Imagine, if you will, a circus with twenty different and unique monkeys who are all very talented but who are also all very determined to focus on the wrong thing. Instead of performing in the big tent they are eating popcorn, climbing an audience member’s head, and spraying paint on the walls.
Why are they doing these things?
Because eating popcorn is a lot more fun than performing.
When left to their own devices event planning committees tend to focus on the easy stuff first, leaving the hard stuff for last. This makes sense, they just want to do the fun stuff. They want to go to food tastings, decide on color schemes, and pick out tablecloths.
Everyone likes to plan parties, no one likes to fundraise.
Don’t get me wrong, tablecloths, color schemes, and menus are decisions that need to be made if your event is going to be a success. But these are not decisions that need to be made by committee. You don’t need thirty people to pick out tablecloths.
So, what should your event planning committee be doing?
Planning committees should be deeply involved in making the guest list and recruiting people to attend the event who have both the capacity to care and the capacity to give.
Committee members should be following up on recruitment efforts. If voicemails have been left, they should be following up with emails. If emails have been sent, they should be following up with a phone call.
They should be soliciting items and experiences for any live or silent auctions taking place at the event.
Committee members should be soliciting potential sponsors.
They should be passing on any helpful, pertinent rumors about members of the community and their capacity to give/interest in your organization. Committee members are your eyes and ears in the community.
Set the expectation that your committee members will help your development department (or development person!) do the actual work of reaching out to and engaging with potential donors prior to the event. People need to know what they are getting themselves into from the beginning. Your committee’s job is to help the development team make sure that not only are there a plentiful number of butts in seats on the day, but that the right butts are in those seats. That means people with both the capacity to give and the capacity to care.
For more on committees, take a look at this post about keeping committee members engaged at fundraising events.