Every fundraising gala has that moment, when someone takes the stage to thank the sponsors who support the organization and make the evening possible. That moment is always well-intentioned, and quite a few organizations make a sincere show of appreciation for their sponsors.
This year, however, we saw an approach that was so creative, so over the top and so well received that it serves as a shining example for any organization looking to thank their sponsors. The event was “Sparkle! Spotlight on the Stars” PHAME’s 2014 Celebration Gala that took place on Sunday, November 2nd. [Disclaimer: we are not directly involved with PHAME, our friend and colleague Kelly Russell is their auctioneer and shared the video with us].
PHAME executive director Stephen Marc Beaudoin took the stage to thank the sponsors, and then this happened…
The humor, creativity, and commitment of Stephen’s piece takes that moment and makes it PHAME’s moment. He brings the whole crowd along with him and lifts the entire event upward in the process. It is a beautiful moment and immediately changes the tenor of the event.
Stephen is obviously a gifted and practiced singer, you can tell within the first few notes that the man has training and can sing. He is an honors alumni of the New England Conservatory of Music with a degree in vocal performance, and he spent years working as a professional singer and actor in musical theatre and opera in Kansas City and Boston. All of this, before he decided to transition to executive arts management.
The key takeaway is that you have to look beyond the “everyday” talents of your team, and utilize whatever experience people have that can make a difference for your event. The vast majority of people working on any gala, be they staff, volunteers or board members, have a wealth of life experience beyond soliciting sponsorships or auction lots.
Moments like Stephen’s song obviously don’t just happen, they take months of planning. The theme for the 2014 PHAME gala was "30 years of Hollywood," which coincided with PHAME's 30th anniversary as an organization. “We knew early in planning the program,” said Stephen, “that we wanted it to riff on modern Hollywood awards shows, you know - echoes of Ellen Degeneres and Neil Patrick Harris. So we decided we needed a parody song.”
Given his background as a singer and a writer, Stephen took on the task with stunning results. What you can see and hear on the video is only the beginning of the goodwill Stephen’s performance has generated. “Most of our sponsors have raved and raved about the song and shared it with their fans on social media and by email,” said Stephen. Possibly best of all, “They're already asking if their sponsorship for the 2015 event will guarantee a spot in the 2015 sponsor song. So I suppose we have a new recurring element for the PHAME Sparkle! gala!”
This doesn’t mean that every gala should run out and produce a parody song to thank their sponsors for their next event. But it does show how creativity and commitment can create not just a moment at your gala but a movement. A poem or a re-write of Green Eggs and Ham would be more memorable than many of the “laundry lists” of sponsors I see at events. They key is to leverage the hidden talents of those closest to you in creative ways that show your sponsors just how much you truly do appreciate them.