I hate to sound uncharitable but…
April 15th, 2019
For the past year, newspapers, radio stations, magazines and people in general have been talking about how great the economy is. Our stock market is strong, wages are on the rise and unemployment continues to be low.
One would think that an upswing in the economy usually means more giving to charities and charitable organizations, therefore reducing the need for fundraising and fundraising events. Perhaps that is true but from where I sit, that is not the case. We have received and granted more requests for donations this year then ever before. Those requests take all sorts of shapes and sizes. Sometimes organizations are looking for cash, while other times it is a free program or deeply discounted program, we have purchased gift cards for raffles and even donated programs to be raffled off at silent or live auctions.
As a company we are lucky that we can fill many of these requests. We do this because we believe in the missions of these organizations, not because we hope to get business from it. Many people think that companies just “write-off” their donations, but that is not always the case. You certainly don’t get dollar for dollar on a tax write-off, so any donations being made are, in fact, coming out of someone’s pocket or off the bottom line. If we are donating to you, we believe in you and your cause. With that said, when we donate, there is a certain amount of courtesy and etiquette that go along with it. Have you heard the saying “Never look a gift horse in the mouth?”
Several years ago, we donated a program to an event, but their electronically-created form letter thanked us for the donation of our parking lots. When I called to point out the error, they got a little nasty which didn’t help the situation or make me want to donate to them again.
In order to make these events less cost prohibitive to us, we ask the charity to provide help, but often our staff is left to fend for themselves. Our needs are not very complex; a table, trash can, access to power, a bottle of water, a chair or two and a few volunteers to assist us. Yet you would be amazed at the number of folks that fail to have some or all of this stuff available when we arrive. We ask for these things to make the event go as smoothly as possible. Believe it or not, this is a much for the sponsoring organization as it is for us. Our contract and rider are incredibly simple and easy to follow; we do not keep our needs a deep secret, as they are spelled out to you in the paperwork we send out.
Yup, I have reached crotchety old man status. Before you jump down my throat, I understand that many of these organizations are run by well intentioned, hardworking volunteers that are not professional event planners. However, I don’t feel that this is as much of an event planning issue but more about how you treat people.
I’m also aware that there are many moving parts to events like these and it can seem overwhelming at times. This task is even more daunting if you are a new organization doing this for the first or second time. Let me make a few suggestions, these are being offered in the earnest hope that they will make things easier for you, your committee, volunteers and your vendors. Hopefully it will also make for a better event:
- Start the process earlier.
- Get more volunteers than you think you need.
- If getting volunteers is a challenge, identify mission critical tasks and take care of those first.
- Make sure that your set up is complete 60 to 90 minutes prior to doors opening.
- Have plenty of signage identifying parking, check in, registration, volunteer sign in, participant packs, food stations, restrooms and medical attention.
- Create some way to thank volunteers, participants and vendors.
- Make sure to get feedback from all those groups.
- Do a thorough, honest debrief following the event.
When it comes to recognition during the event, and I can only speak on behalf of FUN Enterprises, the occasional shout out or thank you sign is great. Please though, if you are going to thank someone, do your due diligence and get your information correct. We are often called Fun Entertainment and, to me, that is worst than no thank you at all.
After the event a thank you note is always appreciated. Form letters are okay but proofread them before sending them out. As a company or as individuals we don’t do this for the thanks or pats on the back; but it is nice to appreciate people who help us. Treating participants, volunteers and vendors well ensures that they will be fantastic spokespeople for your group and come back the following year.
One other suggestion is that if a vendor has donated something to your charity, at least give them the opportunity to earn your business. For example, we recently donated a gift card to an organization at a conference. The person came by my booth in the conference exhibit hall to grab the card. They said thank you and then went on their merry way. This was a conference for people that are on programming/activity boards on college campuses, so they were clearly a prospective client. To me, it would have been a great opportunity to show respect for a company who was willing to help you and your cause. Perhaps by asking for promo to take back to your team or bringing the right person from their school over to do a quick introduction would go a long way.
These events are nothing more than a microcosm of the rest of life. How you treat people is exceptionally important. If you treat them with kindness, dignity and respect you will get that back.
About the author
Ken Abrahams has been involved in charitable causes for a good chunk of his life on this planet. At an early age with his Mom and siblings he participated in Walkathons, Ride-a-thons and a host of other charitable events. He has served on the boards of several charitable organizations and is incredibly proud of the amount of organizations and events FUN Enterprises has supported.
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