Recently, my friends and I, who have been involved in highly profitable fundraising events for years, were discussing the question “What’s in a name.” Basically, what we are talking about is….reputation surrounding the name of a business or especially a Charity.
Several years ago, my team and I assisted a Charity in the Maryland area and built their fundraising events to be the largest, most successful events in the DelMarVa region (Delaware, Maryland and Virginia). We were in charge of the planning, the strategy, the management everything from beginning to end. The first event had 830 people in attendance and the Net proceeds were record breaking. The following year, we followed it up with yet another record breaking event…everyone was stunned at the success. But the mistake was, those who were on the outskirts of the event, thought they knew the Recipe for Success. They thought that they knew how to plan and manage it and based on several differing opinions, decided to go it alone the following year.
Now, 95% of the time, the events which we are a part of, always get a name for themselves and people attend merely just to see it happen. People come from all over the country to see our events unfold. What the people didn’t realize is…the incredible amount of time, planning and strategy goes behind each and every fundraising platform. So that we are all on the same tract, a fundraising platform can be defined as the Live Auction, the Silent Auction, the Pre-Event Raffles, Event Raffles etc.
Routinely, people attend these high impact events with a notepad in hand, sometimes with video camera’s etc. to try to duplicate what we do. However, what they do not understand is the question “Why?”
Why is this item placed here? Why does this raffle have this many items? Why are those items on that raffle? Why are there only 20 items on the Live Auction? Why are there that many items on the Silent Auction? Why?
Another question they do not understand or ever ask is….what mistakes have you made in the past which prompted this amount of experience or expertise? If you did it differently, what negative results would come from it?
If you know me, then you will already know just how much emphasis I place on my reputation. You will also know how serious I am about planning and hosting a successful event. Basically, the success or failure of the event which I am a part of rests solidly on my shoulders and I feel the pressure. My name precedes me. The moment an event occurs which I am a part of is not a success, guess who is to blame? That’s right….me. No one wants to hear the extenuating circumstances or that this person didn’t listen or didn’t follow the direction they were given…I am expected to pull the money rabbit out of my hat each and every time regardless. So for that, I plan to plan to plan to plan…something most everyone does not do. It’s all about my reputation.
What many do not understand or fail to realize is….why would anyone expect less then a success? I recently told a good friend and client that each and every time I step up to the fundraising Home Plate, I always swing for the fence – always. I will never except 2nd best. So, each event I plan and manage, will always be planned for success. If it is not an absolute success, then it’s a failure, something I do not take lightly.
So, after hosting this monstrous, extremely popular and successful event, the committee decided to go it alone. Do I need to tell you what happen? Well, Failure with a capital “F”. The profit plummeted, the attendance fell drastically. Leaving the committee wondering why. They thought they knew the Recipe, but obviously they left out the crucial secret ingredients which honestly, are not shared with anyone, basically Grand Momma’s Recipe for a successful fundraising event (That’s a joke).
Then, recently, I learned that they think it’s the name that is hurting them. That the name of the event is the whole key to why the event isn’t successful. If anything, the name is what helps them. People remember the event which we were a part of and not the event they did.
One must remember, reputation for “Fantastic” is a hard accomplishment. Building and planning these events is stressful to say the very least. So many believe that they can walk in, place items around a room and people will just spend, spend, spend. That’s never the case. It has to do with reputation, commitment to success, contacts, networks, understanding the complexity of a successful fundraising event.
So…they key is, once you build a positive reputation surrounding a name, you must continue to perform at that level. But once it starts to slide downward into the negative, it will take a miracle to get it back. This is just food for thought.