I considered a Coffee a success if twelve people showed up. Twelve is a nice number–it feels like a crowd, but not a mob. Twelve is enough to make the effort worth it, but still feels like an intimate group.
One of the “attendance boosting tactics” that was recommended to me turned out to be wise advice. When discussing the challenge of getting people to show up, a good friend of mine said to me: “People like prizes. They like swag. They like to get stuff.” I just shook my head. I didn’t want to have to bribe people to participate in my group.
But bribery sounds like such a dirty word. Maybe it’s just a semantics issue. Can we say incentive? Or enticement? Because I did want to entice people to participate. There’s nothing wrong with that. If I could just entice them to come once, maybe they would have a good time and come back again.
I remember once, probably about 20 years ago, I went to a coffee and the hostess passed out these tea bags with a magnet on the back. And the little tag on it said “An Army Wife is like a tea bag–you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” It was cute. I put it on my refrigerator, and it probably made about 12 moves with our family before it disappeared. Gifts are funny like that. When you give a person something, you usually stop thinking about that gift soon after it leaves your possession. But the recipient might see that gift every day for years and years, and think about you every time.
So, in my book, it is a worthwhile idea to pass out gifts at Coffees. If people need enticement, then entice!
There are actually several reasons that I would recommend doing this.
- People feel appreciated when they get a gift. Plain and simple, but very important.
- Some (not all) will make more of an effort to come if there is a reward. That’s okay. Once you know this, you might as well take advantage of it!
- Other people who have chosen not to attend in the past may see what you have given out and make more of an effort to come the next time.
- A gift is a great way to drive home the need to RSVP. I’m not going to have a bunch of extra gifts sitting around. There will be enough for the people that indicate they are coming. It’s not as difficult a concept for an invitee to grasp when you put it that way. I would even go so far as to write on the invitation: I will be giving out a little gift at the coffee, so please RSVP to make sure I have one for you!
A Coffee Gift should be unique and thoughtful. Your Coffee should be the only place they can get it. I used to give out notecards with the unit crest, for example. I ordered a big box very inexpensively and then put 3 or 4 in individual cellophane bags and tied them with ribbon. Once I gave out some Christmas ornaments that I decorated. Easy stuff like that is the best!
Pinterest is full of clever, inexpensive, easy, unique ideas.
In fact….I just tried one. You might be familiar with the posts that encourage you to decorate a mug with Sharpies and cook it to make it permanent. Well, I tried that one, and it didn’t work great for me. The colors did not bake well, and it was not as dishwasher safe as it was supposed to be.
But I did some experimenting, and I came up with this project. And it works! It is dishwasher safe! Hooray!
You need three things: A stamp, A STAZ-ON brand black stamp pad, and a mug. You might also want a damp paper towel.
That’s it. I used to have a stamp with a unit crest on it, and I used it for everything. But I looked all over and I can’t find it anywhere, so I think I might have passed it on when we left. I highly recommend a customized unit stamp, though!! And (what a coincidence) I just started selling them on Etsy, so maybe have a look there if you need one!
The white mug I got at the local Dollar Tree. It cost me a whole buck. And they had tons of them. You don’t have to do white, but I would stick with a lighter color.
The Staz-on Solvent Ink black stamp pad is the only one I have tried, and I know it works. I don’t think you can use just any brand or type of stamp pad. Well, you can if you want to, but I don’t know if it will work. You can get this brand at most craft stores, and even at some Wal-Marts.
First, make sure your mug is clean and dry. Ink up your stamp, and then find a way to stabilize your mug. I sat in a chair and set the mug on it’s side and held it still with my thighs! There will be no picture illustrating this technique! But if you can find a better way, do that instead.
Now to stamp the mug……This is the tricky part. Really tricky. The mug is slick, so it’s a little difficult to get a clear impression. I was using a 2 inch by 2 inch stamp, so I had to sort of rock the impression onto the mug.
If you mess up, quickly clean off the ink with a wet paper towel, dry the mug, and start again. It took me about 6 tries to get an impression that I was happy with. A lighter touch is better to avoid smearing.
Now you just put the stamped mug (or mugs) open side up on a cookie sheet, and place in the oven. Then turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Allow the mugs to heat up with the oven. Once the oven is heated, set a timer for 30 minutes and let the mugs bake. When the timer goes off, turn off the oven, but allow the mugs to cool in the oven. This will reduce the risk of cracking.
That’s it! I ran my mug through the dishwasher about 12 hours later, and it looks perfectly fine! Dress it up with a bow and a wooden spoon, or fill it with chocolates, or whatever else you can think of. I imagine that twelve of these on a tray or lined up on a shelf would look fantastic!
I think a nice touch would be to use a black oil based Sharpie (the only one that did not change color when I tried it) and write each persons name on the back or bottom before you bake it. I love personalized stuff. I would RSVP with a hearty “hell yes!” to everything if I thought somebody was going to give me something with my name on it.
You don’t have to limit yourself to mugs! I’m sure plates and trays would work great. You could probably do wine glasses or pint glasses as well. I will try it out at some point and let you know!
Obviously, you can use this great idea for many things besides a Coffee Group. Make gifts for the PTA board, or a soccer team coaching staff, or just as a “Thank You” to someone you appreciate. Use a variety of stamps. You know those rolling, changeable date stamps? Like librarians used to have? Wouldn’t that be an interesting gift–a mug with just an important date stamped on it? I feel a “Baby Gift” idea cooking!
But…if you are looking for inexpensive, easy, custom Coffee Group Swag, this coffee mug project is about as appropriate as you will find!