Put IMPACT Center Stage at Your Fundraising Event!
First, I want to start with a BIG apology for my blogging hiatus. A family vacation and a busy work schedule (outside of blogging) kept me away. But now, I am back with a stockpile of ideas to write about.
I am going to start with the events of this past weekend. This post is split into two topics. The first section describes a personal revelation I had as a blogger. But, that may not interest you! So, feel to go straight to the meat and potatoes advice about fundraising events in the section following, Thanks!
Humbled—Introducing Your New and Improved Blogger
So, I went to an absolutely stunning gala for the local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I had never been to such an upscale fundraising event—and I was amazed.
The tent was decked in chandeliers and featured an elegant bar that encircled a tower of orchids. The cloud-like room draped in billowing white fabric was accented with beautiful young women dressed in silver sequined strapless mini dresses. To complete their totally Mod look, they sported electric blue bob wigs that were topped off with Paula-Abdul-style headsets, allowing them whisper logistics to their twins who spanned the venue.
They were super cool…and I was out of my element.
I took a few deep breaths and parked myself in front of platter at a sushi bar equipped with easy-access tongs to fill and refill my plate. As I took comfort in noshing, I wondered, “What could I learn at this elaborate event that will help my readers?”
Most of you have restricted fundraising event budgets. You rely on homespun charm and resourceful genius. And with the exception of the auctioneer, your staff is primarily volunteer and inexperienced. I confess to a moment of arrogance thinking that the scope of financial and professional resources (donated or otherwise) trained on pulling off this event felt a bit like cheating.
I was swiftly humbled.
In fact, as the evening unfolded, the rug was completely pulled out from under me again and again, as I cried, cheered, and felt the room come together for a common goal.
I giggled with the friend sitting next to me as we sorted out what sequence to attack our eight pieces of silverware! And, the paradigm I had built in my head about how I think fundraising events stack up came collapsing in.
The net of it all is, when it comes to fundraising events, whether the budget is $1,000 or $100,000, authenticity and passion prevail. It is a spectrum of goodwill that deserves respect at every level. And, in reality, to meet the MASSIVE collective financial needs of non-porofit organizations large and small, we absolutely need that entire spectrum of events to bring in dollars from all types of donors.
So, shame on me for thinking that you have to bootstrap to be authentic.
The good news, for you, is that your blogger grew up and expanded her horizons. Once I opened my mind, I learned A LOT on Saturday night that is highly relevant to you and your event! Regardless of where your event falls on the spectrum of fundraising, you can benefit from this post. Please read on!
Put The IMPACT of Your Organization Center Stage—What I learned from Harrison
It is safe to assume that every person who walks in the door to your event embraces the mission of your organization. But, it is erroneous to assume that every person who walks in the door of your event grasps the impact of your mission.
And, while the mission of your organization undoubtedly touches heart of your attendees, it is the impact of your mission that will get them in their gut. In fact, putting the impact of your mission center stage can cause a group of attendees to coalesce—reacting collectively, sharing empathy, and experiencing enlightenment.
To that end, I would like to introduce you to Harrison Zuckerberg.
Harrison was honored at the JDRF event I attended, this weekend. He is ten years old and has had Type-1 Diabetes for most of his life. At six years old he started a movement called T-1 Enlightenment to raise awareness for finding a cure to Type-1 Diabetes. It is this work that he was honored for.
The video, below, of his speech is only four minutes long. About two minutes in, you will see possibly the best example I could find anywhere of putting the impact of your mission center stage.
In the ten minutes following Harrison’s speech, the audience (approximately 400 people) committed $139,000 toward the JDRF’s efforts to Forward a Cure! These were incremental donations above and beyond funds raised by the live and silent auctions and the ticket sales.
Now, don’t for a second be intimidated by the process of putting the impact of your mission center stage. Not every organization is lucky enough to have a Harrison. But, there are many ways to accomplish this that are within reach.
The first step (And the most important one!),
is to define your organization’s impact in its simplest terms.
Make your impact relatable to everyone in the room. Harrison is a great teacher for us on this! He tells us, in tactical terms, how every day of his life as a ten-year-old boy will change when he is cured of Type-1 Diabetes.
For a live case study in accomplishing this, I called a college friend, Christina, who is the president of the board of trustees of a massive watershed association in New Jersey—a powerful group that protects watershed areas across 470 square miles of the state.
Most likely, an attendee at a fundraising event for Christina’s organization will know that a watershed association’s mission is to ensure the protection of the natural resources of a watershed through education, advocacy, land preservation, and stewardship.
And, while we can all grasp that mission in our head, it isn't something that we can feel in our gut—something we will talk to our friends about. That’s why we need to crack open that mission and expose the organization’s impact on the community.
Throughout our conversation, my passionate and intelligent friend Christina kept using heady and scientific terminology such as, “non-point source pollution,” “impervious surfaces,” “soil degradation,” and “open space,” as she waxed on about the expansive work of the organization. Honestly, it was a little confusing, and not at all compelling.
So I stopped her. And, I asked Christina to imagine her community without the watershed association.
“Oh!” She said. And, she paused.
That was the trick. The conversation turned more…well conversational! And we got to some relatable impacts that an event audience would quickly embrace. They broke down into little “what if, stories” that could be communicated in a speech, montage, or video. Here is one such “what if story.” Just imagine Christina at the podium speaking to you…
Imagine a wooded area. A canopy of trees allows rain water to disperse evenly across the forest bed. The soil gently filters the droplets. They gather underground yielding to natural flows that lead to tributaries, streams, rivers, and eventually lakes and reservoirs.
Now replace that wooded area with an average big box store. 500,000 square feet of absorbent soil is traded in for impervious roof and parking lot asphalts. The rushing waters channeling across these non-porous surfaces dislodge and take on oil, grease, phosphorus, road salt, and other manmade debris.
The water is artificially routed to rivers and streams. Naturally ill-equipped to handle the volume, these waterways are diverted and manipulated to efficiently deliver this “fresh” water to our reservoirs.
Without our organization—WITHOUT YOU—contamination of our drinking water supply would go unchecked. But, with all of us working together, standards including multi-level garages, porous pavement, parking lots beneath stores, and re-development of existing vacant properties, are put in place help to support both our ecosystem and our economy.
Christina’s donors definitely have interest in funding stewardship and education. However, they are PASSIONATE about seeing to it that the oil, radiator fluid and gasoline from expansive big box parking lots don’t end up in our drinking water supply.
Supporters of JDRF, want to find a cure for Type-1 Diabetes. But, they are PASSIONATE about seeing to it that children with Type-1 Diabetes, like Harrison, can go to a sleep at night without fearing they will slip into a diabetic coma.
So, put your organization’s impact center stage at your event,
and transform your caring donors into PASSIONATE supporters!
And remember, the bliss is in the details!
JennaThis blog is sponsored by FundraisingRides, the division of Soaring Adventures of America, Inc. dedicated to providing non-profit organizations with fundraising opportunities.