Does Star Power equal Fundraising Power at your Gala?

Does star power equal fundraising power at your gala event?
Does having a celebrity, having a star athlete, does having a motivational speaker, does having a television show anchor, having the newsman, be the MC, or your speaker, or your auctioneer at your fundraising gala, does that equal fundraising success? Maybe, maybe not…
One thing to be thinking about as you are reaching out and building relationships with celebrities, and inviting them to your events, giving them that honor to hold the microphone, and to speak for your cause is…are they speaking for your cause? Or are they using that as a platform to increase their celebrity? Now yes, some celebrities do bring exposure to your fantastic organization and they do reach out to their network and share your foundation with the world, but what is your ROI on that? Are you actually seeing donors clicking on your website, making donations, attending your events, building your capacity within the great you’re doing in the world? Or, are they just really in it for themselves and showcasing that they are doing good things for the world.
Another thing to think about is the event itself. Is it about the celebrity that you’ve got this headlining act that’s going to sing and entertain and excite, or are they going to talk about the mission? Are they going to talk about its impacted their own lives, all the great stuff that you’re doing in the world, and the donors’ investments, the donations that are coming in and impacting those that you’re serving? Are they going to be talking about that? What is the purpose of having that celebrity or singer or however you want to utilize them? Is it for a show or for your cause?
Are they helping you with your fundraising? Are they doing the auction? And I know there are so many “celebrity auctioneers.” There’s the comedian, the weatherman, there’s the news anchor, there’s a lot of people that don’t have any problem reading from a script behind a microphone, but when you put them in an impromptu fundraising situation such as that, are they able to maximize the experience but then also maximize the fundraising? Maybe, maybe not. A lot of times they “act” as the auctioneer, but would they or their agents, directors or producers allow someone to come and act as an actor? NO! There’s specialized training and experience and thousands and thousands of hours of practice that happen before the world have allowed that celebrity to be on the silver screen or be on the small screen, or be behind that microphone to entertain so many or to be on the professional sports teams. There were thousands of hours of practice to put them in the spot as the “Celebrity.”
So are you taking a gamble by putting a microphone in their hand and allowing them to do something that they have little to no training in, and limited experience, or limited time practicing? Why not utilize the help of a professional? Someone that has honed in on the intricacies of live-event fundraising, the intricacies of the live auction, the intricacies of the paddle raise.
Speaking of the paddle raise, are you letting your celebrity MC facilitate your paddle race? Is this a good experience, are they comfortable asking for money? Are they able to connect your mission to the donors? Are they able to engage with the donors? A lot of time, your celebrity MCs, they don’t know anybody and a lot of times your donors can be put off by them because they look at them in such a light as untouchable and unrelatable that the celebrities who make millions of dollars whether it’s through sports contracts or through entertainment contracts, or whatever, and they’re asking your donors for money? How awkward is that? Does that give your donors a good feeling when somebody like that is asking for much-needed funds, especially a celebrity that could write the check and fully fund your organization for an entire year, but chooses not to?
And then are your celebrities also participating in the fundraising? Are they putting where their money where their mouth is, or do they feel that by bringing their talent and their time to that event, are they maximizing their contribution? That’s where you need to look at the ROI of that and do a cost-benefit analysis of whether your star power is bringing in fundraising power.
One last thing to contemplate…what happens in an unforeseen circumstance, how will they best handle the crisis? What happens if a drunk guest turns into a heckler, someone bids and then disappears, a heart attack happens, the video doesn’t play or any other number of disasters that could ruin your event. Are celebrities trained or have experience in fundraising event crisis?
There are ways to incorporate your “celebrity” within the event, you can use them as your MC, your greeter, your auctioneers sidekick/support. This takes the pressure off your “Star” to rely on them to fundraise on the biggest night of your year, puts them in a more comfortable position as your entertainer and let’s them be seen in the brightest light possible. There’s nothing that hurts a celebrity star than a bad performance. Set them up and you for success! Let them shine! Another thing you could request of them is to offer an auction item or night of experience that is priceless to assist with you fundraising. A selfie of your high bidder and the celebrity, a tableside Aria, have the star leave their voicemail incoming message, let your star use their imagination and help your organization.
Sometimes celebrities do increase your special event ticket value, raise your stature in the community and get you on their Instagram in front of millions of followers. Do these relationships help your mission, your impact and those you serve? Will their “Star” power turn into “Fundraising” Power?


Thanks for reading and changing the world in your own special way!

Bobby D.

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