Not-for-profit organizations have a limited amount of funds. It makes event organizing a real challenge. One of the main attention getters, is a guest speaker, preferably one who will speak for free.
The primary source of funding for non-profit events is pro-bono services and sponsorship. There are a variety of free speaker resources for event organizers to approach. To find the right person for the job, organizers must look at their criteria and then send a “spellbinding” invitation to a few chosen candidates.
Where to find free speakers
Before you can invite speakers for free, or ask anyone to do anything really, you need to determine the purpose of the event and the topics it will cover. This forms the basis for your speaker profile search. For example, for a teen outreach program, the best speaker will be one who has a specialty in youth programs and youth motivation. Here are a few simple tips to follow when searching for a guest speaker for your event:
- Look for someone well known and living locally this keeps the expenses as low as possible. A local celebrity speaker who has knowledge of your fundraising charity will eliminate out of state travel and accommodation expenses.
- For example, to find speakers, reach out to public speaking groups in your area, such as Rotary or Toastmasters. There is often a member of a local “good deed organization” who will gladly offer to speak on their own experiences in dealing with the type of charity project or event topic that you are hosting. They are always glad to work for free.
- Use your donor email-marketing list. Send out emails to your particular contact in every organization to find out if they can give you any leads on good “free” speakers. This word-of-mouth recommendation is often the best route because the speakers know the subject and the donor community responds well to anyone worth their salt.
- Online searches have turned up some fantastic speakers who work for no charge and are all too willing to give their time and knowledge on a variety of subjects. While you’re at it, look at these sites:
GigMaster, American Speakers, Brooks International, Speaker Match Speaker’s Bureau.
These sites show speakers by geographic location, topic, and fee. If you find a speaker that suits your needs but charges a fee, it’s worth making contact to explain the organization your event is supporting. Ask if they’re willing to work for a peppercorn fee, or if you really put your case well, you might just find he/she will waive the fee altogether and speak for no charge.
How to write a proposal/ invitation for speakers
There’s quite a bit of work and a whole lot of finesse involved in asking people to speak at your event. Do you know how to craft an outstanding invitation? One that will grip the reader and generate empathy for your worthy cause.
Your invitation should be a formal email (or letter). Outline the reasons why you’ve chosen them as the best person to speak at your event. As with every letter, the invitation should reflect your organization’s values and add a dash of your own personality. Good guest speaker invitation letters will be clear and easy to read, respectful and contain all the background information the guest speaker needs to make a decision in your favor.
What could you offer a speaker?
Speakermatch.com is a website dedicated to matching speakers with speaking opportunities or jobs. There are many sites, but we’ve chosen this one because they have speakers who offer free gigs. You can also find speakers by location, expertise, demographic, and subject.
It’s only fair to offer someone who’s willing to speak for free at your event, a little bit of something in return.
If you’re the event organizer, you’ll be short on time to do everything, but you must remain the primary contact person for your guest speaker until they’ve agreed to do the honor.
How to convenience a speaker to speak for free at your event?
Once that’s done, you can introduce your speaker to their own personal “gofer” to take care of everything from the time the guest speaker comes on board. Offer the services of a personal assistant in your letter of invitation. You’ll be amazed at how favorably people respond when they know that everything will be taken care of, and all they have to do is speak on their favorite topic.
Let the guest know that your organization will provide:
- travel expenses and free accommodation if they’re from out of town or state
- personal assistant to take care of all their needs, such as airport collection, hotel check-in, event itinerary, introduction to event management, sponsors, etc.
Guest Speaker Invitation Letter Example
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 all day 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.
Your talk will be filmed and an edit shown on our website and other social media channels such as YouTube. We believe your “voice” will be beneficial to everyone in our organization and to like-minded individuals who attend the event.
I note from your resume on [website] that you take speaking engagements at no charge. However, as you are out of state, we would be delighted to cover your travel expenses. We will also provide you with a personal assistant from our team, who will take care of all your arrangements, airport transfers, etc. and be on hand to deal with your needs during the day of 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.
The internet is full of useful sites offering sample invitation letters. Here are a few we thought would be a good place to start. Check out this sample invitation letter here or this one here for a few good ideas on how to get your letter started.
When you have decided on a few likely speakers, send out the first batch of email letters. If you have put your expected response day for a week from the date of “delivery,” then you have a week to wait. Once you have had [or not] a reply, send out a gentle reminder to any people who haven’t written back. It will depend on the response to your initial request.
Assess the response: check the list and replace those who have declined with second choice invites. Send another batch of invitations and repeat the process until you’re successful.
Whatever you do, reply to everyone, even those who turned you down. Be gracious in your response; you never know when you might have to call on them again. Perhaps next time you’ll get lucky with someone who likes your attitude, even if they couldn’t oblige on the first occasion.
This post is written by Chris Bouchard, a regular contributor to the GEVME blog. Chris is a consultant for non-profits and social entrepreneurs. Find more information on his website www.revgensolutions.com.