Friday, October 05, 2007

Rubber Chicken - Friend or Foe?

Another day, another invitation to a "rubber chicken dinner." (they are a dime a dozen here in Washington. You go to a dinner, you eat bad chicken, you listen to a mildly interesting speaker, etc.)

I am staring at an invitation to a gala dinner being held by a local youth group - I'm on the board of the group, and I feel that I should support the event. However, I don't know many people who will be going (it's mostly for an older generation), and I can't get any of my friends to go with me. So, instead of attending, I will send in a sizable (for me) donation in order to place an ad in the Tribute Book - a book with lots of ads lauding the organization's successes.

In some ways, this makes me the ideal dinner participant! The youth group gets my money, and they don't have to buy me a meal. It's a common complaint that people have with these dinners - "Why waste money on an expensive dinner, instead of just getting people to give directly to the charity?" Well, here's why: If I had the deep pockets to buy a table of 8 or 10, maybe 4 or 5 of my guests would become so engaged by the event that they'd continue to give on their own. By bringing people to the event, I'd be growing the charity's pool of potential donors. In addition, the event might re-invigorate my excitement about this group.

As a fundraiser, I hate charity dinners - the charities spend so much money on the event that they often don't net a lot of money in donations. In addition, the cost of the monumental amount of staff time that goes into these events is rarely calculated! However, they have their place, and if they are used well (e.g. the charity does great follow up with the attendees), they can be worth it.

So... rubber chicken... friend or foe? Your thoughts?

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