Elk: Your New Excuse to Host a Holiday Party
Not many chapters think about hosting a holiday gathering every year because people get so busy seeing family. But, as they found out in the New England states, some of your donors might be itching to spend a little quality time with their RMEF friends and family, too!
Holiday parties subversively fill our calendars when December rolls around. We add them to our free days on the promise they will be fun and give us some down time to relax and enjoy our close friends.
But to experience a gift that may truly keep on giving to elk country, kick off the next holiday season by hosting your own holiday party for your RMEF friends and family.
For several years I’d receive phone calls at the holidays from volunteers and banquet attendees across the New York and New England region. They asked about my family’s holiday plans and wanted to know about any RMEF festivities, but there were none. It became apparent there was something missing in my region.
I stuck to my guns for years, telling callers the holidays were a tough time for banquets. Few could argue; it’s difficult to fit everything in before the New Year! But the calls kept coming until one year I changed things.
I had the folks who called that year join me for a bite to eat and to help me with a region-wide drawing for RMEF supporters who had purchased a ticket to win an elk hunt. I reserved a table for four couples that intended to join me, twelve showed up and we had a great night.
Word spread quickly and the next year I planned another little get-together for a dozen folks. Eighteen showed up. The next year, 28. Then 42, and the rest is history.
What started as a few couples getting together from various parts of my region has morphed into one of the most exciting events we do all year. Folks now start reserving seats for this event the morning after it ends each year.
Unlike that famous saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” what happens at the holiday party spreads like wildfire through my region and beyond. The energy and excitement serves as a catalyst for the next year’s banquet season!
There is little spent to publicize the night. The mailer is generated on the event invitation system, but it is distributed entirely via email and word of mouth. There are no stamps or envelopes, no mailing expense or stacks of returned envelopes.
The email list grows each year and consists of volunteers, donors and repeat banquet attendees from across the region. The 2014 Holiday Banquet brought RMEF supporters from eight states and one Canadian province.
The event has grown enormously from that first casual dinner. Now attendees expect some of the best items in the region for the drawings and live and silent auctions. Local, regional and national vendors now use the event as an opportunity to debut new products for the coming year. Several donate annually, recognizing there are few events where you can reach 60-70 percent of the chapters at one time.
Pete Castronovo, chair of the Finger Lakes Chapter, knows the power of the group firsthand.
At the 2013 Holiday Banquet, he and his chapter invited everyone to join them to surpass the Million Dollar Fundraising Milestone at their chapter’s 2014 banquet. He asked for folks to not only help, but “kick the door in!”
People from twelve chapters—from Maine to Connecticut—in attendance at the holiday banquet responded with commitments to be there and bring dollars. The Finger Lakes Chapter had a record year, raising nearly $30,000 net more than their average banquet—a healthy chunk that helped them reach their goal and blew the doors off of their chapter’s $1 million milestone.
Want to Go?
You’re always welcome at the New York and New England Holiday Banquet! The 2015 banquet will be held December 19 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Call Tim Foster for reservations before it sells out, (518) 727-4606.
There is an assortment of reasons for attending the holiday banquet. Some go because it’s their first opportunity to see what RMEF has to offer the following year. But it’s also not uncommon to see Mainers or Vermonters turn up at New York events and vice-versa, solely because of a friendship that was cultivated at one of the holiday banquets.
“It’s about renewing old friendships and forging new ones, that sense of family that RMEF creates,” says Dan Lort, Habitat Council member.
Senior Regional Director, New York and New England area states