There’s a reason Hollywood hands out awards in the category of “Set Decoration” or “Art Decoration.” The visual effect of the set plays a key role in a movie’s authenticity and really sets the stage – forgive the pun – for the actor’s role to come to life and the audience to accept what they are seeing as real which enhances their theatre-going experience.
The same holds true for a charity fundraiser. The way in which a venue is decorated can play a key role in setting the stage for a success event. Now here comes the ironic part – I have nothing to do with it.
We all have our strengths. Mine is not in the realm of planning decorations for a gala. Not only am I decorating-deficient, I simply don’t have the time due to my auction schedule and consulting for many other aspects of a fundraiser from pre-planning to post-event analysis.
Trust me, I fully appreciate and marvel at a beautifully decorated ballroom. I even attempt to match the tuxedo vest I wear the night of the event to the decor. But putting it all together – me actually getting involved with the decoration theme or process – is akin to allowing a bull wander around in a china shop.
However, with that said, I do inform clients there are some decorating basics they should follow for fundraising auctions.
I will go into detail in a minute – but here are three decorating basics all Event Chairs should adhere to:
1) Never use tall centerpieces
2) Don’t overspend on decorations
3) The decorations should make a statement about the mission
Let’s begin with the subject of tall centerpieces. They may look great on a table but they interfere with the patrons seeing the auctioneer and/or the auctioneer seeing the patrons.
Audience analysis, a term I use on a regular basis and one of the keys of my success, is hinged upon my ability to closely observe the faces of the bidders and potential bidders. Due to this clear vision path I often know in advance when a person is going to bid or bid again long before they raise their paddle.
In addition, there is nothing more frustrating to a bidder than to raise their hand or bid paddle and then not being seen by the auctioneer or their ringman due to a centerpiece blocking their view. So keep centerpieces low.
Another important basic is: Don’t overspend on decorations. In my 20 years experience I’ve discovered the portion of the event budget that most often goes over budget is the decorating allowance. Too often the decorating committee gets carried away with hosting a lavish party and forgetting the purpose of the gala is to raise money – not waste it.
Decorations can: Set a nice tone for an event – Can make the attendees feel welcome – And make for great photo opportunities. But they seldom add significantly to the bottom line. Besides, you don’t want your guests to feel as if their donations from the previous year were being used wastefully on unnecessary and extravagant decorations.
And finally, the decorations should enhance the event by helping to permeate the mission of the charity whenever possible. For instance, if your mission is to supply needed educational tools to school children then decorate the tables with educational manipulatives that are age appropriate for the children you’re trying to serve.
If your mission is to feed the needy, than use strategically placed canned goods and other packaged food items – that can also be used after the event to nourish the hungry – on the tables as decorations. Donors will love the fact that you are getting double duty from the decorations, therefore stretching their donation dollars.
In my next Blog I will talk about how “Uplighting” at an event also plays a key role in setting the mood and can be an integral part of the decor.