The Mission and Strategic Speech Making
One of my favorite volunteers used speech opportunities at fundraising events to extraordinary advantage. He was so good at boosting event fundraising through his speech making that he had become a regular speaker during the evening fundraising. By the time I met him and watched his performance, he was no longer an officer of the organization, although that’s what started him down this path and where he gained his experience. His time for ranking within the organization had passed, but his time at the podium had as much currency then as when he had been president.
His speech was always an emotional one. He worked with physically challenged youth, and the organization raised money for this work. He always had one or two of the young men or women he had worked with at the event. They would appear onstage with him. They would talk, or attendees would be shown a video. As this was taking place, past or current officers who had personally donated money to this work would arrive onstage, seemingly drawn by the unfolding emotion. As this was taking place, the speech making would continue growing in emotional appeal. This was not a dirge, nor was it happening by chance. It was a quick-paced, well-orchestrated drama.
When all was in place, seemingly from out of nowhere, a person would be heard from the floor of the event room. He or she would ask, “May I speak?” The individual would then say, “I want to make a contribution. May I do so?” The person would be told “yes.” Then another would stand and ask the same. All attendees heard the exchanges.
What the attendees did not hear were the conversations that had taken place in advance of the speech. These occurred when the supporters who came to the stage and the donors who stood and pledged funds discussed the sequence of this carefully crafted strategic speech and stage play. Invariably, others would stand and make pledges. These were attendees following the lead of the first two, but all orchestration had ended by this point. The new people who stood and contributed had been compelled by the speech and appeal of others. Considerable funds would be raised.
As a final option to the orchestrated speech, an item in the auction to follow was sometimes linked to the motivational speech. Attendees would be told that proceeds from the auction of the particular item would be dedicated to fund the program that was the subject of the speech. The speech maker would join the MC and auctioneer when bidding started on that item.
This is strategic speech making at its best, and there is nothing deceitful about it. The speech maker was effective because he was personally compelled by the work and the work was in line with the mission of the host organization. He meant everything he said. He personally contributed time and money to the work, and all the people who stood in support contributed as well. This was an honest display of support and an honest depiction of the work done and need for funds. The fact the appeal was well orchestrated and rehearsed did not make it any less sincere. It made it more powerful.
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Attendees at a fundraising event need to hear about the host organization and the important mission and work to be funded by the proceeds of the event. All speech making to this end needs to be brief, orchestrated, and scripted to ensure it is well presented. It should not be so detailed that listeners become bored or so long that attention wanes. But these are speeches just the same. This advice contrasts with the belief among some event planners that no speeches whatsoever be allowed at events. Speeches, they say, may distract attention of attendees away from fundraising.
I say baloney to any advice that discounts the fundraising power of pitching the host’s cause. Banning speeches about what the organization does discounts the organization’s mission as a cause to celebrate. It ignores the idea that an impassioned emotional appeal can increase fundraising success. The MC should remind attendees throughout the course of an event about the host, the charitable cause, and why funds raised are so important in accomplishing good works. The host has an obligation to speak to attendees, if for no other reason than to inform them of the work that justifies the organization’s nonprofit status. This information need not be presented like a memo to the board of directors. Instead, it should be presented in a personal, well-scripted, emotional, and orchestrated way. It should draw attendees to the host’s mission and tug at their hearts to be part of the host’s work through spending money at the event.
The Event Host’s Greatest Fundraising Asset
The mission is the heart and soul of a nonprofit charitable or social-advocacy organization. This mission is often also called its “cause.” The organization’s work is presumably to accomplish this mission and further the cause. And presumably, an organization’s fundraising event’s proceeds will mostly or entirely be used to fund the work, further the cause, and over enough time and with enough funding eventually accomplish the mission. Presumably this is so. Savvy host organizations want attendees to get the message that money from the event will fund and eventually accomplish the mission. This message is a powerful potion used to affect attendees’ attitude toward fundraising opportunities offered at an event. It can also boost overall attendance.
Leaders of nonprofit organizations should welcome recent research that confirms the primary motivation for charity supporters to attend fundraising events is a personal connection to the cause.……….
Excerpted from the book, Money for the Cause: A Complete Guide to Event Fundraising by Rudolph Rosen. Texas A&M University Press.
(c) Rudolph A. Rosen, 2012