Fundraising news, ideas and inspiration for professional charity fundraisers

Having a Ball

Having a Ball

Last weekend I went to a charity ball and it made me think about fundraising, donors and the impact of the current economic climate.

Firstly, there were my motivations for going to the event. I didn’t go because of the cause. My wife and I were invited by friends, and in turn we invited four other friends to get together a table of ten. I went because it was a social event, and the charity angle was a bonus.

The event was organised by a group of volunteers who have set up a charity that fundraises for organisations and causes that they feel passionate about. The volunteer fundraisers did a great job in organising a ball for 140 people, 50 up from last year’s inaugural event. As a professional, I had a few gripes – no charity registration numbers anywhere to be seen on printed materials, an auctioneer who clearly hadn’t auctioned anything in his life, and a number of missed opportunities to secure gift aid declarations.

But overall, I was impressed with their attention to detail. Each person received a printed booklet on their place setting detailing the programme, raffle and auction. Most impressively, each one was personalised with the person’s name and their pre-chosen menu on the booklet cover. Even more impressively, after printing the cover, someone had painstakingly stuck two small bejewelled stickers on the cover to make it look more classy. They had also pre-printed envelopes with the diner’s name for the table raffle, avoiding the problem of distributing pens on each table. There were also the familiar games – head and tails, “Check under your chair for a hidden star”, etc.

At the end of the day (or the night, rather) I was left thinking that, given the opportunity, I might have given more than I actually did.
The fundraising speech focussed too much on the problems, rather than the difference that my money could make. Given that the problems were related to poverty and injustice in Africa as we were digging into our dessert, a more upbeat message was certainly needed, and could have resulted in more money.

The auction went surprisingly well, despite the auctioneer and the credit crunch. (The ‘and finally…’ lot, a nodding Churchill dog went for £135 – £121 more than it was worth!). However, if you were part of the majority who didn’t really engage with the auction, there wasn’t an easy opportunity to give at that kind of level. A gift envelope on each table, with a gift aid declaration, would have been a simple outlet. Instead, I doubt if I’ll ever connect with either charity again, and I probably ended up spending more on the taxi fare and bottles of wine than I actually gave to the beneficiary charity.

There are people who are still prepared to give to charity with recession just round the corner, but unless charities think more about how these people want to give, they’ll probably be missing out, and failing to help the people who depend on them.

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