Posted by danosky | Posted in The Philanthropy Therapist | Posted on 05-04-2012
It’s event season and from the look of things you could easily attend three or four events per-weekend if your social life afforded you the opportunity. As much as you want an event to be fun, which is very important in the scheme of things, it is, after all, a fund raiser (emphasis on the d at the end of the word) and there are certain things we need to think about to ensure this emphasis is not lost.
Most banquet facilities are used to doing weddings, corporate events, and private parties. The focus is ensuring that the guests have a good time – plenty to eat and drink and a wonderful opportunity to mingle and converse.
A fundraising event is different. The focus must be on raising money and your set-up and flow has to be orchestrated with that in mind. So, when working with your banquet facility, there are a few things you need to keep in mind (these also happen to be a few of my pet peeves when working with event planners).
Never put the food in the middle of the room. That is where people congregate and mingle, and banquet facilities naturally assume that people should congregate around the food. This is a natural assumption. After all, when we throw parties in our own homes we all end up in the kitchen. However, you are not about the food – you are about raising funds. So, if you have a silent auction, raffle, or treasure chest – that is what needs to be in the center of the room, and food should be placed around it. Another good idea is to place the crudité table on one side and the bar on the other and watch how people go back and forth, lingering around your fundraising items, spending money ….
Ambiance is nice, but a secondary consideration. Gentle seating arrangements, bubbling fountains, a glowing fireplace… are all very beautiful and display the banquet facility well, but again it is contrary to the fundraising mode. If people are lounging in front of a fireplace, chatting on a banquette, or watching the coy in a fish pond, then they are not spending money at your event (didn’t we say this was a fundraiser)?
The timing of the event activities is up to you. Have the food come out based on your program, and ask your banquet manager to work with you.
- Maybe your silent auction got off to a slow start and the bidding has just picked up. Okay, keep it open for another 10 minutes. You want to raise as much money as you can.
- Your dinner should not interfere with your program. I prefer waiting until the program is over before dinner comes out (and I have seldom had a complaint from guests…they are there to raise money, too; they get it). It’s always a good idea to have a plated salad on the table when guests go to sit down – this can keep them from getting hungry. No matter what, don’t ever allow the food to come out during the peak of your program. It will distract your guests. I once saw dinner come out right at the beginning of Fund the Need (or the Special Appeal). It was barbeque chicken wings you ate with your fingers. Nobody reached for a bid card with sticky fingers, and the appeal bombed.
Make sure people are congregated together so they can hear the program. Move the dance floor if you need to … people will still figure out where to dance even if the dance floor is “small.” I always think it’s a great event if people are actually dancing in the aisles. It’s most important that people can hear and see your program. Otherwise, what is their motivation for giving?
Finally – check-in and check-out. This is not meant to be easy for staff or the facility. It is meant to be easy for your guests. So, make sure you set it up so there is no line going into the event and no queue leaving to check out. There are ways to do it, and maybe it’s a bit more work, but your guests will leave happy, inspired, and will become a bit more loyal to your cause. Isn’t that really the bottom line?