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When guests see 12 microphones in a row at an event, they cringe and look for the exit!

Penelope Burk is the fundraising market’s foremost authority on fundraising research, training and strategic planning. Burk’s research into donor relationships is the considered the most important innovation in fundraising today.  Her book is Donor Centered Fundraising. Although, not exactly a catchy title, Burk’s research into donors is perfect advise for anyone in professional services and business.

Burk’s 6 year intensive research into donors, including fundraising events, is analogous to the many conferences lawyers host for clients. These are some of Burk’s guidelines from her seminar last week:

  1. Getting invited: The most important effect on a donor of receiving an invitation to a fundraising event is getting invited. No matter how many they are invited to, they still appreciate being invited.
  2. Few Speakers: The best donors are invited to so many events, they know more about what an event will be like than most professionals organizing them. When they see a long table with a row of microphones they run.  They don’t want to listen to 12 speakers.  Experience tells them it will be long and tiresome.
  3. Choose speakers carefully: On the subject of speakers, donors consistently respond that people who cannot speak should not. Too often because of leadership positions in an organization, people who can’t speak publicly do and the results are obvious – less donors.
  4. Too long; too late: Fundraising events should be short, about an hour max.  The earlier the better. Breakfast meetings are the most popular because they present few conflicts.
  5. Donors are people too: Even though some donors may have many friends and contacts, they dread going to events and being left alone. At many events, donors are left alone while staff is grouped together chatting away. Greet them personally and never leave them alone. Introduce them to other guests and don’t miss talking to any of the donors.
  6. Treat donors as if they were guests at your house: introduce your donor guests to each other and to influential leader volunteers of your organization. Sit them at tables with compatible people that they can talk to.

Seems common sense when someone else does the research and presents it so simply.  It’s not that we don’t know; it’s that we forget and someone needs to reminds us.  Thanks, Penelope.

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