How To Ruin Your Fundraising Event in Five Easy Steps

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Throwing an event? Know that having an audience is a privilege, not a right. Respect your guests, first and foremost. (TWEET THIS!)

This past weekend found me out in the Hamptons. Now, first thing to know is that I absolutely hate the Hamptons. The Hamptons is a small area of the South Fork of Long Island, NY, where people go who don’t understand how to have fun in NYC in the summer. It’s also where every person four years into their professional career goes to rent a house for the summer (technically called a “share,”) which is French for “six people to a room, bring your own towels, sheets, and Lysol.”

However, like every place in the world, if you look long enough, you can find at least one beautiful place and a handful of good people, and I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with some close friends who are “year-rounders.” I.e., they don’t go to the Hamptons from Memorial Day to Labor Day to stay drunk, rather, they live out there all-year, in a beautiful town and a gorgeous home.

As part of the weekend with them, I joined them at a fund-raiser for a wonderful charity. I won’t name it here, because I’m about to go off on all the things the fundraiser did wrong. Suffice it to say, the charity could have pulled in a lot more money had they simply done a few things differently. So…

How to ruin your fundraising event in five easy steps:

1) Don’t have anywhere near enough people to work check-in. If you have a check-in process, make sure you have more than enough people working the check-in tables so that the lines move quickly. There’s nothing like getting to an event, being all ready to bid and donate, then having to wait twenty-five minutes just to check in. See #3 for why it took so long. Want to do better? Have enough people to, make the process painless.

2) Don’t care in the slightest about time. The event was supposed to start at 6pm, with appetizers and drinks, silent auction bidding, etc., with the crowd moving into the tents for dinner at 7pm. By 7:30, we were still standing in the drinks area. Because the crowd was expected on a “flow,” meaning that people would start heading to dinner while more people were coming in to the drinks area, it got really, really crowded, really, really fast. By the time we sat down to dinner, around a quarter to eight, we were ready to leave. Want to do better? Respect your audience, and stick to your time requirements. (TWEET THIS!) 

3) Don’t pay any attention to your audience, and use technology no one understands. The silent auction required you to give your mobile number when you checked in, then wait for a code. Then you had to remember that code, as well as your auction number. When you saw something on which you wanted to bid, you had to enter the item number on an iPad in front of you, then enter your code and the first three letters of your last name. Then you had to enter your bid, and your maximum bid. It was a process and a half, and I know for a fact that countless people didn’t bother bidding, because they couldn’t figure out how to use it. Want to do better? Know your audience and make it easy for them to give you their money.

4) Speak for as long as you want, and invite multiple people on stage to tell rambling stories for at least a half hour. While I get it – It’s a charity, and you want to tell stories that get people to tug at their heartstrings to donate, you won’t if you start to lose the audience. After 30 minutes, the band hadn’t even come out, the live auction hadn’t even started, and people were starting to head to their cars. Want to do better? Each person gets two minutes, maximum of three people. The goal is to get people to donate money, not to hear a story.

5) Make sure you tell any silent auction winners that they’ve won – but don’t tell them how to claim their prize! Turns out I won something – I got a text that said I did. But it didn’t even remotely tell me how to claim it. I had to call the organization and go through six people before I found out how to give them my donation. Want to do better? Make it easy and foolproof for your fundraiser guests to bid, win, and donate. (Tweet this!)

Bummer, too – Because it was a fun event. And it probably raised a few bucks for the charity. But if they’d just done the most basic of things, they could have raised a lot more.

PS: Want to learn a lot more about how do things right? I’m holding a one-day Mastermind in NYC on August 4th, 2016, to make you smarter, increase your revenue, and make your business BETTER. Join us!

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