6 tips to help board members work a room at a fundraising event

across a crowded room at the Kings ArmsLast night, I was asked for some tips to help my fellow board members with a fundraising dinner on Thursday. Fundraising events so often devolve into board members huddling together in tight groups of people they all ready know.

But money is raised when board members act as ambassadors and hosts. Here's what I wrote.

Tips on Working the Room

  1. Remind yourself why you're there

    As a board member, you're not there to hangout with friends. You're there to be a host. So meet new people and make others feel welcome.

  2. Look for "centers of influence" you haven't met

    As you look over the room, notice the people that seem to have a crowd around them. Go up and introduce yourself to those people you haven't met.

  3. Look for stragglers

    It's also helpful to look for people feeling lost. Some people simply are uncomfortable. Do your best to make them welcome but don't let them become a time suck. It can be great to introduce them to someone else who has something in common. That makes them feel more connected and allows you to walk away.

Here are some questions to help get conversation going

  1. "What do you do when you're not at an anti-trafficking dinner?"

    This will get a chuckle. But it also gets at "where do you work" without insulting at home parents and retired people.

  2. "How did you get into that?"

    People love to tell their story. So be a person who'll listen. They love you for asking, and you don't have to carry the conversation all on your own! Don't try to fill them up with facts about Amirah. The dinner program will do that. Just take the time to get to know the guests.

  3. "How did you first hear about Amirah?"

    It's nice knowing how people connect with us. It'll show us what messaging is working, as well as who are our most effective evangelists.

Those were my tips. What would you add?

About Marc Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the author of Ask Without Fear!, director of The Nonprofit Academy, and founder of FundraisingCoach.com. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family!

Follow him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.

Comments

  1. How did you know that I had a conversation about this just last week? Thanks for some practical tips that we can share with our board members!

  2. LOL! I’m finding this was a very timely post! :)

  3. I like to make sure that my Board members have a couple of things ready that they can share about the organization. Board members don’t live and breathe our organizations like we do and they don’t always know what to say. Getting them prepped with a story or two always pays off.

    Sandy

  4. Great point!

  5. It is helpful for the Board members to have a guest list with brief notes in advance so they know who to expect to see and who they need to meet. If it’s a really big deal event, some targeting can be good so as many as possible have board member face time. Thanks for your great posts.

    • So true! I like to give each board member a few names of people to be sure to meet. They could be donors needing stewardship, prospects needing cultivation, or just people that would make a great connection.

      Board members love having a “purpose” while there. And I make sure they always feel they have the time to visit with the people they’d normally visit with.

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