Special events: July 2010 Archives

July 19, 2010

Your Fundraising Gala: Is It a Good Place to Mingle?

I once met an artist -- not a starving artist, but not a rich one, either -- whose favorite way to have fun was to attend fundraising galas. She liked the sense of a grand occasion, the chance to learn something, and the opportunity to meet new people who shared an interest in a good cause. (She was single, which may also have had something to do with it.) She didn't serve on any boards, or do any other nonprofit-related activities; attending these events was basically it.

Now, I've never met anyone like her before, or since. But it has made me wonder, when I attend fundraising events, whether she or someone else who wasn't closely connected to the organization would, in fact, have a good time.

In many cases the answer is no -- especially if one's purpose in attending is to meet new people. Most guests at gala events arrive with their own group of friends, sit with their friends, and talk to their friends and only a select few others all evening. Board members and volunteers tend to be either reconnecting with each other or chatting up major donors. An outsider could feel pretty isolated.

Given that your planners already have plenty on their plate, I'm not suggesting restructuring the entire event for my sample-of-one single-woman friend. But it does make me wonder whether there are simple ways to get people out of their core groups and mixing a bit more at such events. Meeting like-minded people might even serve to increase their connectedness with the nonprofit they've chosen to support.

Making sure to have nametags might be a good start. But when will they make use of these in introducing themselves? It's helpful to leave some time for guests to walk around and mingle -- perhaps while looking at displays about your nonprofit's work, or getting a drink --  before sitting at their designated tables. Guests at any event get very territorial, and once they're attached to a table and chair, it's hard to move them.

You might also deputize any board members or volunteers who aren't otherwise occupied to keep an eye out for guests who've arrived alone, and make sure to greet them and introduce them to others who might share their interests.  

Of course, if your nonprofit's membership is big enough, you could go all out and have a "singles-only" event, dedicated to mingling. But you might face the situation described to me by another friend who attended such an event in support of a local animal shelter: "It was fun, but mostly women who attended -- the few men in the room looked kinda overwhelmed." 
 
July 12, 2010

Fundraising Oops of the Week: The Email That Wasn't Ready for Forwarding!

I recently received a forwarded email from someone I respect, encouraging me to attend an event at, he said, a "great organization."

Here are key portions of the original email. I've changed the organization's acronyms, but only from other acronyms -- collections of letters that gave me no clue as to what the organization was called, much less what it did:

"Please help us get the word out to your Bay Area friends, relations, and colleagues that ABCD will hold an informal gathering in Oakland on [date] at the [location]. . . . ABCD movement leaders will offer an overview and update on our movement's exciting new initiative:  the EFGHI Leadership Institute.

Huh? I kept reading, just to see whether I'd get more information about the organization's mission and why I should support it. Nope: Just descriptions of plans to construct various buildings, and instructions on where I could give online.

If I'd already known about the organization, the email would, I assume, have made sense. But even then, I wonder, would I have been moved to give? How about a little reminder of why their mission and projects are important to me? What's more, the email's writers clearly didn't give even half a thought to the prospect that their well-meaning supporters would forward the email to others. They should have!