Special Events: Two Perspectives

Sections of this topic

    (A Pair of Postings from two of this blog’s regular contributors)

    Fund-Raisers are not Friend-Raisers
    by Tony Poderis.

    I have always held that special event fund-raisers must/should be just that, fund-raisers, not friend-raisers. There may be exceptions, but we cannot count on the exception for successful fund-raising.

    To my way of thinking, it is poor fund-raising strategy to put on an event with the expectation of having attendees become good prospects for future giving. This is not very likely when those in attendance often have little real interest in the organization’s mission; are attending an event held at a site other than the organization’s location; and are eating, drinking, and socializing.

    Relationship building is further limited by the added distractions of cocktailing, dining, auctions, other spending opportunities, and entertainment. Even if informational handouts are supplied, a video of the organization’s services is shown, or some other display of what the organization does is presented, the exposure is fleeting at best and has little lasting impact.

    Just two weeks ago my wife and I were at a non-profit’s Gala to inaugurate its new performing home. While eagerly waiting to dig into the tantalizing dinner, two or three of the organization’s officials took center stage to tell us how the new facility came about, who made it possible, and the added value of what the organization will bring to the community. We were seated at a table for ten, and I can state with no exaggeration that there was a steady, though perhaps rude, rolling of twenty eyes as the “education” and “cultivation” efforts of the evening droned on and on.

    From the hard lessons we learned over time with our orchestra’s fund-raising events, we finally realized that event attendees were there only or mainly to make social and business contact and have a good time. They just wanted to have fun.

    Every Event Should Be An Opportunity….
    by Natalie Shear

    It is not often that I feel compelled to respond to one of my fellow bloggers, but Tony struck a nerve.

    Based on my 30+ years as an Event Planner, I must disagree with the idea that it is “a poor fund-raising strategy to put on an event with the expectation of having attendees become good prospects for future giving.” To the contrary !!

    As with anything else, the right event at the right time with the right motivation can be a good way to gain prospects for the future. Keep in mind that people love events and love to socialize and network as part of the “in crowd,” not to mention having their pictures taken with some of the other “important” guests … strong reasons for spending another night at another fundraiser!

    Obviously an event is not the best place for a long-winded spiel about the nonprofit, but it is and should be the place for a very brief, cleverly produced video that makes the audience sit up and take notice – it’s a lot harder to ignore a visual presentation than to ignore a speaker.

    And, forget the handouts, unless you like to see your materials strewn across the ballroom floor when the place has emptied-out. There are, however, more effective alternatives to handouts — alternatives designed to make an impression well after the “tantalizing” dinner memory is long gone.

    You might, for example, send a photo of the person (prospect) with some of the other guests along with a lovely note thanking them for attending. That little warm and fuzzy photo can be followed up at a later date with an invite to a briefing, or to a small, intimate gathering at someone’s home to hear a speaker, or meet an author, or enjoy a special dinner prepared by a new chef in town!

    Look around your community and see what you can offer that is new and different and enables you to woo the prospects.

    And, while you’re wooing, your development staff is busy researching each likely prospect to learn about these people’s interests, what other groups they support and, most important, what-or-who got them to attend your event.

    In other words, any event can be a cultivation opportunity and just because people are having fun does not mean they have no interest in a bit of education (presented appropriately of course). If the exposure time at the event is fleeting, then you had best find a way to making a lasting impact even after the fun is over.

    Just don’t lose the opportunity to identify and cultivate potential new constituents.

    You can learn more about Tony, and find many in-depth fundraising articles on his website: Raise-Funds.com
    To read about Natalie, check out her website: Natalie Shear Associates, and take a look at Natalie’s ebook on Special Events
    If you would like to comment/expand on the above, or would just like to offer your thoughts on the subject of this posting, we encourage you to “Leave a Reply” at the bottom of this page, click on the feedback link at the top of the page, or send an email to one-or-both of the authors of this posting.