from controversies to talk about fun stuff...
I had the distinct pleasure of volunteering for the sold-out Music of the Baroque 40th Anniversary Gala event about a week or so ago. Their gala was a $350 a seat event at the Fairmont Hotel Chicago, and well worth every dollar.
Connection to the art: For the donors, they started with a short concert, featuring the music that these supporters believed in enough to be a part of the event. I wasn't able to attend the performance itself, and it was a short part of the event, but I still applaud them for making this a part of the wining and dining. I don't know everything that went on in the concert, but I hope they found a way to connect the artwork to the emotional effect it has on the various constituents of the organization. Testimony from children introduced to baroque music, from fellow patrons and donors. I didn't see a screen in the room, but my first thought would be to show pictures and quotes on a screen behind the musicians as they played.
Blinky lights: As part of the volunteer staff helping with the raffle, this is where I got most of my observations. One of the smallest but most significant choices that Music of the Baroque did was to designate those that had purchased a package of raffle tickets with a magnetized blinking light that could be placed on your dress or lapel. As I walked past one group, one person observed "Look! We all have lights!" They had turned into a status item of sorts, a clear blinking sign to a room of philanthropists that you're part of the even-more-generous crowd. They also ensured that no one got asked too many times, turning a great event booster into an annoyance for the crowd.
Training: This is one of the areas that Music of the Baroque could have improved upon just a little bit. I, shamefully, admit that I got waylaid at the bookstore and arrived a few minutes late to the 30 minute training session, however, in speaking with the other volunteers after the session and over the course of the night, it became evident that they had been trained more on technical details than on how to best approach the gala attendees. Volunteers are often not salespeople. They don't have those developed instincts. As there were returning volunteers as well as new ones, it would have been well-advised to get a group discussion going on ways to approach attendees that really worked well in the past. Perhaps even run a few roleplay sessions for practice. Giving your volunteers confidence and proper tools to act as your agent makes a huge difference in how they represent your organization.
Overall, the event was a smashing success though. The organization reports that they raised a fantastic $233,000 that night, including $50,000 by raffle. I took my beautiful girlfriend out for a swing on the dance floor with the live band later in the evening to enjoy the fruits of our labor in supporting the organization, and the entire experience was appreciated by myself and, more importantly, the attendees. There were lots of shining eyes in the crowd as they supported an organization that clearly had their act together.
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