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  • Sharron Batsch

Is your Special Event Boom or Bust?

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

First and foremost a special event needs to be enjoyable. To that end, it needs the right venue, the right food, the right environment, the right audience, and the right price. Consider your goals when approaching each of these and a good rule of thumb is based on whether you would enjoy what is being offered and better yet; if you would go back to experience it again!

What is the objective? It's important to understand what the event wants to achieve. There are many activities competing for attendees and dollars these days. Consider carefully how to ensure that event guests understand the charity’s needs and enable them to contribute financially.

I recently attended two similar fundraising events with slightly different outcomes. Let’s take a closer look at what made one of them far more successful than the other.

The first event was to fund activities in central Africa. I arrived at a room teaming with guests. The event featured silent auction tables and a bountiful buffet. The key to this event and its outcome was the auctioneer, a city media celebrity with a great knack for entertaining people who made sure the auction was a success.

Connect your guests to the mission Rather than building complacency after a heavy meal, the auctioneer stepped up to the microphone and announced the live auction. Attendees could “purchase” beds for a hospital, goats, and chickens, there was a rather large donation needed for a health-related area on the table. The Beds were about $100.00 each so he started with a request for 40 beds … as one hand went up after another, he counted … 40 Beds done. Next, came the request for a goat, kid, and chicken, 50 sets for families. The price is $65.00 … so let’s see those hands once more. As the hands went up volunteers passed each contributor a form to complete which would be used to make a payment over the course of the evening.

This approach was very successful. Rather than wasting dollars on frippery at the silent auction table, people could see that what they were purchasing was directly assisting the charity’s goal to provide this community with what it needed.

The second event was for a charity working in North Africa. This event was less successful but had just as much potential. The charity was looking for money to help support children to attend one full school year. Desks, books, a uniform, and medical help were required. At no time, were these items offered through a live auction. The event, although nice to attend, forgot the time-old truth - you need to ask!

Investing in a personality who will make ‘the ask’, works. Depending on the age of the audience you may find people who no longer want to collect unessential things through auction purchases but rather have discretionary income to purchase an item of value for the charity in question. Forty dollars for a desk is an easy ask; or a full package for one child for a mere $275.00.

When hosting your next event be sure to consider your goals. Look at what you hope to achieve and how you can frame your ‘ask’ to encourage guests can give. Purchasing something of value gives donors the feeling they have made a difference.

In Conclusion Be sure you record what guests have spent and follow up with them. It’s always nice to be informed about those who have been generous by recording the amounts gifted in your donor management software. Having a full giving history is definitely an advantage when engaging with your charity’s supporters.

Side Note: When you go to a restaurant your server will often ask how you liked your meal. We would like to suggest a better question 'Would you come back?'. I think this is equally relevant for a special event hosted by a charity.

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