VOL. 132 | NO. 186 | Tuesday, September 19, 2017
FUNdraising Good Times
Pearl and Mel Shaw
Creating A Successful Special Event
Mel and Pearl Shaw
What if you could step back in time and experience a Night at the Lorraine, the motel that has been redeveloped and transformed into the National Civil Rights Museum? That’s the opportunity that Jeanette O’Bryant, development officer with the museum, provides for guests. Together with her committee chair, Terrence Reed, NATL committee members, employees and volunteers, she created a new, fun revenue stream.
Here’s the concept: Guests are invited to celebrate the vibrant history of the Lorraine Motel for the benefit of the museum. They step back in time with an evening of food, music and fun reminiscent of the days when the motel counted B.B. King, Nat King Cole, “Count” Basie, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the MG’s, Satchel Page and Jackie Robinson among its many famous guests.
As O’Bryant shared her idea with management and key volunteers, the conversations quickly turned to what to include in the event, and anticipation grew. It was the event’s name – Night at the Lorraine – that got most folks excited.
Of course there were challenges, and these were overcome. One was to engage new corporate sponsors. The second was to provide a one-of-a-kind experience without going over budget.
“The energy of our committee chair and committee members made the event a success. They really got excited and began to pass that energy to their friends. We created an experience that was actually here at the museum and provided guests with opportunities to learn something new about the Lorraine and its history in a way that is different from a regular museum tour.”
Six hundred guests attended the first year; this year, the number increased to about 1,000. Both events successfully raised money for the museum.
O’Bryant shared that they met other goals as well: “The events introduced the museum to millennials and really showed another side of the museum; and they provided opportunities for new relationships, networking and creating new donor support.”
O’Bryant’s advice to others?
“Think about what you want to do and how you want to engage with your guests. Think about what you have access to without having to go anywhere else. Find the hidden treasures within your own organization and make those things work for you
“Our guests were able to come unwind, enjoy entertainment no matter the location on the grounds or in the museum spaces, we had good food, fellowship and created some fun interactive tours. We did not want guests to leave feeling like there was nothing to do. Instead, some left feeling they forgot to do something or venture in other areas because they truly enjoyed the fellowship.”
O’Bryant attributes the success to the event chair, host committee and the many volunteers who brought the Lorraine back to life for a night to remember.
Special events are at the heart of fundraising. They are an ideal way to engage community members and donors and to spotlight the work of your organization or institution. Be creative. Leverage your uniqueness. Invite the community to celebrate and support your work.
Mel and Pearl Shaw, owners of fundraising consultancy firm Saad&Shaw, can be reached at 901-522-8727 or saadandshaw.com.