How to Ask for Donations at a Charity Dinner

Make your charity dinner classy, and use a compelling pitch.
Make your charity dinner classy, and use a compelling pitch. (Image: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

A charity dinner can be a very effective way to raise significant donations from high net-worth individuals and corporations. Attendees not only get to contribute and feel good about contributing, they get the added benefit of meeting other philanthropists. Whether you're doing a small dinner with just a few well-off friends or a large 200-person charity event, it's crucial to position your dinner as classy rather than an organization needing money right from the beginning.

Prune your invitation list. The goal for a charity dinner isn't to get a lot of people, but as many high net-worth individuals as possible. Do everything you can to get these people there. This can include inviting your personal contacts, asking others at the company to invite their personal contacts, sending letters to heads of organizations and inviting executives of local corporations.

Create a plan. Make sure the audience knows the plan. Don't get into the situation where everyone's awkwardly floating around. Instead, guide your audience through the experience of being at your party. Place the opening of the party, the introductions, the dinner and any speeches in close succession to avoid lull times. Strategically place your fundraising speech, when you ask for money, at the high point of the night.

Practice your speech. Your speech should include the purpose of your organization, why it's important and what kind of impact a contribution could make. Practice your speech at least five times. Get feedback from different people and change your speech accordingly. When you stand up to deliver the speech at your dinner, it should come off as polished but not overly rehearsed.

Ask for the donations, and make it easy for everyone to donate. Don't just talk about why your organization is great and sit down. Ask for money. Either ask for a specific amount or state a goal of how much you want to raise for the night. Then ask guests to take out their checkbooks and write a check, or have order forms ready for credit card donations.

Follow up. If someone contributed, always follow up with a thank you letter. Send that person information about what his or her money is being used for, along with invitations to future events. If someone didn't donate but may be a future donor, send a thank you letter anyway. Good followup increases the likelihood that people will come back, refer people or give more to your organization.

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