Bait, indeed!

Today’s idea comes from our colleagues at Chicago’s Live Bait Theater, whose annual fundraising event is an auction of celebrity doodles.  Is that brilliant, or what?  Wouldn’t you check it out just to learn what goes on in Mayor Daley’s unconscious mind?****

That’s the key to a successful benefit event: making it sound like fun.  Events are a horribly inefficient way to raise money, and many of them sound–and are–terminally tedious: another banquet, another auction.  But when cleverly conceived, low-cost events can be an excellent way to attract and educate new people.  They’ll come to spend an evening bowling, or drinking champagne from shoes, because it sounds lively and different and beneficial to–somebody, though they may not be exactly sure who.  As long as you’re not the Society for the Greater Appreciation of Axe Murderers, people will flock to your suitably offbeat evening.  (The Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network used to hold an event called Mardi Gras on Mars.  I could explain, but that would be telling.) 

Once you’ve gotten them in the door, don’t blow it: don’t overwhelm them with facts about your cause, but don’t keep them in the dark, either.  A two-minute speech (the classic "elevator speech") by the event chair should do it.  And make sure you get their names and contact information.  Easiest: ask people to throw their business cards in a fishbowl so they can be included in the drawing for a door prize.  The prize doesn’t have to be anything fabulous–it could probably even be an actual door–so long as there’s a chance to get something for nothing.

The point of all this, of course, is to get them engaged.  Once they associate your agency with a good time, and know the basics of your work, you can begin to pester them for real.

Under this theory, it’s obvious that the celebrity doodle auction is the Platonic ideal fundraising event.  Live Bait Theater has probably pretty well occupied the turf in Chicago, but those of you in other cities: go for it!  Can you imagine an easier celebrity ask?

****DISCLAIMER: No idea whether Mayor Daley is actually one of the celebrities participating.  But wouldn’t you go just to find out?



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