5 Strategies to Get the Right People at Your Fundraiser

On Tuesday, May 11,  Gail Perry and Claire Meyerhoff are presenting a webinar at Nonprofit Marketing Guide called Turn Your Fundraising Event into the Best Party in Town. Last week Gail discussed why it’s so important for nonprofits to think of their events as parties. Today, she gives you some practical tips on how to get those VIPs to come to your event. You’ll get lots more event planning tips from Gail during the Tuesday webinar and during Part II on May 25 on Powerful Programs and Amazing Auctions for Your Fundraising Party.

Here you are . . . you’ve spent months on your fundraising gala to make sure it will be both fun and successful.

You’ve got a great theme, a crackerjack committee, a stunning venue, and killer auction items. You’re hoping to raise a lot of money for your cause. And you are hoping, hoping, that your major prospects will say “yes” to the invitation and will come.

How do you get the “right people” to walk in the door? You really want them to come for lots of reasons:

  • You want to cultivate their interest and participation with your cause
  • You want to build closer relationships with them.
  • You want them to see your organization at its best.

So don’t leave this to chance!

Here are five strategies you can use to be sure your VIPs actually walk in the door.

1. Put some of your VIPs on the committee. If they are on the committee, then they will already be invested in the party and its success. Even better, they’ll bring their friends.

2. Honor one of the VIPs at the event. They will certainly come then – and they’ll bring their friends and family.

3. Put your VIP’s names on the invitation as “honorary hosts.” That way they will feel a stronger tie to the event and will have vested interest in its success.

If your VIP’s are major donors, ask them if you can list their names as major donors in a special spot on the invitation.

I once did this with a series of alumni events around the country for the Kenan Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill. I called all our donors at the $2,000 and up level in each region and asked them if I could list their names on the invitation as part of the Dean’s Club. They were flattered to be recognized and it gave me a wonderful cultivation opportunity.

4. Hold a private reception for your VIPs before the main event begins. This will really get them there.

I also used this strategy at a business school event. We found that our most important people rarely attended the regular alumni events. So we had a private reception for them with the dean for 45 minutes prior to the larger event. They came to the first private gathering, and many stayed for the larger one.

Here’s my favorite strategy of all:

5. CALL THEM and GO GET THEM and bring them to the party! Some of your VIPs may not want to go out alone at night. They may not have an escort and not want to go alone. They may be socially shy and unsure of who they will talk to or sit with.

So here’s what you do:

Call them ahead of time and tell them you have a special table for them. Tell them you want to introduce them to some interesting, nice people.

And then go pick them up in a party van or limo. It really, really works! And it’s an excellent cultivation opportunity. You can show them extra attention and let them know they are important.

The NC Museum of Art once secured (gratis) a large corporate jet to fly around the state and pick up donors for a party back in Raleigh. The plane flew down to Charlotte and then over to Winston-Salem to pick up donors; flew them to Raleigh and then flew them back home. Now you tell me that these guests didn’t feel fussed over and special!

And last week the NC Museum of Art opened a $70 million new wing that was funded by many of these donors’ contributions.

What are your strategies for getting the right people in the door? Leave a comment and share your tip!

P.S. Here are the remaining webinars on our May schedule . . .

May 11: Turn Your Fundraising Event into the Best Party in Town

May 13: Nonprofit Writing Stinks! Bring Your Writing Back to Life

May 20: Writing Moving Profiles about Donors, Clients, and Other Supporters

May 25: Powerful Programs and Amazing Auctions for Your Fundraising Party




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  • Great ideas and approaches! We have a 30th anniversary gala coming up on 10/10/10 and can use them. Keep up the good work. Brian

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  • nathan1980

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