Event Success: Intimate House Party Reception
Small events can be some of the most successful. The North Puget Sound chapter held an intimate and exclusive house party for Habitat Partners, which earned the chapter two new life members and $10,500 in major gifts.
New ideas for receptions can come when you least expect them—for us, that was during the annual state rendezvous. What started as a casual discussion that day turned into one of our chapter’s most successful events. With a price tag of less than $1,000 to produce, it earned the RMEF two new life members as well as $10,500 in major gifts, and it wasn’t difficult to organize.
It’s called the North Puget Sound Chapter Habitat Partner reception and it was a tremendous success because we remained true to the original idea of keeping things small and simple. We learned that exclusivity can keep numbers manageable and encounters personal, which fosters a connection to RMEF that spurs our donors into action.
The idea took root at the annual rendezvous, when key chapter volunteers and I had a chat with RMEF founders Bob Munson and Charlie Decker about the possibility of holding such a reception in conjunction with the annual banquet.
Chapter volunteers Al Barney, Jill Ekar and Dan Paulson, along with Volunteer Regional Chair Gary Hansen, had come up with the idea to celebrate auctioneer Dwight Gappert’s milestone of $1 million raised for RMEF. They knew a reception would also increase net revenue at the banquet and spur the two founders to attend both events.
“Anytime you put the Deckers and Munsons together with our supporters, wonderful things will happen,” says Hansen.
Crucial decisions for success
The North Puget Sound committee loved the idea. Long-time donors and habitat partners Casey Clark and Jocelyn Rogers were excited to host the intimate evening at their home in Snohomish, Washington.
The chapter immediately formed a committee of event planners, which was fortunate to include Munson, given his close proximity. He recommended we keep the event casual and intimate, which was perfect for the Clark residence venue.
As the regional director, I supplied the committee with a list of Habitat Partners, Legacy Partners, life and sponsor members for the chapter’s geographic footprint. Although the committee wanted to invite all the Legacy Partners and life members, they realized this would mean hundreds of invitations, which could create a totally different environment than the intimate event they had in mind.
They took a step back to re-evalute and stayed true to the original idea, only inviting Habitat Partners within their chapter’s geographic range. It was a hard decision to trim the invitee list, but one that needed to be done for the success of the event.
The committee then made another great decision that was crucial to their success. They divided the invitation list based on who knew each potential attendee best. This ensured every invitee would get a personal call from someone they already knew and trusted. Professional R.S.V.P.s were created by RMEF headquarters as follow-ups to the calls.
With this strategy the chapter was able to secure 39 attendees out of about 75 folks they invited.
Small touches amp up event
Another thing this committee did right was to keep the event simple and use the presence of the founders to enhance the event.
They set aside a large part of the event for a cocktail hour with a bar and hors d’oeuvres. This gave the attendees time to get to know each other as well as meet the Deckers and the Munsons.
They set up a corner of the room with a bull elk mount where attendees could get their picture taken with the founders. These pictures were secretly printed that night and handed back to the attendees as a parting gift when they left.
After cocktail hour the group gathered and each couple (or individual) introduced themselves with one sentence about why they were there. This broke down any barriers that were left and created a sense of family and security among the group.
We then transitioned to a 10-minute presentation on lands projects recently completed in our state. It’s important to show folks where their money goes locally and advise them of upcoming local projects, in hopes they would like to give toward these projects.
This was a short, sweet and highly successful agenda that ended with the seven-minute video about the 30 years of the RMEF. It touched the crowd and led into presentations of new Habitat Partners who had given just before this event, and a soft ask by Munson. More cocktails and hors d’oeuvres rounded out the evening until folks eventually made their way home.
It’s up to us to be receptive to new ideas when they come our way, and to find the best ways to make them work for our chapters. This intimate, casual reception was an incredible success, with hopes of more major giving to come as a result.
Regional Director, western Washington