Top 10 Considerations for Choosing the Perfect Fundraising Event Venue
Do not underestimate the importance of the venue in which to hold your fundraiser or charity event. Before you drop that down payment and sign your life away to reserve your event space, please consider:
10. Philanthropic Ties
Your venue may very well have philanthropic ties, especially if it’s in demand for a lot of fundraising events. Find out if it offers discounts or donations for nonprofit events (or at least NPOs whose missions light their fire!). Perhaps they’ll throw in some extras for your org upon booking – like donating or discounting some of the items in your contract, like sound or catering, tables and chairs, etc. Are they known for contributing to nonprofits or political parties, and if so, do those values align with those of your org? That may delight your donor base. Or to the contrary, do they hold events that AREN’T in line with your donor base which may upset them? Doing a bit of recon before you book may save you headaches down the road.
9. Amenities + Staff
Beautiful venues are great but don’t assume any venue comes with all the bells and whistles you’re hoping for – or even the basics! Ask about everything. Double and triple check basics like – electricity and plugs, parking, adequate number of restrooms for number of expected guests, tables, chairs, linens, sound, AV equipment, lights, stage setups, kitchen, WiFi (see an example of how WiFi affects mobile bidding here), access, friendly, available and reliable staff to help with planning, questions, layout, set-up, break-down… Planning a benefit auction or fundraising event takes months and months and many staff hours. Don’t let yours be ruined by overlooking basics!
8. Adequate Space
Providing enough space for your crowd to enjoy your gala is paramount. But remember you need additional space for all of preferred revenue streams, desired activities, food tables, bars, etc. Your guests also need adequate room to move about comfortably. And when fundraising, plan for additional room for SEATING. How many guests will attend your event? How do you plan to seat them? At tables? Stadium style? Bistros? Be certain your venue is large enough to seat everyone comfortably in one room (and everyone must be able to see the stage with no big pillars blocking their view). You’ll leave money on the floor if you split folks up. Also avoid “L” or “U”- shaped rooms and any visual barriers.
7. Robust WiFi
WiFi is ESPECIALLY essential when incorporating mobile bidding or technology into any element of your fundraising, as so many savvy orgs are these days. Poor WiFi leads to frustration, a bad guest experience, and subsequently, many lost bids! It’s also essential if you send mass texts and/or emails communications to your donors during the event. Don’t even consider using wireless technology if the WiFi cannot readily accommodate this.
6. Aesthetics + Comfort
Is the room aesthetically pleasing and comfortable for donors? Warm or cool enough (with the ability to adjust as the event goes on)? Are the tables and chairs comfortable, of good quality and handsome enough to build value and warrant the price of admission? Are there areas suitable for taking photos and commemorating your event? How’s the lighting? Not too dim, but not irritatingly bright either? Do you have control over dimming or brightening depending on what’s happening in the moment? Did you know that the color of the lights has a major impact on the overall mood of the room? We’ll discuss this further and more in depth in a future blog – check back often!
5. AV + Acoustics
Maybe the venue has its own sound system – but is it suitable for fundraising? Likely not on its own. If this isn’t your first rodeo, you probably have your own reliable and trustworthy AV vendor (and we never mean the DJ!). Can you hire your tried-and-true AV partner without facing penalties and buy-outs from the venue? How are the acoustics in the areas your donors will spend their time and money? Does it sound hollow and irritatingly loud? Or does the room swallow the sound right up? Find out, and avoid unpleasant surprises that will definitely decrease the giving as well as the experience your donors have.
What is one of the most common questions posed by guests at fundraising events? “Where’s the restroom?” In addition to having adequate signage leading the way to restrooms, make sure the venue has enough of them to accommodate the number of guests expected at your event. Remember, your goal is NO LINES – EVER! And please, for the love of Pete, make sure the restrooms are clean, accessible and in good working order!
3. Convenient Parking
Ideally, your venue will have its own parking lot or at least adequate and convenient street or nearby lot parking for guests. Realistically, if you’re in a downtown area or more metropolitan city space, it may not be possible. If you know parking will be a challenge, consider offering a valet service or donated/discounted parking passes for nearby lots. Your guests are worth it! Plus they’re likely to reward your efforts in the form of increased donations to your cause. If this is outside your budget, consider offering guests incentives or discount vouchers for ride share opportunities, Uber of Lyft, etc.
Is your desired venue easy to find and get to? Can alter-abled folks and those with limited abilities access all areas of the venue and its amenities? Are there enough elevators to move from floor to floor? Stay inclusive and go with a space that has the Americans with Disabilities Act seal of approval.
1. Location, Location, Location!
Just like real estate, location when event planning and fundraising is EVERYTHING! This is the number one most important factor when choosing your fundraising venue. Is it in a good location? Centrally-located? Easy to find? Good part of town that will please the main demographic in attendance? Close to the majority of your donor base? Adequate and convenient public transit? If not, seriously reconsider signing that contract and find one that is. Your guests (and your bottom line) will thank you.
Now you’re armed with the 10 essentials for choosing the right venue for your next event. Go and slay the day by selecting the space that will keep your donors happy and giving to capacity! Have questions? Reach out! Let’s go make some magic and change the world together!