I’ve always believed that fundraising is much like mastering the art of hosting a killer dinner party. While being able to braise a mean pork shoulder and craft a signature cocktail are decided pluses, the real magic happens when all the key ingredients of the evening come together to create an unforgettable experience. When everything works, you find yourself at a dinner party where you never feel the need to check Facebook (not even once), where you wouldn’t mind if the evening went on forever, and where the conversation is rich and effortless.
Like hospitality, fundraising is an art. I’d like to think that my Southern heritage plays a role in why I love fundraising. I love creating an environment that connects people. I love asking people questions and listening to their answers (my “Minnesota-nice” friends endearingly call it “prying,” but I’m blaming that difference of opinion on their Scandinavian roots). I love figuring out what makes people tick. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always a relaxed hostess, possibly because I have attended so many dinners, events, meetings, and even conversations—where hospitality and design were not done beautifully. They tried so hard to do it all. Bless their hearts.
In the same way that a truly beautiful dinner party is more than its letterpress invitations and gourmet menu, effective and beautiful fundraising is more than a well-crafted thank you letter and an optimized donation landing page on your website. Beautiful fundraising is found in the intelligent design of strategic board conversations, in compellingly gracious donor welcome packets, and all of the details in between. It’s creating an environment where your donors feel engaged, connected, and a part of it all.
Yes, a lot of what we do in fundraising is technical—a recipe that when followed should result in success. But when our recipe doesn’t result in perfection it often leaves everyone feeling defeated, frustrated, and disappointed. I truly believe when each ingredient—from the lapsed donor letter to the social media posts—is treated with meaning and respect, and not down-trodden by technique, fundraising can create a beautiful experience—just like that dinner party. Authentic. Joyful. Emotional. Evocative. Memorable. Life-giving.
I invite you to be my guest on this journey—where we reclaim the beauty of fundraising and create an unforgettable experience. Let’s invite some friends, pop a cork or two, rattle a few pans, and cook up something amazing.
A great friend once told me that the best person to be in life was the guest who the hostess could seat next to anyone at a dinner party and feel assured that the conversation would be easy, engaging, and effortless. I’ve always hoped that guest was me—and continue to wait expectantly for my dinner invitation. (*cough* Anna *cough*)
“One of my most famous dishes is . . . so simple that it could easily be done by a child. But the service is perfect. We turned a simple recipe into an unforgettable experience.”
– Alex Atala, Brazilian chef