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October 7, 2016 The Rainy Day (Fundraising Event) Blues

When a nonprofit starts talking about hosting an event outside, it gives me the heebie-jeebies. Granted, the setting can be quite enjoyable but there are SO many unpredictable situations that can arise that will be out of the nonprofit staff’s control. My clients have plenty of fundraising-planning things to worry about already without adding in the weather factor. But sometimes they need to go for that out-of-doors venue anyway.

If you are considering conducting a fundraising event in the great outdoors, please take these things into consideration:

Have an Alternative Plan – One thing for certain is that if you don’t have a “Plan B”, you’ll most likely need one.  This alternative plan should be able to be implemented a few days out as the weather forecast comes into focus or 30 minutes prior to the approach of a thunderstorm.  The key is to have a plan of action.

Keep Control of the Guests – A large tent without “walls” is not optimum because it can allow your guests entry to the venue from most any direction.  Having one point of entry is best to ensure you are capturing all of the guests upon their arrival, thereby making sure they register their information and get issued a bid number. You’ll want to have a peripheral fence if possible and greeters directing the guests to the “entrance”.

Weather – Meteorological conditions, especially here in the south, can change in a moment’s notice. Thunderstorms can be severe and dangerous at times. Depending on your venue you might have the option to simply direct your guests to indoor shelter and wait until the storm passes.  If that’s not an option it may be that you have to adjust the length of your program and adapt the fundraising portion of the event accordingly. We recently conducted a benefit auction in a meadow.  It was a beautiful setting. Until the rain came.  Their “Plan B” was to gather the guests under tents.  We accelerated the timing of the live auction and things worked out fine in the end.  Many of the guests got a little wet, some of them got soaked, but everyone took it in stride. I even spotted some of the guests appearing to enjoy their “wet look” and splashing around in the puddles.

Wind – When hosting an event outside, keep the possibility of a windy day in mind. I suggest you pack a roll of duct tape and clear tape to secure signs and paperwork. Don’t position objects too high that might blow over and possibly injure anyone.

Lighting – Having ample light within the tent is paramount to an auction. To optimize the bidding, the auctioneer needs to be able to see the eyes of your guests.  And be sure to light up the stage area so guest can see the presenters and the auctioneer. Additionally, be sure to station the staff or volunteers who are tracking the selling prices and bid numbers of the live auction items in a place with good light. This goes for the checkout team as well.

Sound – Because sound travels it is important to have ample surround sound when conducting an outdoor event.  Check with your A/V company and professional auctioneer for proper guidance. If your guests cannot hear the auctioneer, they aren’t going to be very likely to bid.

Bathroom Facilities – A necessary evil. You must have nearby facilities for the guests and volunteers/staff. Those air-conditioned portable “fancy” facilities add a very nice flair.  Don’t have the money for that?  Have a sponsor underwrite this item and advertise their logo on the facility.

Holding an auction outside or under a tent can add a lovely element to your event. Just make sure you have that backup plan at the ready in case you have to worry about a different kind of element.

Make every minute a revenue generating minute!

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