Last night, I attended the fourth benefit in as many weeks. It is indeed the “event” season. As I think back on each of the events, I am grateful that we have such wonderful nonprofits doing amazing work in the Chicago area. And while each event had some great “wins”, as well as a “miss” or two, they all had one thing in common: a connection to the guests. Events are certainly designed to raise funds. But more importantly, they provide a crucial touch point with donors – and prospective donors. If guests leave at the end of the event filled with a sense of pride in supporting the mission and a sense of connectedness to the clients, staff or volunteers, then consider it a job well done. Here are some simple reminders to ensure your event is a relationship success:
- Make sure you know who will be in attendance and what their connection is to the organization.
- Be thoughtful about seating. While table placement is unimportant to some, it is very important to others. It is also beneficial to put newer constituents near someone they know, so they recognize a familiar face.
- Share the guest list and seating chart with key staff and Board members. Ask staff and Board members to be ambassadors, which includes welcoming guests and keeping a lookout for those who may be new or “alone”, especially during the cocktail hour.
- Provide nametags. Personally, I hate wearing nametags, but I truly love to see them, especially when I see someone whose name I should know and cannot remember.
Provide the “mission moment”
- Whether you have a video or a speaker, be sure your mission moment is compassionate, compelling and concise. If possible, keep this mission moment to 5 minutes or less.
- If you are going to make an “ask”, do so immediately following the mission moment.
Follow through after the event
- We all breathe a sigh of relief once the event is over but remember – the work is not yet done!
- Be sure to follow up with guests as soon as possible after the event.
- Identify the VIPs’ – sponsors, those who made a significant donation and those who played a key role – and call each of them within 72 hours to say thank you. Send a handwritten note within a week.
- Identify others who should get a handwritten note – and then “divide and conquer” – key staff and Board members can help with this process.
- Be sure to send out tax letters to all donors, and if possible, include a brief, handwritten thank-you note at the bottom.
- If possible, send an email to all who attended with photos from the evening.