Why Data is More Important than Your Event – A Lesson for Not-For-Profits

pexels-photoA few years ago myself and my little gang were invited to a charity event. The invitation came from one of our gang who is a fabulous singer and entertainer and was filling in with a cover band that was booked to play this function.  The band was amazing.  Yes, they did covers, but this band actually dressed up as each performer,  so there was a Billy Idol, a Gary Glitter (this was pre-charges so still politically ok!), an Elvis and my friend made an excellent Chrissy Amphlett. You get the picture – fun, right? So, of course, we booked tickets.  We had no idea what the charity was, and to be honest, didn’t care. We were up for a fun night at $90 a head, dinner and drinks included. Yay!

The night started well. We were at a local sports club function room.  There were about 8 tables of 10 so they had a pretty decent crowd.  The stage was all set up, the dance floor was right in the middle of the room and they had loads of donated prizes for the silent auction. We took our table near the front of the room, right by the stage. The wine started to flow and the entrees were served.  All good so far – but then…….

This charity made some rookie mistakes that cost them dearly, even though they may not know it:

They started the night with the speeches and it wasn’t good.

OK So this might not seem like a bad idea, and it’s not.  It’s actually a great time to grab the attention of your audience, remind them why they’re here and encourage them to enjoy the event and to dig deep!  After all, that’s why we are here right?

However, I would recommend that you DO NOT start the evening by bringing the mood down. This particular charity’s mission was to raise awareness and I’m guessing funds for research into a chromosomal condition that meant that any child born with the condition rarely made their 10th birthday.  I think you can agree, it’s an awful thing to happen in a family and a terrible tragedy for those present who had lost children. There is no disputing the sadness created by this condition.  What the head of this charity did was to remind everyone in the room of all of the children who had died in the past year by reading their names one by one.

This really affected the vibe in the room, which may sound harsh – but there’s a time and a place for everything and the beginning of a night set up for fun – this was not the time or the place. It’s really important to get the tone right so you don’t ruin the nature of the event. A memorial event or something similar would be more appropriate.

They didn’t engage with us at all

At our table were several successful business people with plenty of cash to spend. I think we were the only table at the event that did not have a direct connection to the condition, so the opportunity was there for someone to engage us in conversation and explain the purpose of the event.  As it was, our table spent plenty of money on raffle tickets and silent auction items.  I dare say it was probably their most successful night financially, but we wouldn’t know because…

They never contacted us again.

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned the name of the charity or the particular condition that they were raising money for.  That’s because I don’t remember! After we attended the event, not one person was contacted by anyone at the charity.  No follow up, no thank you, no “can you help us some more” messages. NOTHING.  I doubt they even knew who we were.

And this is why when you’re organising your gala, or your fun-run, or your ….whatever… make sure you know who is there. Make sure you know how to contact them and make sure you know what they spent or raised for you. AND THEN DO IT! Contact people, engage, ask questions and build your database.  You don’t know who is in the room until you do the work.  These types of events are notoriously bad at raising money, just because they are so expensive to put on in the first place.  The value lies in the contacts made and nurtured.  You engage with the event, you build in the follow-up. Who knows who you might find?

Did we go back the next year? Well, no. My friend wasn’t in that band anymore. No one from the charity contacted us and so I don’t even know if they held another event.  I wish them well, whoever they are.



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