Sacrificing the Forest for the Trees

Sacrificing the Forest for the Trees

Every event walks the tightrope between good party and successful fundraiser. If you don’t throw a fun party, no-one will want to come back next year. And if you don’t raise enough money to support the cause and justify the party, it isn’t worth doing next year.

A truly successful event has a unified vision from beginning to end that makes it fun to raise money for a cause the crowd is pre-disposed towards passionately supporting. Attendees should be invited to support a fundraising event that will be fun, not invited to a party and hit upside the head with an unexpected call for cash.

Everyone on your team’s vision of success should include maximizing the philanthropic potential of your attendees. There are always compromises, and I’m not suggesting that every event should have the same length auction start at the same time and feature the same lots. But I am wishing that event planners and event management companies would get on board with making auctions successful, and think about some of their decisions from an auctioneer’s perspective.

Case in point: at an event I did two weeks ago, the event planner put together a stunning room. Monarch butterflies were the main thematic element, and they were everywhere; projected on the ceiling, sitting on each place-setting’s napkin, and covering the three-foot high metal “tree” centerpieces at each table. From the standpoint of an event designer, it was gorgeous.

Guests at each table could readily see their mates across from them without the centerpiece blocking their view. And when you looked around you saw a forest of butterfly-covered trees. And that was the problem.

From the back of the room you couldn’t see the video screens through all of the trees, rendering the much worked-on video about the organization and its great work invisible to all but a few up front tables.

And when I was on stage, I was probably more voice than visible presence as well. Meaning guests couldn’t see me, and I couldn’t see them, or their paddles. I am most effective when I can look a bidder in the eyes and ask them to spend more money. That night, I was happy just to figure out where the bidders were. Establishing any sort of intimacy died on the branches of fifty-something Monarch encrusted trees.

I know the event planner and his team very well. I’m already carefully wording my follow-up conversation with them. Seeing as how this isn’t the first time they’ve done something like this at an event I was working on, I want to at least get them to acknowledge I have a perspective, if not see things from it now and again.

One Comment

  • Tim
    November 13, 2008 at 12:05 am · Reply

    Somehow the picture brings “concert” to my mind.

    Add a little smoke or dry ice effect and you’ve got the perfect back row environment captured in this photo.

    Luckily at a concert, you’re free to just listen and the singer doesn’t have to, nor wish to, see your paddle.

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