Occasionally my clients will ask me about interesting places to hold a fundraiser. I just read about one cool place in Blue Bell, PA (25 miles west of Philadelphia in Montgomery County).
I’ve not yet visited the venue, but reading about it made me want to jump in the car and race north on I-95.
Normandy Farm Hotel has two ballrooms, though neither sound particularly large. I think it would work for small benefit auctions as an intriguing venue.
(If you’ve held an auction in the space, please post a comment below and let me know if it’s as interesting in real life as it sounds in the Small Market Meetings article.)
For 200+ years, the farms’ owners raised thoroughbred horses and Ayrshire cattle. They also built an enormous barn. One set of owners named the farm Normandy after returning from a romantic honeymoon in France.
Eventually tax evasion caught up with the owners and their lifestyle changed. The farm fell into disrepair and was slowly parceled off and sold. In 2000, Hansen Properties Inc — which runs the country club across the street — bought the remaining portions of the farm and invested $30 million to restore it. They converted it into a hotel and conference center.
The property has a number of bells and whistles, but here’s what would likely be of most interest to you as a benefit auction planner.
- The horse stable became a 6100 square foot Grand Ballroom. The exterior still shows the horse stall doors.
- The smaller ballroom is 3,000 square feet. Per the article, it “incorporates the farm’s three tall silos, now lighted nooks that can house a bar, a coffee station or tables for VIPs.” I’d have to see it to make recommendations, but I can also imagine a post-event coffee bar tucked into one of the nooks.
- “Both ballrooms have separate entrances, pre-function space and access to open-air terraces.” In nice weather, the silent auction and raffle tables could be outside.
- The onsite restaurant The Farmer’s Daughter uses locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. Menus change daily. If you’re not using their kitchen to cater your event, at least ask for a donation of a dinner that you can sell.
- Parking is free.
- The venue has 113-room hotel and 28 suites. You could package an overnight stay into your ticket price for those couples who want to make a trip of it.
A possible caution includes:
- Sound could be a problem during the auction. Lots of nooks and unusual areas with high ceilings make controlling sound an issue. Though the venue is wired to be high-tech, sound will need professional help. In the Philadelphia area, I like Edu-Tech Academic Solutions.
Ready to take a road trip with me?