Sell the Party First: The Charity Will Follow

I had a very interesting conversation with a client today. A wealthy friend wants to hold a cocktail party as a cultivation event to benefit his favorite charity.  And, of course, he asked my thoughts about how to go about this.

I confess that I went into “auto-consultant” mode and started mapping out the usual M.O. — select the date, select the venue, invite people personally so they will say “yes”, so forth and so on.  But then a little voice in the back of my mind chimed in — “um, would YOU attend this party?  And if so, why?”

I stopped mid sentence and said to him, “You know, given that the folks being invited to the event don’t know anything about the charity, I think you have to sell the party first and then you can sell them the charity.”  Those readers who are far more adept that me at planning events –  that would be about 99.9% of you – already know this.  But I spend a lot of my time focusing on strategies of persuasion and invitation and precious little time thinking about the fun of simply engaging with others in a way that there is some residual benefits for others.

Back to my conversation with the client.  Our conversation turned to what kind of parties we like and that our friends seem to like most.  What kind of music is best. What kind of wine goes down with what slice of cheese . . . or brats on the grill in the backyard.  The upshot was to think about what kind of gathering would attract people, would make them feel most welcome and at ease, provide some fun (everyone brings a bottle of wine for a blind tasting and the winner gets a prize).  And all to benefit a charity that is doing some amazingly great things to help families and children.  

What we agreed is that if we find the right way to make people feel the most welcome, we are creating the most important ingredients of the personal invitation to give: comfort and permission.  The beauty of philanthropy is found both in your own heart and where more than one of us gather to offer the generosity of our spirit magic can occur.  

It was wonderful to revisit that idea this afternoon.  And even more, to pass it along through this simple post.

Cocktails on the veranda or brats in the backyard?  The club or the tailgate?  A quite afternoon in the sunshine or dancing until dawn?  How are you creatively building safe and generous space for your volunteers and donors?



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