This past week’s Sipping Tea with Sabrina focused on friendraising. I spoke about house parties as a cultivation event. I was asked several questions with the first one being “So what should happen at a house party?” My first response is don’t ask for money! Donor cultivation events such as a house party should be pure friendraising events.
Below are the key elements of a house party that I recommend you include.
1. Consider where your event will be held. A house party as indicated in the name should be held in a home. House parties are more intimate in nature, so hosting it at someone’s house is always a good way to go. Consider asking a board member or major donor that you have a close relationship with if they’d be willing to volunteer their home for a few hours. The advantage of this is that board members and donors almost always cover the food and beverage cost for the party. Another option would be an AirBnB, donor’s or board member place of business, or at your nonprofit office.
Whatever you decide, make sure the space is small enough for people to have meaningful conversations, yet big enough for you to present your nonprofit case in a memorable way. A good ambiance allows your guests to be engaged and comfortable. The goal is to make the guests comfortable so they can learn more about your nonprofit, your mission, and how they can get involved.
2. The planning timeline and budget. Since a house party is meant to be small in nature, a gathering of about 10 -20 people, you only need 1-3 months to plan. A house party should be no longer than 2 hours. They should be short, sweet, and to the point.
The budget for a house party is small as well. The menu should be something small, light appetizers with wine and water. As mentioned above, usually the host of the house party will cover the cost of the event. If that is not the case, the budget guides the size of your event. Consider, having your board members split the cost of the food and beverage menu if a house party is not budgeted.
3. Who to invite. The beauty of a house party is the board or donor invites their friends who want to learn more about the nonprofit. The guest list is solely up to the host. This helps expand your potential donor pool while making your guests feel more comfortable by having someone there that they know. Even if your event is not hosted in a house your board can take on the responsibility of the guest list. This will ensure that the guests are their peers.
4. Include a component of networking where board members and staff can interact with donors. The house party should start with an informal welcome by the host explaining their connection to the organization and why guests have been invited.
To create a time and space for networking board members and staff should serve as greeters, welcoming the donors to the event. Mingling is a key portion of the event. Board members and staff should serve as ambassadors sharing their involvement with the organization and what it means.
5. Have an established program for the event. There should be time allotted where the executive director highlights the organization’s history, mission, and the underlying philosophy, programs and services, financial numbers, and, most importantly, vision for the future. This should also include time for attendees to ask questions. Questions are a way to engage donors in the organization.
Your organization’s mission and impact should be woven throughout the event. The primary purpose is to drive the message that your nonprofit’s work is important and only possible with the help of donors like them.
But remember, you’re not asking for money.
Be sure that you have handouts that donors can take away with them, providing an overview of the organization.
6. The most important part of the event should be a moving testimonial. The testimonial should illustrate the impact and emotional power of nonprofit on the client. You have the option of a quality video testimonial from a client or if possible, an in-person testimonial. This piece cannot be skipped. You must make an emotional connection with the donors.
7. End the event with a thank you and wrap up. Be sure to thank the guests for attending, remind them to provide their contact information on the sign-in sheet, and let them know that staff will be contacting them in a week to get their feedback and advice. This sets the stage for post-event follow up. The follow up is where you work to nurture your relationship with the attendees.
Follow up with guests and thank them for attending. Ask if they have a minute to talk about the event, then dive in to gauge how they felt about the event, what was most impactful, and if they have any suggestions. End the follow-up by asking if they’d be interested in getting involved with your organization and in what capacity. Their answer will set the stage for communication going forward and is hopefully the beginning of a long-lasting donor relationship.
As you can see, hosting a house party is different from any other fundraising event. It can be a little bit of a mystery. What happens at them? What should be included? And, what is the most important information to relay? Follow the above formula and you will be on your way to developing critical relationships with donors that can last a lifetime.
I hope this helps. Let me know in the comments. Sharing is Caring.
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