A couple of Saturdays ago, I had a great time with the Association of Major Symphony Orchestra Volunteers who were holding their conference in Houston. You know, we don’t talk enough about volunteerism. Helen Shaffer was my host. She and her husband, Jim are a great couple dedicated to the advancement of the Houston Symphony.My long time friend, Ron Fredman, has just assumed the leadership of their fundraising program. Ron is completing a challenge from the Houston Endowment that will add $1 million to the Symphony’s fundraising. Go to it, Ron! They have the right guy at the right time.I was scheduled to talk to this group at 2 p.m. on a Saturday (who does my scheduling?) about bringing fun into fundraising. I didn’t come up with that title, but someone who knows me must have. I do very few things without having fun and laughing, and if I’m going to do it on a Saturday afternoon, the whole room is going to join me.I used my book, Nobody Wants to Give Money Away!, with illustrations by my friend, Mark Litzler, who does cartoons for the Chronicle of Philanthropy and has appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Everyone got a copy.The highlight of the presentation was when I had the chance to illustrate fundraising event management with the Cox Grid. Karin Cox, one of Hartsook’s founders and senior professionals, wrote the chapter on special events for Adrian Sargeant’s textbook on fundraising. Her approach is unique in that it was not a “how to” run an event—God knows we have enough of those books and articles. Instead, Karin describes why we do events in the first place. She developed a grid which gives us a way to audit whether we are accomplishing what we want to from the event.She identifies four reasons for conducting an event: Fundraising; Indentify Prospects; Recognize/Thank Donors; and Educate Prospects/Donors. Then she provides tools to evaluate its success.I asked the crowd what you say after an event fails.”Well, everybody had a good time!” was their answer in unison. This became the theme for the day.Everyone knows I’m certainly not opposed to having a good time. In fact, you know I’m all for it. But merely having a good time at a fundraising event is irresponsible. With planning, strategy and the right evaluation tools, you can grow philanthropy instead of wasting it.Symphony volunteers from Seattle, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Nashville and elsewhere were intrigued by the Cox Grid. One said she was going to use it in her strategic plan, another said it was a way to weed out bad events, and another proclaimed it was a perfect tool to make sure symphonies were doing the right thing.Well, Karin, congratulations on another good effort to grow philanthropy. You have America’s symphonies humming. And you’ll be pleased to know, everyone had a good time!(I’m sure Karin will email you a copy of the Cox Grid. Email her at [email protected] and tell her I sent you).
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