Make Everybody Feel Special
That was the response from a friend who is a leader at a major university.
I had just explained the dynamics of a reception at another institution.
There was a reception before of the institution's signature events. Later in the event, most of the senior staff were nowhere to be seen. I'm guessing that they had left for dinner—and probably even with some major donors.
But during that two hour window, they should have been there. And ensured that they greeted everyone in the room.
An event like this—because it was tied to a signature event—would have lent itself to a receiving area where they ensured that the senior team met and greeted everyone who entered. And there could have been a cool backdrop for a photo opportunity with the president.
Don't get me wrong: It was a nice event. It cost a lot of money and connected a lot of people. But it wasn't as strategic as it could or should have been.
The event also had as a host a household name—someone you would recognize. But in this market for this institution there were probably four names of equal cachet. So, if the other three were not invited to be hosts, or were told that they would be asked in subsequent years, there is a challenge.
It reminded me of last fall, watching the vice president of development at another institution walk into a football sky box, peruse the room, go talk to one person and leave. It was noticed. A few minutes later, the institution's provost came into the sky box and did it right—greeting everyone in the box before leaving. It was noticed and created a lot of positive energy.
In our profession, we have to focus on people who can make the biggest difference. But in doing that, we have to be careful. We need to be sure that everyone feels special.
I'm big on plans. And you need a plan for events like this—you definitely need an overall development/advancement plan that includes donor cultivation and stewardship.
Years ago I was chief development officer for a major organization. When I took over, they were doing recognition events for donors willy-nilly and spending a whole lot of money. That was raising eyebrows. The challenge: They were leaving out a lot of donors at the same levels. We developed a plan—and an appropriate budget—so we had a lot more events, saved a lot of money and reached everyone at the appropriate giving levels.
Prioritize your top donors and prospects—and make everyone feel special. It is a balancing act. But it can (and must) be done if we are truly donor-focused and represent the values of our organizations. And it enables us to maximize our success!
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.