Wednesday, 26 of November of 2014

Annual Durango Coffee Festival

Article in the Guest Blog Series on Activities Designed to Promote Adult Education & Family Literacy (AEFL) During National AEFL Week

By Kelly Quach

Durango Adult Education Center

Durango, Colorado

Figure 3: Coffee Festival attendees listen to live music.

The Durango Adult Education Center hosts an annual Coffee Festival to celebrate Adult Education and Family Literacy Week.  We started the event around the tagline, Drink Lattes for Literacy! This September will be our 8th annual event.

We chose this activity to highlight our Center and the services we offer in the educational community.  The Coffee Festival allowed us to have greater visibility in the community due to the festive nature of the event and the location of the event.  We thought there was a natural fit between drinking coffee, reading and literacy.    Most people would not just drop in to our Center unless they were specifically looking for classes.  A street festival provides the opportunity to give the public information about our programs and services in a casual environment.  It’s hard to convince people that adult literacy is an urgent need so the one-on-one conversations we can have with the Coffee Festival participants gives us a platform in which to share that urgency with the community.    The venue is also a great way to cultivate potential donors too.  They get a chance to meet our staff and the students we serve and thus provide a face for the people they could help with their donation.  Our goal for the event is strictly for public awareness of our Center and our services.

The Coffee Festival is a street fair that takes place 8 -12 pm, downtown and features coffee and tea drinks, food, live entertainment and kids’ activities.  We set up an informational booth right in the middle of the event and have staff members talk about our programs and services.  We try to recreate an outdoor coffee shop with tables and chairs throughout the fair so people can sit and drink / eat.  Our local newspaper has a booth at the event and they hand out free newspapers that day so people can read while they sip on their morning drink. In between the live music, we have current and past students go on stage and share the reason they came to our Center and why the Center is important to them.  We also share literacy statistics with the public and have students read Durango’s Adult Education & Family Literacy week proclamation (See Appendix B). The event ends with a live raffle drawing of a beach cruiser filled with coffee goodies.  The bike is a promotional tool that is placed around town in the participating coffee shops about six weeks before the Coffee Festival as an advertisement prop and it also generates funds from the raffle ticket sales.

Our partners for the event are the local coffee shops and roasters, restaurants, newspaper, other nonprofits that provide complimentary services, Durango High School, local musicians, Downtown Business Improvement District, local radio station and print shop.

We engaged the media for our event.  We received free color ads in our local newspaper and offered them a free booth at the event to give away their newspapers and promotional items to the attendees.  With the radio stations, we had the college station do a live broadcast from the Coffee Festival to bring people down to the event that morning.  We partnered with another radio station the week leading up to the event with coffee trivia questions.  Callers were asked to call in with an answer and winners received 2 free cups of coffee at the event.

Figure 4: Coffee cupping demonstration.

The outcomes from the event are priceless in regards to strengthening alliances and base of support in the community for the Durango Adult Education Center.  We strive to add new nonprofits every year with whom to collaborate and promote our literacy mission.  Putting on a community event takes a lot of staff time and resources for the ground work necessary to host a successful event.

By inviting other nonprofits to participate in our established event, we can help them have a public presence without the upstart investment cost.  Their presence in turn demonstrates to the community that we are a very collaborative organization and we work to strengthen our alliances with our partners. Hundreds of people stream through this half-day event because we are on a main street that is a half block up from our town’s very popular Farmer’s Market.   The Coffee Festival also provides an opportunity for the local media to mention our organization and our mission because of the ample photo opportunities and sound bites generated from the event.

What has worked well for our Coffee Festival is the continued support of our partners and increased awareness for our Center.   The event coincides with our fall enrollment period and helps with recruitment of students and relationship building with potential donors.

We seek ways to improve the Coffee Festival with more offerings.  We hope that will translate to increased revenue from the event.  It is hard to charge more than $1 – $4 for coffee drinks and breakfast related food items.

Planning benchmarks:

5 months—research potential new vendors and partners to approach and activities to add to the Event, seek sponsors for the beach cruiser and the Event.

4 months—recruit new participants, file special activities permit with the City for street closure, apply for a liquor license with the State and the City to serve alcohol at the event, recruit volunteers.

3 months—apply for a raffle license to sell bike raffle tickets, finalize sponsors, ads and posters for the Coffee Festival.

2 months—place bike in various locations around town, confirm vendors, reserve power equipment

1 month—host booths at the Farmers Market and other local events to promote the Coffee Festival, post posters around town, start print and radio ads, send out posters via email and social media.

If you are considering hosting a similar event, we would recommend finding a way to host it later in the day. People don’t spend as much money on breakfast food items.  Moving it to a later time during the day would allow you to increase your potential sales because you could charge more for food items and increase alcohol sales.   I also recommend adding activities that could draw a more diverse group of attendees from the community.


Save the Date! Sept 10-16, 2012Get Ready for National Adult Education & Family Literacy Week 2012!

When: September 10-16, 2012

See the Communications Plan and Handout

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