Thursday, December 27, 2007

Party with a Purpose

For a lot of us, the holidays bring with them a hectic social calendar. Company parties, holiday parties hosted by friends and other types of gatherings fill our schedules.

Your organization might be able to take advantage of this idea by partnering with board members, volunteers, or other supporters to turn an existing event into a fund raising party for you.

Author Morrie Warshawski contacted me recently about about his book "The Fund Raising Houseparty" (now in its 2nd edition) on this topic. It's certainly not a new idea (I've been to several parties like this myself), but it's good to know there's a straightforward how-to available as a reference for organizations looking to raise funds this way. Events can be tricky things, and one can never be too prepared. (For those of you in the Bay Area, he's also doing a workshop through CompassPoint on February 29th).

The book outlines five basic steps for a successful party:
  • people receive an invitation to come to a private home.
  • the invitation makes it clear that the evening will be a fundraising event for a specific nonprofit organization.
  • participants arrive and are served some refreshments.
  • participants sit through a brief presentation.
  • a peer--someone articulate, respected and enthusiastic--steps up and asks everyone present to make a contribution.
Both large and small organizations can benefit from a successful event because it serves as both a fund raising, as well as a branding, opportunity. Not only does the organization have the opportunity to walk away with funds it probably would have missed, it also has a chance to tell its story to a captive, and pre-screened, audience. Better still, it's a relatively painless way to get Board Members to participate in the organization's fund raising efforts.

If your organization is considering a house party, I would add these ideas to the book's suggestions:
  • Start with storytelling. Your stories are your main assets - if there's a way to have them displayed around the space so attendees can absorb them throughout the evening, do so. Incorporate them into your live presentation. Create small take-away items that attendees can share with others after the event.
  • Discourage anonymity. Peer pressure is a powerful tool in these types of settings. If each donation is publicly visible (donors might get a sticker on their lapel, or may be asked to stand for applause), those who have not yet committed to donate will feel pressure to do so.
  • Identify new donors. The room will likely be filled with some who are familiar with your organization and some who are not. Create a visual way to distinguish between these two groups so newcomers know who to ask if they have questions, and staff can easily engage new prospects.
Have other suggestions, ideas or success stories on this topic? Add a comment to this post to share your ideas with other readers.

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