•    Request extra copies (and be willing to pay for them if necessary) so you can have them in your lobby or send copies to others who you do business with to show your support for the organization. 

Dinner journals can seem like a necessary evil but there are many opportunities to turn it into a real opportunity and money maker and add value for advertisers. Why not create the dinner journal that people MUST advertise in! And if you’re an advertiser, make your ad the envy of everyone else! Make it work for you and add value to the non-profit organization and it will be remembered. 

# # #