Start today and make your fundraising events more productive (and yes, let's get something other than money out of them!).
I have long gone on the record disliking large fundraisers. You know the drill: sitting at a table of ten people, talking to two people on each side of you that you don't know about their dogs/kids/favorite sports team, listening to long speeches, interminable auctions, and, if you are lucky, having a cool performer bang out a couple of songs to top off the evening (I was just at one where the "cool performer" accepted the honorary award but didn't perform - geez).
And, to top it off, the non-profit's staff and board probably spent months twisting the arms of their friends to buy tables, begged to get silent auction items, sweated over whether they could get an honoree that would draw attendees and over-practiced the long speeches they were going to give.
So how can a non-profit make something out of this mess? While they, hopefully, make some money - and that is usually the key reason they have these events - they rarely make any new resource connections or find any new, significant, donors. Most of the tables are full of people who were asked to come to "fill up the table"... hardly good candidates to make transformative gifts.
While I would still recommend the organization have a series of interesting, connective, Jeffersonian Dinners instead of a large fundraising dinner (see my earlier blog posting on Jeffersonian Dinners) there is something quick and easy that the non-profit could do at the dinner to try to find some interesting resources beyond the money.
Take two minutes and, in addition to telling the crowd how amazing your organization is, tell them about a problem you have that you have not yet been able to solve.
For example, if you are a poverty-fighting group in New York City, tell them you are trying to find ways to house the 30,000 people put out of their homes by the last hurricane and you need apartments, construction resources, assistance with the Federal and local govt, etc. You are forming a small group of people who can help come up with a plan to address that problem. Put at each seat a card with a statement of the problem and an email address for people at the event to contact if they are interested in helping or have any ideas or suggestions to solve your problem.
If you have a 2% response rate at a 1000 person dinner you are doing great ... those 20 people could become donors, real resources beyond the event.
Try it. You have nothing to lose. Let me know how it turns out.