The Honoree/Organization Balance


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As a fundraiser and event planner, one of the most promising moments comes when a client secures a corporate honoree (Chair and Chief Executive Officer of a global corporation). With this development, the organization is ready to implement a strategic fundraising campaign to meet, and exceed, the income goal.

Throughout my career, I’ve learned there is a delicate balance that must be maintained when working with a corporate honoree. It is equally important for organizations to acknowledge honorees also have expectations. This unique partnership can benefit both parties now and in the future. Today I am pleased to share some additional insights to add to your toolkit:

  1. Corporate honorees have great influence but do not come with an open checkbook. As leaders, they understand what is needed and are committed to supporting the fundraising campaign. As you enter into this process, please keep in mind support can take many forms, among them: (a) a one-time lead gift, (b) a multi-year sponsorship or (c) a one-time lead gift coupled with a pledge to secure additional support from their networks.
  2. Corporate honorees are careful with their investments; they take pride in knowing their resources (time, money, key personnel) add value to the bottom line. Corporate leaders will expect the organization to remain true to its mission, deliver on its promises and take an active role in fundraising.
  3. Corporate honorees are busy and their time is limited. Communication generally takes place via the honoree’s designee; an executive-level manager who works closely with Chair and Chief Executive Officer. Please honor and work within this structure.
  4. The organization should always work to strengthen its relationship with the corporate honoree. When appointing a staff member to work with the honoree’s designee, please select a senior manager who has good interpersonal skills and understands corporate etiquette. This will go a long way to building a lasting relationship after the event.
  5. The organization must be quick to say thank you and acknowledge all gifts, large and small, that come from the honoree’s efforts.

As always, I am here to support your efforts in any way that I can. For information, please visit If I can be of assistance, please reach out to me at

With kind regards,

Creating an Event Budget to Ensure Success

shutterstock_211973863Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Fundraisers and event planners know the important role budgets play when working with business and organization leaders. The event budget serves as a guide when hiring vendors, can serve as an effective negotiating tool and will help keep track of expenses. While this process can be layered, and usually requires several revisions, it cannot be minimized. Today I am sharing some insights into the expense budget planning process. I will discuss how the expense budget impacts fundraising goals in future posts.

Over the years, one technique I have found to be helpful is to group expenses into categories. This is a quick way to compare items from multiple vendors and make adjustments as needed.

Selecting the perfect venue gives leaders an opportunity to impress donors and stakeholders. When reviewing options, comparing the cost of each venue is key. Here are some items to examine:

  1. Venue (Room rental fee)
  2. Venue (Room taxes)
  3. Venue (Additional set-up time)
  4. Reception (menu)
  5. Reception (beverages)
  6. Reception (premium bar service)
  7. Reception (limited bar service)
  8. Dinner (menu)
  9. Dinner (wine and beverages)
  10. Speciality Dessert
  11. Catering Service Charge (ranges from 18 to 21%)
  12. Food & Beverage Tax (waived for non-profits)
  13. Tasting Fee
  14. Additional insurance usually in effect the day of the event and for a few days after

Once the venue is confirmed, the next step is organizing the campaign for support. I realize we live in a time where e-mail and social media are heavily used, I have come to realize many corporations, foundations and donors require – and appreciate – written requests for support. Social media and e-mail outreach can be used as a follow-up to a written request.  Here are some items to include:

  1. Save-the-date card (designer fee)
  2. Save-the-date card (printer fee)
  3. Fundraising package (designer fee)
  4. Fundraising package (printer fee)
  5. Invitation package (designer fee)
  6. Invitation package (printer fee)
  7. Postage
  8. Messengers and/or overnight delivery
  9. Programs and journals to be distributed at the event (designer fee)
  10. Programs and journals to be distributed at the event (printer fee)

As we know, large fundraisers involve many moving parts. For events with a 7-figure fundraising goal, and an attendee goal of 750 -800 guests or more, the organization’s mailing list will need to be in the thousands. Coordinating these items before they are mailed requires hours of preparation. If in-house resources are not available, hiring an outside vendor is critical. Here are some line items to include in the budget:

  1. Mailing list preparation (includes bad address removal and updates)
  2. Fundraising package preparation
  3. Invitation package preparation

This is where leadership and the dinner team work with the event decorator to plan the look of the room, signature colors and the impression they want to make on donors and supporters. Here are some items to include in the decor budget:

  1. Linen
  2. Chairs
  3. Chair cushions
  4. Centerpieces
  5. Stage decor
  6. Step and repeat banner
  7. Speciality lighting package
  8. Speciality lighting (delivery, installation and breakdown)
  9. Fee for the delivery and pick up of all rental items
  10. Ropes and stanchions
  11. Pipes and Drapery
  12. Plants to use in key areas

Once guests have been seated, its time for the show to begin. Think of how embarrassed the President or Board chair will be to learn his/her remarks can’t be heard? If a video is planned, the playback must be exceptional. Here are some items to include in your budget to ensure a professional presentation:

  1. Podium
  2. Wireless microphones
  3. Teleprompters
  4. Video screens
  5. Video recorders
  6. Audio-visual technicians
  7. Video playback units
  8. Program producer
  9. Floor manager
  10. Floor assistants
  11. Entertainment/Musicians
  12. Entertainment/Instruments
  13. Professional photographer
  14. Stage construction

From special gifts of appreciation to honorees and guests, to saying thank you to dinner chairs and key staff members, planning for these items early in the process will ensure no one is overlooked. Here are some items to add to this category:

  1. Gifts and giveaways for guests
  2. Special awards for honorees
  3. Honorarium for emcee and keynote speakers
  4. Transportation for emcee and keynote speakers and other VIPs
  5. Transportation incurred for key staff participating in monthly planning meetings
  6. Hotel accommodations for emcee, keynote speakers and other VIPs
  7. Thank you gifts for dinner chairs, volunteers and key staff members who worked on the event
  8. Refreshments provided at monthly planning meetings
  9. Miscellaneous office supplies
  10. Delivery costs to send items to the venue on the day of the event

As my colleagues will attest, planning a fundraiser of this size requires great skill and coordination. Many organizations will look to a professional event planner to ensure the careful management and execution of details. Here are fees you should incorporate into your budget:

  1. Event planner fee
  2. Event planner overhead/administrative costs
  3. Event planner out-of-pocket expenses

Thank you for spending a few moments out of your day with me. I hope today’s post has been helpful to you. If I can be of assistance, please contact me at

With kind regards,






Lessons Learned From Leaders

shutterstock_128200328Dear Friends and Colleagues,

A dynamic group of young men and women have invited me to discuss my profession and the lessons I’ve learned from working with leaders.

As expected, summarizing my role as a fundraiser and event planner required some time as I am addressing a group of young adults. However describing what I’ve learned from business and organization leaders took a little longer than I expected. With so much to share, I wanted to provide information that would be useful, cause them to think and enhance their lives.

Here is my short list:

  1. Leaders value partnerships. While a large part of my job is to identify needs, assess risks and organize talent, I am signing onto the organization’s mission. I am wedded to its success.
  2. Leaders value time. I always plan to be on time and make the most of every minute we have together.
  3. Leaders value preparation. I always prepare an agenda for it shows I am paying attention to the organization’s needs.
  4. Leaders value professionalism. My skills, attitude and enthusiasm are always on display.
  5. Leaders need time to adjust to new partnerships. When working with a new client, I always allow extra time to build rapport.
  6. Leaders value flexibility. During meetings, I understand that the agenda serves as a guide, fundraising objectives may change and each team member learns at a different rate. As such, I must be prepared to make reasonable shifts when needed.
  7. Leaders value the bottom line. I am transparent about all costs, why additional resources might be needed and how the investment will add to the success of the project.

Thank you for spending a few moments out of your day with me. If I can be of assistance, please contact me at

With kind regards,


Do I Have Time to Plan A Successful Fundraiser?

shutterstock_58942066Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Time is certainly moving at a fast clip and we are already in the second week of February. At this pace spring will arrive before we know it.

Recently a member of a community-based organization inquired if there is enough time to plan a fundraiser in May, which is three months away. This will be their first major event and they are feeling a bit anxious. The date and venue will be finalized this week.

For me, this question cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. As a professional, my role is to outline the steps involved, create a strategy to ensure a successful outcome and help set the stage for future fundraising efforts. Last week, I met with the organization’s leaders to discuss their needs. I created an agenda and posed questions to guide our meeting and serve to set the stage for internal conversations.

Today I am sharing some takeaways from our discussion. If you find these tips to be helpful, I hope you will add them to your toolkit when planning your next fundraiser.

  1. What is your budget for this event? How much money would you like to raise? How much do you need to raise to break even? This will help determine how much to charge for underwriters and lead sponsors, tables and individual tickets.
  2. Do you have a list of donors and prospects? If so, what shape is the list in? Is it current? When was the last time it was updated?
  3. How engaged are your Board members and stakeholders? Can you count on them to identify additional prospects, make appropriate asks and provide their personal financial support?
  4. What is your vision for this event? Would you like to host a luncheon or dinner? If you plan to host a dinner, is this a formal or semi-formal occasion?
  5. Do you envision a special time before the event so that Board members and organization leaders can personally thank underwriters and lead sponsors?
  6. Have you thought about your support team? How will the event be managed and executed? In addition to partnering with a fundraising and event management professional, who will help with public relations and communications?
  7. What is the call to action? How will you engage supporters in your work after the event? Who will create the follow-up plan?

I will provide the answers to these questions, along with tips on how to plan and executive successful events, in future blog posts. Until then, if you have questions or if I can be of assistance, please contact me at

With kind regards,


Time to Reconnect

©Stephanie Badini Photography
©Stephanie Badini Photography

Dear Colleagues,

After a brief hiatus, it is good to be back. I look forward to connecting with you and hearing what you’ve been up to. I am also working on ways to engage you further in this process and allow you to share your social and fundraising event success with us.

Please stay tuned for updates to our Facebook page where you will be able to access additional resources and ideas. I am also working on a new Pinterest page that I will unveil in the new year.

Thank you for your patience. I look forward to helping you create success one event at a time.

With kind regards,

Tips for Effective Crisis Management

shutterstock_104446280 copy

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

There is one thing special event planners know for sure — the highs and lows of this business are real!

One week, we may be celebrating a successful event or product launch. The next week, we could be navigating a plethora of event-related challenges.  What happens when things go wrong?  What safeguards can we put in place?

Former NFL Senior Vice President Frank Supovitz, who is now President and CEO of Fast Track Events and Entertainment, planned Super Bowl XLVII and recalls vividly when the lights went out in the Superdome.  Today, I would like to share his sage advice on how to manage during a crisis.

Before I share the “Dos and Don’ts” here are Frank’s 6 Ps for event planning.


Here are Frank’s Dos and Don’ts for Crisis Management.

  1. Don’t Panic.
    Panicking doesn’t solve anything.  It paralyzes decision-making.  This is your time to Lead.  Even if you don’t quite know what to do, it is important to keep everyone working together for solution.
  2. Don’t React.
    This is a time for measured decision-making.  Keep in mind, you are reacting to a symptom of what is wrong, not the cause.  Do Assess What’s Going On.  Avoid paralysis through analysis.  This is a time for rational decision-making.
  3. Don’t Get Caught By The Predictable.
    Always think “what if.”  As the event leader, this is the time to play “preventive defense.”  Determine Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.
  4. Don’t Walk Alone.
    In order to be successful, you must have a great team in place.  Empower them to make decisions that can help you in your time of crisis.
  5. Don’t Be An Information Hog.
    Secrecy has no place during a crisis.  Always communicate with your team and provide updates as frequently and clearly as needed.
  6. Don’t Take Your Eye Off The Ball.
    Remember to prioritize.  Don’t spend your time focusing on what happened 2 hours ago.  Try to stay in the moment and manage what is taking place now.
  7. Don’t Blame.
    Assessing blame is the last thing that you should do.  After the event is over, you and your team should spend quality time investigating what went wrong so that you can build in contingencies for the future.
  8. Take Time to Rehearse.
    Bring together your team and rehearse your event several times before it actually begins.  This process will allow you to build trust and confidence and allows for contingencies.

In closing, I thought you would like to hear from directly from Frank.  Please follow this link to learn more about What To Do When Things Go Wrong At Events.

Frank Supovitz, President & CEO, Fast Traffic Events
Frank Supovitz, President & CEO, Fast Traffic Events and Entertainment

Happy Planning!



Frank Supovitz appears courtesy of Event Innovation Forum as recorded by Biz Bash Events and Entertainment –



A New Year’s Toast

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

As you know, my recent posts have focused on tips for seasoned planners and novices.  However, as we prepare to welcome 2015, I would like to offer a toast to you, for a fabulous (and prosperous) New Year.

While making plans to receive family and friends tonight’s New Year’s Eve gathering, I found myself referring to this visual “storyboard” for elegant, yet simple, entertaining ideas.  Today, I would like to share my ideas with you, in the same spirit of generosity that you have extended to me.  So here’s a toast to you my friends.

In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship,
but never in want.

Traditional Irish Toast

Happy New Year!

The Table Is Set

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

The holiday season is my favorite time of the year.  Most people are in good spirits, invitations to holiday events arrive at a steady pace and, most important of all, I can plan special holiday dinners for my family and friends.

I have spent the past few days looking at my favorite design magazines, and on-line resources as well, for elegant ways to dress up my holiday table.  As my dinner parties are intimate, I will use the rules for setting an informal dinner table as my guide.  However, there are some really spectacular formal table settings that I would love to try in the future.

For today’s post, I have decided to share some of the ideas I am considering.  As always, I would love to hear from you.  When you have a moment, I encourage you to share your holiday table ideas.  If you enjoy well-planned events as much as I do, I know the possibilities are endless.

Happy Planning!


Obtaining Clarity Around Your Vision


Dear Friends and Colleagues:

It is no secret that we, as event planners, find parties and gatherings to be exciting.  This is one of the main reasons why we work such long hours; frequently allowing event-related plans to permeate our weekends and holidays.  We have seen how excited guests are at the chance to come together and celebrate an organization they truly believe in.

When working with organization leaders who are new to this field, we must be mindful for they have so much new information to process as they continue to manage their day-to-day operations.  Before you can confidently say to your client “Let’s Begin” you will have spent countless hours setting an attainable goal.

Several questions will come up at the outset.  However with perseverance and cooperation, from leaders and stakeholders, your next steps will be clear.  Here is one idea to start the conversation.


Our organization is looking to raise funds for our mission and program.  Our annual gala, with a fundraising goal of $xxx is critical to our success.  Through this event (and event-related outreach efforts), we will look to engage our existing donor base, and recruit new donors.


  • Our organization would like to raise $xx from xx number of individuals and xx number of corporate sponsors.
  • We would like to see xx% or our top organizational donors attend the event.
  • We would also like to see last year’s event donors increase their giving by xx% this year.
  • Lastly, we would like to see xx% of the guests commit to an additional gift the day (or night) of the event.

With a clearly defined goal, you can guide your organization forward with confidence and purpose.  There will be many challenges along the way, but there is nothing more rewarding than moving past challenges with demonstrated successes.  Remember, this is why we do what we do!

Lastly, we love success stories and would appreciate hearing from you.  Please take a moment and let us know what you think.

Happy Planning.


4 Strategies For Transitioning To Fundraising Events


Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Organizations host events for several different reasons.  Some will focus primarily on friend-raising, while other will focus on fundraising.  What I have come to realize is that sooner or later most organizations will need to make the transition from an awareness building event (friend-raiser) to an income generating event (fundraiser). Can this be done?  Absolutely?  However it will require great focus and a shift in attitude to be successful.

Here are 4 strategies that I have used, along with many others, to help guide this process.

1. Begin with a well-designed fundraising appeal.

Very often organizations spend a great deal of time on the logistics and mechanics of an event (which is important) but overlook the fundraising appeal.  Here are some ways to change this dynamic:

  • Work with leaders and stakeholders to describe what the organization does to benefit the public.
  • Develop talking points so donors will understand how supporting this event will benefit the organization.
  • Encourage leaders to practice how to ask for financial support from individuals and corporations.
  • Help create a specific “ask.”  Work with the organization to develop an outcome that will be hard to say no to.

2. Remember that each donor is different so you must have different ways for them to engage them.  Be sure to allow time for research and tailor your appeal accordingly.

This tailored approach is often referred to as segmenting your donor base.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Donors come from many locations, have many interests and will engage differently around what resonates with them.  Some may gravitate toward an educational initiative, while others would appreciate hands-on service. 
  • Always consider the donors’ past history of support.  This includes the size of their gift, upward trends and time of the year they tend to give.
  • Make sure that your organization’s appeal is broad enough to keep donors interested and engaged long-term.

3. Create a dynamic communications plan around the event.

Before the event takes place, there are many touch points you can use to engage your donors.  Here are some components to add to your organization’s existing communications plan:

  • Online communications and appeals.
  • Written appeals in the form of letters, invitations and case studies.
  • In-person one-on-one meetings.
  • Personal phone calls from organization’s leadership, stakeholders or volunteers making the case for the event and why their support is vital.

4. Help your organization transition from an “attendance-based culture” to a fundraising culture.

  • Please remember that this step will require the most time and effort.
  • Some organizations pull back when it comes to focusing on money.
  • This resistance may be due to their comfort with a narrative they have embraced over time, such as “we had a great turnout and the support that we need will eventually show up.” Does this sound familiar?
  • If the answer is yes, and the organization is truly making a difference and changing lives everyday, why not bring them to the next level?
  • Coaching leaders and stakeholders to ask for the support they need, will allow the organization to produce even more measurable results.

Of course there are many ways to plan events and we read about them daily.  However with an increased need for funding, well-conceived fundraising events are even more important to an organizations mission and programs.  There are many resources to guide you through this process.  I often refer to the dynamic team at Network for Good for additional insights. The points listed here are grounded in my professional experience and have been openly discussed by many fundraising specialists.

I would love to hear about your experiences.  If you have a moment, drop us a line and tell us about your success stories.

Happy Planning!