By: Shannon Eason, Fundraising Auctioneer 

Many organizations are planning to be going live for their fall events, but with the dreaded virus rearing its ugly head again, we know there may be donors that may decide to back out of attendance and some that won’t even fit in the room with the new restrictions. Have you thought of how you’ll address this? What’s your Plan B to make sure that these donors will still support your mission if they aren’t attending your gala? It’s time to pull out the recipe book and find the right ingredients to make an event that still achieves your fundraising goals. This article will show you what you will need.

Our audience count has to be cut down. How do we get the right people in the room?

Oh, we feel your pain. Several city/county/state guidelines are restricting the headcounts in many venues. As a result, you’re looking at cutting down your attendance by up to 50%. That sounds so daunting, but it is not the death of your event.  We serve an event in Chicago that historically has 100 or so guests. I repeat, it has 100 guests at the event, but they consistently raise over $300,000.  This organization has very conservative supporters that we would never think of as those with “deep pockets”. So if they don’t have deep pockets, what do they have? They have passion and motivation to support the mission. That’s the secret sauce…. getting the RIGHT 100 people in the room. We know you can easily fill a room with 100 people, but if they don’t have the right 3 ingredients, they may be there for the FUN, instead of the fundraising. What is the recipe for this secret sauce? There are three ingredients:

  1. Are they supportive of your mission?
  2. Do they have the means to support you?
  3. Do they feel a level of commitment to the supporter that invited them?

Obviously, people who are aware of the mission and supportive will be better donors. So how are you educating your invitees? Are you sending them a newsletter showing the great works your organization is doing? Are you emailing them with photos of the new equipment that last years proceeds purchased? Are you setting up a display at your event sharing information about your organization? There you go…three ways to educate your attendees about your organization and your mission. Donors are result oriented…they want to see that you are good stewards of the funds that were donated and they also want to see the results of those funds. 

Do they have the means to support your mission? Statistics show that most people primarily support 3-4 organizations by volunteering, donating, or other means of support. Your goal is to get your foot in the door and be one of those 3. When selling sponsorship tables, include an informational handout to the purchasing sponsors that show the importance of every seat at the event. IF YOUR GOAL IS $500,000 AND YOU’RE ONLY SELLING 500 TICKETS, EVERY SEAT IS VALUED AT $1,000. Your handout should show your table sponsors the importance of inviting people for their table who are capable of donating $1,000 that evening. 

The third ingredient to the secret sauce is, “Do they feel a commitment to the person that invited them?”. You know the way this works. I go to your event and donate, then you come to my event and donate. However, make this different by getting them vested in the organization. Share your passion and they’ll feel the love. Hopefully, they’ll become as committed as the supporter that invited them.

By making sure that every table sponsor/captain knows the importance and value of every seat at their table, the event will be filled with committed supporters that will help hit your goal!

What about supporters who can’t attend?

Your event is also a great opportunity to show those supporters who can’t attend that they are appreciated now more than ever so they don’t become FORMER supporters. But what they need are options. 

Option One: Live Streaming…. Making your event available for non-attendees requires a livestream of the event. This allows donors from near and far to still contribute and celebrate your mission without being physically present at your event. Whether they are unable to attend due to the room restrictions, health concerns, or are located across the country, live streaming gives your donors an option to still be engaged and contribute.

Option Two: Peer to peer- Reaching out to them to see how they would like to support you.  By asking for their support in lieu of attendance and by giving them options, you’re more likely to get support in some form. Whether it’s by a sponsorship, auction item donation or a paddle raise donation, getting their commitment by personal contact shows that you will miss their attendance, and that they feel important to your organization.