Reuters published a story on Monday called Wall Street philanthropy picks up, but not for all. I rolled my eyes.
Here’s the first two sentences:
(Reuters) – At a charity live auction in December for babies born into poverty, Stephanie Astic noted a heavy Wall Street presence in the room — the extent of which she had not seen since 2007. “They were bidding things up,” said Astic, who produces fundraising events for “Room To Grow” and other non-profits at posh Manhattan venues such as Christie’s and Gotham Hall.
Maybe I’m being grouchy today, but my first thought is, “Is it necessary to hold a fundraising event at a posh Manhattan venue?”
Really? Is it that or nothing?
Is the thinking that people won’t show up if you hold it in a slightly less posh (and less expensive) venue? Am I to believe that those guests won’t understand that it’s not worth paying $25,000 – $50,000 for a venue? (And that’s before you pay for the catering .)
Sometimes I just shake my head.
Groups will drop thousands of dollars on auction venues … or on entertainment … and quite frankly, the amount to which those items can be traced to helping the organization raise money is … nil.
Since when did the event manager of the venue stand up at a gala and say, “I know y’all love my venue! How about contributing another $10k to this charity because you like the venue soooooo much?”
Sure, guests like going to nice venues.
And it’s true that unusual venues can attract guests. But “unusual” doesn’t have to mean expensive.
As I ponder this, maybe there aren’t any interesting – but less expensive – auction venues in Manhattan. Maybe there are 2-3 venues that serve groups of a certain size well. Maybe they are easy to get to and are, consequently, expensive.
That could be true.
The city is congested; it is difficult to get around. It’s not easy to drive across town. It takes time to get from one place to another … even if you’re taking the subway (and most of those guests likely don’t take the subway).
Or perhaps – and this is more likely — if you’re expecting one guest to drop $50,000 at your gala, you don’t think twice about renting a venue for half that amount. Given that the largest gala auctions I work make $1 to $2 million, perhaps my frame of reference needs to be amped up for the New York market.
It’s food for thought, but I still dislike calling those events “fundraisers.” Let’s call them “friend-raisers.”
If it was a serious fundraiser, surely there would be more consideration given to where you get the biggest bang for your buck in your budget.
Where is the biggest bang?
Here are better options.
- An emotional video presentation conveying the need / mission.
- Advance marketing on auction items.
- A better benefit auctioneer who can tell the nonprofit how to restructure its event to raise more money and elicit more money from the crowd when bidding stalls?
- Maybe something as simple as lighting to ensure you can see the silent items.
- I’d even acquiesce to ensuring the food is delicious (though nothing over the top).
As a parting thought, let me be clear.
I love spending time in New York and enjoy working with New Yorkers, who broke my inaccurate stereotype of them several years ago when I lived in the city and found them to be incredibly friendly. But the article (which to be fair, was focused on the improvement of donations in recent months and not on venue selection) got my goat.
Among a fair number of Development Directors, events have a bad reputation. They are considered a waste of money. Staff are encouraged to secure funding from direct solicitations rather than spending hours on planning an event.
So when I read these articles that support the notion that thousands upon thousands of dollars must be spent to plan the event … for just the venue … it ruffles my feathers.
Surely you have an opinion. What’s your take?
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