1) Music makes the people come together
So said Madonna, and therefore it is true. Music (and love) makes the world go round. It's the easiest way to add some levity to your event without costing any money... iPod, Songza, pillbox speaker. Boom. Instant atmosphere. Happy people = helpful people. Helpful people write checks.
2) Feed me, Seymour!
Please... no boxes of pizza unless you're officially calling it a pizza party. But you don't have to splash out on filet mignon and lobster tails, nor am I suggesting you go all Martha Stewart. Safeway and Costco have lovely large trays at reasonable prices. Offer options: A little something on the heartier side, some veggies and dip, a nice cheese plate, and then a little something sweet. Presentation counts. Make it look nice, and it really doesn't matter if it's not a huge spread.
3) Check one, two... what is this?
Keep the mic time to a minimum. Attendees love to mix and mingle, not shift from foot to foot balancing a cocktail plate and wine glass while listening to someone perform a monologue for 30 minutes. There are plenty of of ways to get information across without a lecture. If you need some ideas I'm at your service.
4) Shake a hand, shake a hand
I always ask people how they heard about the event, and I try to thank each person for coming. Yes, you probably have someone greeting guests at the front door, but the host (committee or board for a large event) should always work the room. Speak to everyone you don't already know. Personally connecting with guests shows them that you really do care about their support. It's also a chance for you to learn which marketing efforts were most effective.
5) Give it away, give it away, give it away now
Everyone loves free stuff. It's like we're hardwired to perk up no matter what... "Oh, they're giving away erasers with a logo on them? I'll take four." Never mind that you haven't used a pencil since you took the SAT's. Having a freebie for every attendee can be cost prohibitive. A raffle or door prize can be a great budget-friendly alternative. You don't have to break the bank -- a $25 Amazon gift card or some sort of gift certificate will do. You might even be able to get the venue owner to donate one.
Et voila, five easy ways to make your soirée simply smashing.
Saranah Holmes has a decade of experience in fundraising. She offers consulting services to nonprofits and small businesses/volunteer groups looking to creatively fundraise. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for details and pricing.