Ah, summer, a brief respite from the flurry of fund-raising events that will soon start clogging my fall calendar. Do I attend all these events because I am the essence of popularity? Um no. I attend because my husband’s job requires that I enjoy a chicken dinner with a mystery cream sauce at least several times a month. Praise be to the gods of hotel catering, not all of these shin-digs are black tie required galas. Some are lunch time fundraisers others business banquets or yuck, a golf tournament. You know what that makes me? An event expert and like any expert it would be unkind of me, ill-mannered even, not to offer the gift of my wisdom. As always, feel free to take notes and don’t hesitate to share this valuable information with any and all fundraising volunteers and professionals.
The primary mistake any event makes is being in love with itself. Yes, your mission is truly inspirational and you admirably fill a community need. But, all of us who paid upward of $2,000 for a table didn’t come to be punished by your 40 minute video, masquerading as a wannabe PBS documentary. Nor did we attend to be beaten into submission by a cavalcade of earnest speakers who as soon as they touch the microphone fall madly and oh so passionately in love with the sound of their own voice. I know your rationale was that all 20 of your most special donors and volunteers must have a chance to speak because they give so much to your organization. Fight that urge with all you’ve got and pick three speakers, at the most, to “tell your story.” I don’t care if you have to draw names from a hat. Trust me, I’ll thank you with my wallet later. Your event attendees also never ever want to be tortured by a powerpoint presentation. Under no circumstances should you unleash the P.P. Showing me one at an event makes me want to rip off my spanx, rush the stage and smother the powerpointee with my newly purchased space aged polymered, gut sucking, lycra. Remember less is more – especially when it comes to event presentations.
Well, there is one exception to that less is more rule at events. You can never have enough alcohol. Nothing gets my Target knock off designer handbag in a bunch more than having to pay for liquor at an event. Seriously, I dropped some major coin to attend and you have a non-hosted bar? I can’t even get a club soda with twist of lime without paying for it? It’s like the airlines charging to check a bag or an orange spray tan – wrong, wrong, wrong! Let me share with you a little Event Math – every drink I have to pay for is equivalent to about $100 less I’ll be spending on an auction item or a fund-in-need. I know what you’re thinking and don’t you dare go there. You’re thinking, “Well there’s a bottle of red and white wine on the table.” Yes, there is and here’s the hard truth, that’s not good enough. I want my liquor and I want to enjoy it before we’re all herded into the banquet area and lassoed to our seats for a couple of hours. Oh and don’t get all sneaky and go covert ops with the bar while I’m in the banquet area. I want your hospitality extended so when I excuse myself to go to the powder room or to make a phone call to check in at home there’s still a bartender waiting to pour me a little vodka with a splash of cranberry and just a wee bit of lime. Yes, I can afford to buy myself a drink or two or three. But, that’s not the point. The point is a fundraiser is still a “party.” Well, a party you pay to go to, but a party nevertheless and good hospitality should be the rule not the exception.
As far as entertainment at events, for the most part, I say no. A big no to choirs, high school singers, really any kind of children performing should be verboten. Harsh? Yes. But, consider the fact that, I, as a mother, and most of the other parents attending your event get weary of seeing even our own precious, precious children perform at their countless school musicals and concerts. Sadly, we have reached our kid performance threshold. That, by no means, gives you permission to torture us with a comedian or really loud music where it makes having a conversation at our table impossible and renders us only able to point at the red or white wine on the table. Remember, most of us are 40 plus and our hearing is not what it used to be.
Unfortunately, we can still hear some man at a podium over thanking his wife. What’s that you say – how can a man over thank his wife? Is that even possible? Why yes it is. A man comes up to accept his award or to say his farewells to his board chairmanship and he goes into what I call “suspicious over-thank mode.” He calls out his wife and gushes about her eternal greatness, raves about how he couldn’t have done it without her, how she makes it all possible and worthwhile. Really, all this outpouring of marital praise because you’re term as board chair is up? (Hello, you were board chair, not the patron saint of philanthropy.) This is what I’m thinking, along with most of the married females in the audience. 1 – You’re trying too hard in a show offy “Look at me, look at me, I’m husband of the year” kind of way. 2 – You’re trying to atone for some sin you’ve committed. 3 – That sin is you’ve cheated and/or are currently cheating. 4 – She wrote your speech. Or 5 – All of the above. So, married gentlemen keep your wifely praise appropriate to the occasion and save the officious gushing for your anniversary dinner or better yet, shut up and give your wife want she wants – sole beneficiary of your life insurance policy and executorship of your will.
Of course, I have more event guidance to offer, but I’ll follow my own advice and remember that less is more.
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