Effective Fundraising Seating Strategies

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Effective Fundraising Event Seating Strategies

Who Sits Where? And Why?

Do you assign your donors seats when fundraising? Do you think about where people will sit when planning your fundraising event? We sure hope so. Seating plans impact how successful your event will be, both in terms of money raised and overall guest experience. Give a lot of thought to this topic and consider the following when determining who sits where.

The Golden Triangle

Ever heard the phrase – golden triangle? It’s pretty common in fundraising land. Learn it! In this setup, with the stage in front, situate major donors and frequent givers in the “Golden Triangle” area of the event space – basically a triangle shape relative to the stage. You know who your major donors are and what their giving capacity and history is. Use it to your advantage!

Placing the folks who love to (and will) raise their paddles in the coveted Golden Triangle is not only good optics, it’s good momentum – when others see those paddles fly high, they’re inspired to do the very same, and before you know it the whole room is engaged and involved! Momentum and energy are beautiful things at fundraisers so maximize them in the room at every opportunity. 

A Golden Triangle seating arrangement also makes it easier for your benefit auctioneer specialist (and their team) to see and communicate with donors. Having donors nearby also increases the chances of your auctioneer and team being able to positively influence them with subtle body language and gentle cues of persuasion. Don’t miss out.

Where NOT to Put Tables

Avoid placing tables behind the stage, near the wings of the stage or behind large visual barriers like pillars, columns, etc. If your auctioneer can’t clearly see donors, they can’t interact with or encourage them. Eye contact is hugely important for the sole money making individual (the auctioneer) to have with your donors…it makes a major difference in influencing their behavior. 

A word on centerpieces – always limit centerpieces to 10” tall or less on tables to help eradicate visual barriers in the room. Bigger is definitely NOT better when fundraising!

Minimize Distractions!

Your staff members and volunteers are the folks in the room who are most likely to have to get up and take care of details during the live program. (Thank you for all you do, invaluable staff and volunteers!) That said, the far sides and rear of the room is the best place to seat them. That way if and when they do get up, they won’t distract donors away from your deliberately crafted messaging by weaving their way through a labyrinth of narrow aisles, bumping into folks and blocking their views of the stage and subsequently their understanding of your carefully crafted messaging.

The Big Five

Cater to what you know of the Big Five when planning seating charts. Does your donor love the spotlight? By all means, let them shine and place them front and center, and ideally near other competitive bidders – competition breeds competition and that’s great for fundraising and overall room atmosphere!  Perhaps your donors prefer to give anonymously and avoid the limelight. Seat them somewhere a bit more discreet to cater to their personalities and desires.

Sponsor Tables

One word – Beware. Sponsor tables are often loaded with folks who are there for the free dinner and drinks – basically they came for the party. These are not the people who necessarily champion (or even know) your mission. While we understand, appreciate and thoroughly enjoy a great party, these aren’t the folks who will positively or substantially increase your bottom line. Be very intentional with where you place these types of tables. This is the very reason we’re noticing a trend of including fewer tickets in sponsorship packages these days. But that’s a topic for another blog on another day. I digress.

Program Personalities

Strategically place anyone who will be speaking onstage near the stage so it’s easy, painless and quick for them to move to the stage when it’s their turn. Your stage manager should alert them when it’s nearing their time to present so they are able to swiftly move to the stage without distracting anyone or making the whole crowd wait. Flawless presentations please donors. And isn’t that the whole goal? 

Sweat every detail when planning the seating arrangement at your next fundraiser! Have more questions? Contact us! We’ve got answers.

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