From the planning stages of a fundraising event right through the actual event itself everyone knows their specific role. The Event Chair knows his or her assignment, as do the Chair’s committee, the volunteers and even the auctioneer.
The group which often seems the most confused as to their role is the members of the Advisory Board or the Board of Directors of the organization. I hope this Blog clearly states what their responsibilities should be and explain why they play such a crucial role in the success of a fundraising event.
Let me begin by saying, as a former member of several not for profit boards, I know the Board Members put in their time and energy throughout the process of putting an event together. Although their input is welcome they should allow the Event Chair to make the final decisions. In addition, Board Members should not expect to receive complimentary tickets to the event. They should pay for the tickets in support of the cause just as the attendees do.
As for the event itself, Board Members should not sit back as observers. They should be active participants with name tags, identifying them as board members, so the guests know who they are.
Now, here are the four stages of a fundraising event. We’ll discuss the role the Board Members should play in each stage following the list.
- Pre-Arrival of Guests
- Social/Cocktail Hour and Silent Auction
- Live Auction
- Guests Depart
- Thank you calls after the event
Let’s begin with the pre-arrival of guests. The Board Members should not show up late. They need to think of themselves as volunteers and should be in place long before the doors open. They should ask the Event Chair if there is anything they can do to help since so many last minute tasks sometimes crop up.
As the doors open for the social hour and silent auction the Board Members need to split up and work the crowd. They need to welcome the guests they know and approach guests they don’t know. And since the social hour is often a networking event, the Board Members should introduce people they know to other guests in the room they don’t know. Or in other words, bring two “stranger parties” together. This creates a good feeling in the room – a sense of camaraderie. And since all fundraising events are all about emotion – the better people feel – the better time they’ll have and the more likely they are to donate – and donate significantly.
During the live auction Board Members should help set the tone for the event and be participants, not observers. This means Board Members should bid on items, especially at the start of the bidding process of each item, to help ignite excitement in the room.
Everyone in the room is observing the Board Members and if they don’t bid on items and participate in the fund-a-need the others in the room will feel the Board Members don’t support the “cause” so why should I.
When someone wins a bid it is perfectly acceptable for a Board Member to stand up, walk over to the high bidder’s table and congratulate him or her. I’m not saying walk way across the room and make a big scene “hey look at me” but rather Board Members should be sitting at tables in various locations throughout the venue and the closest member to the winner should take on the “congratulations” role. This creates excitement and even more important – makes the bidder feel appreciated.
When the auction ends and everyone begins to leave the Board Members should not be the first to the parking lot or valet line. Their role isn’t over.
Board Members should be assigned to the exit doors and valet line and personally thank each guest for coming. Some should also be present at the checkout line thanking the winning bidders again.
As the final guests depart the venue it’s also very important for the Board Members to approach the Event Chair and the volunteers thanking them for their hard work and dedication.
Nothing is more gratifying after a hard day’s work – or should I say hard year’s work – than a warm handshake, a gentle pat on the back and a few kind words. Showing appreciation is a confirmation that all their time, talent and effort was worth every minute of stress.
The next part is critical for the success of your future fundraising events. Make a list of sponsors, donors, bidders along with any other people who made your event successful. Distribute this list to key staff people and the board. Identify which staff person or board member is to contact specific people on the list and make these calls the day after the event.
The call does not have to be long, just show your grateful appreciation and in a timely fashion. Timing is critical as showing gratitude, while the event is fresh in everyone’s mind, making a lasting impression.
If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Fundraising events must be planned and executed with positive energy. And positive energy by board members is absolutely the catalyst to a fun, and more importantly, financially successful event.