Do You Have a Fundraising Reception Strategy?
If you have worked for a nonprofit for more than one month, you probably have been involved in some type of reception for your organization. In fact, over time you will be invited by board members and volunteers to attend their receptions as well.
You will learn to accept that receptions are a fact of life for the fundraising professional. Some receptions are very large in size. Other receptions are medium to small in size. Each reception has a personality based upon time, location, setting and participants.
Most professionals take the reception concept for granted. Others have a reason for involvement and a mission to accomplish. Regardless of your thoughts on the subject, your personality, at times, gets in the way. That said, you need to develop a strategy for each reception you attend.
We all know individuals and how they operate in a reception setting. My brother-in-law is blessed because he is excited to meet everyone in the crowd. He thrives on meet and greets. He remembers the name of everyone and each person's life history by the end of the evening.
I know other peers who hate the interaction with others. They are introverts and do not like meeting people they do not know. Others are focused on meeting a select few in the group. They have some type of strategy to employ. Still others just go with the flow and seek people they know and cling to them for the event duration.
For some people, a reception is time to relax after a long day of work. For others, a reception is a stressful event that affects many in various ways. I am amazed by how little attention has been given to this topic.
I am always a student of the development processes. I recently attended a VIP reception for approximately 50 people. Going to the reception, I felt that I would know 10 percent of the attendees. My wife and I arrived early, and we brought another couple as a double date. Being with them from time to time during the entire event was one plan. My wife knows I like to thrive in these settings, and while it is not natural to me, I focus on meeting new people.
We immediately watched as various groups arrived and stayed with each other. The host for the party made sure to engage everyone. The "A" listers began to mix with other "A's." Since the purpose was to meet a special celebrity, all were talking while keeping an eye open for that celebrity. When the celebrity arrived, it looked like a pecking order for attention was in place. Everyone quietly fell in line to meet the celebrity based upon perception of importance. Typically, fundraising professionals arrived at the end of the line. It is not about us.
My strategy for the reception was to meet the host and engage, meet key charity leaders I have worked with over a period of time, engage supporters for the charity, meet new prospects, and get a priceless picture with the celebrity. I must admit, the last item was actually my first priority. Even professionals are allowed a perk once in a while.
While I was disappointed that a few key people did not attend, I felt that I succeeded with my involvement in the reception. The reception was at an alumni house on a college campus. The time for the event was 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. We left at 9:10 p.m., and people were still at the activity. It was held on a Friday evening. The event was small by design, and there was an intimate feel to the evening. There were next-step discussions with a few key people. Everyone seemed to benefit from the event, which in part was to launch a young 501(c)(3) organization.
In summary, I suggest that you take future receptions seriously. Create a checklist, and critique your involvement after the event. Some points to consider:
- What are your personal goals for the event?
- Should you take someone with you (wife, boss, volunteer, etc.) or go alone?
- Who are the key people to meet, and what do you want to accomplish with them?
- Do you have business cards to share with others?
- Do you have people to invite, if relevant, to the event?
- Did you bring a camera to record moments?
- Did you learn anything from reception basics — location, time and place?
- Did the event include a program, and did the program focus on cultivation, stewardship or solicitation?
- Are you dressed appropriately?
- Did you follow up with those you met after the event?
Do not take any fundraising reception for granted. Your goal is to generate time, talent and treasure by building relationships. Think about how you can better engage in the next reception. It will be here before you know it!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, IN plus Adjunct Professor for Olivet Nazarene University. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.