This past weekend my wife and I had the opportunity to attend a fundraising gala for an organization I support. It is important to point out right away that this is an organization that is close to my heart – not my wife’s! So while I was up at the auction table bidding on countless things we don’t need or will never do, my wife was sitting at the table probably counting down the minutes until we could leave! It should go without saying that at the center of every good relationship that involves someone in the fundraising profession is the partner who just wants to go home!
When I returned to the table to proudly announce that I had “won” a book we didn’t need, my wife was chomping at the bit to tell me how excited she was about a conversation she had just had. It turns out that the head of the organization took a moment to sit down at our table and introduce himself to my wife. On the outside, it may have appeared that he just wanted to sit down for a second. But the reality is that he took a moment to cultivate my wife. He knows that this cause is more “my thing” than hers. So he took the time to sit down, thank her for our support, ask if she had any questions about the organization and then shared the great things the organization is doing. As soon as I got back to the table, my wife quickly ran off a list of five programs that the organization was doing and told me how excited she was about one of them. “Do we give to that program?”, she asked.
Special event fundraising is not a passion of mine. It is one of the least effective ways to raise money when you look at “cost per dollar raised”. But it is an incredible opportunity to cultivate your donors for larger gifts. You should be raising more money the day AFTER your special event then you do the day of. Strike while the iron is hot and get to know your donors (and their spouses\partners).
This is also a good lesson in not assuming your donors are serving as your best ambassadors to their spouses, business associates or circle of friends. Needless to say, this organization that was always close to my heart is now, apparently, close to ours!