Vendors Are an Important Part of Your Fundraising Team, Too

vendor-networkTo create a culture of philanthropy, you’ll want to take a fresh strategic look at expanding the concept of your fundraising team. Engage all the key players including honorary chairs, auction co-chairs, staff, board members, volunteers, sponsors, and honorees. What’s more, be sure to intentionally engage your event planners, venue managers and owners, caterers and their staffs, bartenders, production teams, audio-visual professionals…and of course your professional benefit auctioneer. Often overlooked, your vendors are extraordinarily valuable, give them a seat at the table for these knowledgeable and hard working fundraising team members. Invite them in!

Why? Even though event planners, caterers, and audio-visual professionals have outstanding expertise in planning and serving events, their skills and experience may not include those considerations that are unique to fundraising auctions and benefits. You’re moving away from the old transactional method, focused primarily on party planning, to a new model of fundraising and donor engagement. You’ll want to intentionally involve all the key players, making sure they understand that your auction fundraiser needs to be designed quite differently than a party or wedding. Naturally, you want to focus on a high quality guest experience with food, beverages, and atmosphere; however, some event planners and caterers can unknowingly hinder your ability to raise money.

Here are a few costly mistakes that could have been avoided if the vendors were on the fundraising team.

I’ve seen molten lava cake served right in the middle of an inspiring, emotional fund-a-need story—causing the entire audience to dive into liquid chocolate and stop giving. I’ve seen a caterer feature a glistening ice carving of a group’s logo in the center of a silent auction room, surrounded by tables filled with mounds of delectable appetizers, where almost all of the guests gathered. The new wine pull raffle was relegated to the corner by the venue manager, where it drew scant attention and lost untold funds. I’ve seen a hotel place the bar right inside the door to an event, causing a log-jam before guests even caught a glimpse of the silent auction items. I’ve seen audio-visual teams set up two giant speakers at the front of the venue and, in order for guests in the back to hear, crank the volume so high that the VIPs, honoree, and sponsors plugged their ears and left early—without bidding in the live auction or giving to the fund-a-need.

That’s why you need a new strategic fundraising team approach!

team-teamwork-business-1525444Event planners and venue/hotel managers bring expertise in creating themes, designing and tracking event details, creating event budgets and timelines, coordinating logistics, navigating and negotiating with vendors and suppliers, planning meals and themes, and managing food, beverages, entertainment, and safety.

Caterers provide professional expertise in food and beverage planning, creating unique and distinctive menus and presentations. They think of every minute detail, from glasses and dishes to the proper ratio of food and beverages to the number of guests. Caterers provide professional wait staff and bartenders, and, of course, they set up before and clean up after your event.

Audio-visual professionals provide expertise, equipment, and technical ability for events and production, including sound, light- ing, video, staging, and special effects. They can also design and manage the event production.

A professional fundraising auctioneer can consult with your organization, using specialized expertise to help you focus on things that make you money and engage donors. Be sure to retain and involve your auctioneer first. An auctioneer who specializes in fundraising will give you expert advice on how to design your timeline, lay out the venue, and handle sound and lighting design. This valuable strategic consultation can return from thousands to millions more dollars for your organization. Use your auctioneer’s event-planning perspective and insights to help you avoid costly pitfalls and maximize your fundraising from the start.

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