Recently I was speaking to a colleague about my need to identify a donor for the purpose of throwing a House Party. This person, who was “older” like me, made a comment that she did not see what “Kid ‘n Play” has to do with raising money. We had a laugh but it got me to thinking. Sometimes in the fund raising world we use words or “jargon” that means something to us but does not necessarily carry the same meaning for the donor or prospect. For example, years ago at a previous organization, we had a remit device on which we placed a “check box” for people interested in discussing “Planned Giving.” We got several responses and I was excited to follow up with all of these new deferred gift prospects. As I called them over the next several days, it turned out that none of them were interested in learning more about planned giving. They had all misinterpreted what we were asking – and the funny part is that each donor inferred a different meaning for “Planned Giving.” Good communication is important to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
Getting back to House Parties, what I am looking to do is identify a donor to host a gathering of their friends in their home for the purpose of educating the guests and soliciting a donation. House Parties can be a great way to connect with new future supporters. It gives the organization the opportunity to interact with people in a non-threatening and comfortable environment, and is often fairly informal and casual. Rather than using speeches, more conversational and interactive methods are used to present the case for support and seek engagement. As my colleague and I discussed this, it became clear that it is very different from the House Party movie and sequels that were (somewhat) popular back in the 1990’s.
So, today we are going to discuss how fund raising House Parties are different from House Party the movie. For example, when having a fund raising House Party it is critical to have the full support of the homeowner / host. Typically they will open their home for the event and underwrite the cost of drinks and dinner or heavy hors d’oeuvres. It is important that they be people who can say to their guests “I want to invite you to join me in supporting this organization.” If the homeowner is an ardent supporter of your nonprofit, it will be easier for the homeowner to influence their circle of friends and gain their support of the organization as well. Their passion will be contagious, and will cause others to take note and want to find out more. In House Party the movie, their party was planned when Play’s parents were going to be out of town on vacation. This would not be a good approach for a fund raising House Party.
Another key difference is that you typically want fund raising House Parties to be relatively small. It is certainly possible to raise money at a party with 150 or more people. I have done it before, the strategies are just different. It requires a donor with a really big house, and often it is indoor/outdoor. You can charge admission, you can pass the hat, you can sell things, you can have a silent auction, etc. However, in these settings it is much more challenging to connect with your prospects on a deep level. It is much easier to engage with donors and prospects when you can spend more one-on-one time with them, and this is much easier to do in a setting with fewer people and a gathering that is designed primarily for raising money. So, I am looking for someone to host a smaller gathering, perhaps the hosts and 2-3 additional couples.
Another big difference between fund raising House Parties and House Party the movie is that you need to target your room. It is important to have the right people present if you are looking to raise money. In House Party the movie, it was basically a free-for-all. Lots of people were there, many of them were not acquainted with the hosts. In a fund raising House Party, it is best to work with the hosts to ensure that there are people in attendance who have the capacity to give and who are likely view the organization’s work in a positive light. If you are from an “environmentalist” nonprofit organization, your message might not resonate as well if all of the attendees at the party work for a strip mining business. So, make sure that you do your research and have the right people in the room.
Fund raising House Parties can be a great way for small nonprofit organizations to gain new supporters, promote their mission, and raise more money. Just like in other forms of fund raising, a big part of the success will be in the planning and execution. There are a lot of resources on the web for putting together successful house parties and if you have questions I would be happy to help.