Do you really get the most from your fund raising event?
Most agencies rely on major events as a way of raising funds. They often invest a great deal of money and time into putting together the event, invite their friends and acquaintances, hold an auction or use other tools to supplement the funds realized. What they often overlook, and this is critically important, is the experience of those attending the event.
Obligatory fund raising,
We need to ask; did they have a good time? Did they feel welcome? Was this just another obligatory fund raising chicken dinner or did they leave knowing more about the agency and invested in its cause? The purpose of this paper is to briefly examine the real value of an event. No matter how much money was raised, these visitors, properly cultivated, have the ability, and often the willingness, to give more.
The role of the Board is critical,
This is where the role of the Board is critical. Many agencies place their Board members at the head table or tables. They do not get to interact with the many strangers and guests who came to the event knowing little about the agency. These guests sit with their own friends, who also may know little. Therefore, the Board (and staff) must serve as table hosts, greeting each guest personally, finding out what they know, and whenever possible, interpreting the impact of the services on the community.
The officers and executive staff,
The officers and executive staff should also mingle and introduce themselves. Much like staff of a company at a sales event, they are working, not spending the whole evening with family and friends. The hosts at a wedding or other family event try to say hello to everyone; so should the Board and staff. We are trying to find out who these people are and how can we better reach them.
Guests should be greeted,
Guests should be greeted as they arrive by people clearly identified (badges) as agency Board members, and thanked for coming. Board members should also say goodnight to them as they leave, thanking them for supporting the agency, and asking if they had a good time. This hospitality, along with other efforts of friendship and warmth, will leave everyone feeling really good about the event (assuming the food was edible), and these good feelings will spill over to enable future contacts.
The real money can be raised,
It is what happens after the event that is where the real money can be raised. The Board should be alert, as they mingle, for people who seem particularly interested in the agency and its service. This is where we can find future Board and committee members. (Board members should make a list of interesting people they met). We should also be aware who we meet who might have the financial resources to really step forward with a major gift. The event is the first step in the cultivation of that future gift.
Focus is primarily on the agency,
Finally, while constructing the evening’s program, make sure the focus is primarily on the agency, its services, and the impact it makes on the lives of its clients. Reach your audience emotionally, through stories, speakers (often clients), or a great video. I have been to many events where the focus was so much on the honoree that I left wondering what agency sponsored the event and what do they do.
Just remember, the real value of an event is friend-raising, and if you raise a few bucks along the way, so much the better.