Ok, its that time of year, again.
Pay for the tickets, get a babysitter, get dressed, head out:
- Look for signs: parking, ballroom, bathroom
- Stand in line to check in & get table number
- Stand in line at the bar
- Chicken or veggie pasta: both tragic
- It’s too loud and hard to talk to your table neighbor, who you will probably never see again
- Sitting through endless awards and speeches and congratulations from more people you probably don’t know and will never see again
- Try to get checked out of the silent auction early so you can beat the line at the valet
It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way
Like flour and sugar in the kitchen, fundraising events are staples of the nonprofit development cupboard. They may seem dated, labor intensive, provide limited ROI and can be deadly boring, but they also seem inevitable. Not only do donors often expect them, I have rarely been to a board meeting where someone does not bring them up.
A new nonprofit director posted a question about how to raise fund on Reddit last week and 7 of the 8 replies were to hold an event. Sigh. There is a lot of good that can come from these events: people do like to get together and meet others that share their cause and they are more interactive than a direct mail or email solicitation.
In all fairness there are reasons why these things are around all the time, and as with other unavoidable things, we need to find a way to make them not only more tolerable, but more fun, fast and profitable.
If you are the one producing the event there are a few things to consider that might provide a nicer evening for your guests and more engagement and income.
There are 3 parts of any event:
- when you first arrive,
- during the program and,
- on the way out.
Focus on delivering the important details of the event first and then consider adding something new or different in each section to make it a little unexpected, a little surprising. Be sure your guests first impression is a strong pleasant and positive one, it’s a great way to set the tone of the evening.
Your success can raise or fall on those details and sloppiness shows. Don’t have too many things going on, less is more. Better to do a superlative job at 3-4 elements than an adequate job at 6 or 7. Resist the temptation to this and this and this, rather focus on fantastic presentation of the parts of the gala you plan.
First Get the basic stuff right.
Be sure there is more than adequate signage, correct attendance lists & name tags and enough people to check in guests quickly. Be sure it’s easy to find the bathrooms, where to leave the coats and what the evening’s program will be.
Now Add a nice extra or two:
- Do something big and bold right at the entrance: balloon arch, spotlights and or personal greeters.
- Maybe a photo booth or give away free raffle ticket just inside the front door, something that your guests will not expect.
- Make a strong first impression and start the evening off on the right foot.
During the Program:
Thinking through the plan for the evening and program is essential. Think about every awful dinner event you have attended, what went wrong? Try to see the event from the perspective of the guest, from the time they arrive until they walk out the door.
- Was it too noisy, bright, or cold?
- Did the pacing of the food service come to slow or too fast?
- Did the speaker go on and on or were there too many of them?
- Was there an opportunity to meet people, or did you stick with your own?
- DId the video/entertainment/awards section make sense and fit the rest of the program?
- Was there any opportunity for to meet new people and to learn about your work?
- Was the silent auction set up logically, with enough light and space, and with a streamlined way to pay?
Make sure you pay attention to the things that will make your guests comfortable and focus on why they are there, not what is wrong. Imagine the event from the perspective of the guest, from the time they arrive until they walk out the door.
On The Way Out:
Last impressions are as important as first ones. Once the presentations are made and dessert is served, people head out.
This is a chance to do something unexpected, and cool, as everyone leaves.
- Have a ‘thanks for coming’ person/board member at the door.
- A last minute little favor, cookie, thank you card.
- Be sure there are enough valet’s to handle a whole bunch of people who want to go home, now.
Always think how the event will look from the perspective of your attendees.
Think about the similar events you have attended: what was great and what was really awful?
Did anything make you want to learn more, be more involved or make a gift? Did anything make you want to come back, or conversely, never want to come back?
What’s the bottom line? Why do all this, go through all this?
Remember what you want and why you started. This is important, your attitude conveys that.
You want your guests to have a great time, to be charmed and maybe a little surprised. You want them to walk away having had fun, learning a little, being able to tell others about the event, if not your cause, for them to want to know more about you and what you do, and most of all see the real opportunity supporting your work can and will be.
Those are the guests who become ambassadors and donors. Those donors allow you to deliver your mission and change the world. That’s why you do this.
Need a little help with your planning? Call today : 310 828 6979
As always, thanks for reading.
image credit : https://nevermoredecor.com/2014/11/18/party