In early April a well known and well-respected philanthropist in my community (Albany, NY) sent the following letter to the editor of The Daily Gazette newspaper:
This is an important message to charitable organizations holding fund-raising events and galas. The formal part of most programs, including speakers and honorees, is getting too long. There’s too much talk. Audiences giving up their free personal time are getting turned off with long, drawn-out events.
Two recent examples: One had two speakers and lasted over two hours. The second had 15 honorees and lasted one-and-a-half hours. While organizations are doing their best to raise money, there’s a growing insensitivity to audience attention span. “The mind can absorb only what the seat can endure.”
The message to meeting planners is tighten up your formal programs to 45 minutes or less. Recognize a few key people — maximum of three. Don’t overkill a good thing. Please find a way to better facilitate a larger group of people.
We’re happy to support you, but please have pity on the time we are lending you. Run a tight program. Start on time, have an end time and end on time, particularly the cocktail hour. Silent auctions are OK as they are. Live auctions must be limited to seven items or less.
It is impossible for me to agree with Mr. Golub more than I already do! For those of you outside of the area, Neil and his wife Jane attend countless fundraising events in their community. Frankly put, they are at everything and not only attend but, in my experience, also support financially. I know many clients struggle with wanting to tell everyone about everything during their Gala. “But they’re a captive audience, we have to tell them while they’re there!”. Is that the best strategy?
I’ve always advised clients that they should raise more money the weeks AFTER their gala than they do during their gala. Yes, tell your donors about what you do – but leave them wanting to learn more. Follow up with prospects after the event, asking if they have any questions or would like to hear more.
Don’t hold audiences captive!!! Use your gala to start or build upon your relationship with prospects!