Selecting an Honoree

When it comes time to plan your benefit event, many groups like to honor an individual who has made a significant contribution to their cause.  However, what happens all too often, is that this one aspect is done in a manner that actually hurts your event rather than helping it.  Here’s what can happen:

John Smith is being honored at your event.  While the entrees are being served, there is a presentation being made where the person making the introduction decides that this is his 15 minutes of fame and stays on the microphone for 10 minutes giving the credentials of John Smith.  Once John Smith gets on the microphone, he decides this is an opportunity to make his Academy Awards speech and thanks half of the room, essentially turning your lively money making fundraiser into a banquet or Rotary Club meeting.  By the time he is finished, your crowd is sitting on their hands and unattentive…and now you’re starting the biggest moneymaking part of your evening…the live auction – with a disinterested crowd.  What a bummer!

So, back to the question of who do we choose and how do we integrate them into the evening?  Here you go:

Years ago, it was en vogue to have a powerful CEO or president of a company act as the honoree for an event in order to give the event some validation.  Most of the time, this individual did little to help the event or the actual fundraising.  However, every now and then, a group realized that the way to make the honoree wok for them was to give them the duty of recruiting their colleagues to attend, other deep pocketed individuals who would come and spend and show off for their friend.  Then, the economy bottomed out and CEOs and presidents of companies saw the honoree roll (showing off) to be in poor taste and a negative image for their company.

Enter….the Corporate Honoree!  A beautiful concept that we coach in our auction bootcamp.  The corporate honoree does a number of things positive for your event, here are a few:

  1. Unlike the individual honoree, it is actually a good thing for a company to show recent financial success.  Recent success shows strength during adversity, and being a corporate honoree is a tasteful way and philanthropic way for them to do it.
  2. When you name a corporate honoree, what you get are other companies (not just individuals) who want to write a check for your organization and buy a table, if for no other reason than to show support for your corporate honoree.  Their check will often be much larger than that of an individual supporter and you have just added more patrons to your event.  Often times these NEW corporate donors will remain supporters of your cause because they had such a great time at your event!
  3. Last, when a company is being honored, they want to make sure your event is successful.  They are usually quick to lend a signature or letter of support that you can use in corporate and donor recruitment.  Often times they will go above and beyond what they usually do for your organization.  We were at an event recently where Merdedes-Benz USI was honored and their president decided to donate an extra vehicle, on the spot, to this group’s transportation fleet!

My final suggestion is to have this presentation happen after the live auction…people still think they are accepting their Academy Award, but this way, it won’t kill the mood in the room right before you raise a ton of money!

Happy Bidding! – Joey