118: Magnetic Fundraising: Strategies for Planning & Hosting Engaging Fundraising Events with A.J. Steinberg

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“It takes nine months to make a baby and it takes nine months to make a good event.”

– A.J. Steinberg
Episode #118


In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

Executing a successful fundraising event can be daunting, but there are simple strategies you can use to plan a highly engaging, creative, and enjoyable fundraiser with less stress and more ease.

Meet A.J. Steinberg, CFRE, a non-profit event producer and engagement strategist who’s raised millions of dollars for organizations through her LA-based company, Queen Bee Fundraising. A.J. is an expert on non-profit event planning, event sponsorships, committee and volunteer leadership, generational giving, and guest engagement. 

In this episode, you’ll learn A.J.’s best tips and strategies for planning and executing successful, engaging fundraising events – from free family events to exquisite galas. She touches on everything from creative sponsorship ideas to mobile bidding to preventing post-event burnout. Ready to start planning for success? Tune in!


A.J. Steinberg


  • Queen Bee Fundraising 
  • The Benevon Model of Sustainable Funding
  • Many thanks to our sponsor, Givebutter for making this episode possible. Our friends at Givebutter really understand what it takes to be a magnetic fundraiser. Their fundraising platform empowers millions of changemakers to raise more, pay less, and give better every single day. To learn more about them, head on over to givebutter.com/mallory.
  • If you haven’t already, please visit our new What the Fundraising community forum. Check it out and join the conversation at this link.

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Get to know A.J. Steinberg: 

With over 20 years’ experience as a nonprofit event producer and engagement strategist, A.J. Steinberg has worked on over 100 successful events and raised millions of dollars for organizations with her Los Angeles-based production company. In 2015 A.J. launched Queen Bee Fundraising to share the art of nonprofit event planning, sponsorship acquisition, and engagement strategies with organizations worldwide. She is a recognized topic expert and trainer, and presents on subjects such as nonprofit event planning, event sponsorships, committee and volunteer leadership, generational giving, and guest engagement.


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episode transcript

Mallory Erickson  01:30

Welcome, everyone, I am so excited to be here today with AJ Steinberg. AJ Welcome to What the Fundraising.

A.J. Steinberg  01:37

Thank you so much for having me, Mallory.

Mallory Erickson  01:40

So let’s just start with you telling everyone a little bit about you. And what brings you to our conversation today.

A.J. Steinberg  01:47

I’ve been for the past 20 years, a nonprofit event producer and I was based in Malibu, California, and now in Calabasas, California. So there’s a lot of very high end events going on here. And after about 15 years of doing it, I realized that there were so many nonprofits who were just wasting their time and money on these events because they weren’t showing return on investment, which means they weren’t not just making the money they weren’t supposed to. But they weren’t doing engagement. And they weren’t turning it into a stewardship opportunity afterwards. So I decided, You know what, I’m going to put it down into protocols, I’m going to turn this into a teachable training so that I can work with nonprofits and show them that they don’t have to spend more money to create successful fundraising events. They just need to know how to do it right and understand what their goals are with it. Which is more than fundraising. Yeah.

Mallory Erickson  02:47

So can we start there, like in terms of how you teach or what you push fundraisers and fundraising departments to sort of understand when it comes to events? Like what has typically been missing from them in terms of that an ongoing engagement piece? And where should they start? If they’re thinking about creating one,

A.J. Steinberg  03:07

there are some ridiculous mistakes that get made. And it’s just because people aren’t thinking and there’s pressure from the board, and there’s pressure from the donors, and everybody else is doing something. So they just assume they’re supposed to be doing it. So how do I do this? I am somebody who I consider myself to be a facilitator and enlighten there. Because it’s very easy to show people what their goal should be. We start with goals, what are the five goals for every event, so I talk about the five goals, and then we talk about what they’re trying to accomplish. Then we talk about the target demographic, which is something that people don’t talk about when they because a gala is not right for a large portion of the world. And I have had so many organizations hire me, and they’ve already booked the four seasons for a gala. And yet they’re an environmental organization that deals with outdoor water and reefs and your thinking, your support base doesn’t want to get dressed up on a Saturday night and go sit. There are other ways to engage people. And I think that we were talking about engagement, and behavioral design and neuro psychology. And that’s the driving force that’s missing behind the thought process that organizations should be having at the beginning of their planning. Don’t just jump into getting a gala. So when I meet with them, we have a checklist and we go over goals. We talk about demographics, we talk about long term stewardship. I’m a big proponent of three events a year, even if you’re tiny because a gala is a high end event for your top high end, high net worth donors. But you want to have a middle opt in event that you can bring Millennials Gen z’s in, that people who don’t have a deep pocket can still build affinity. And I always say have a free family event or a free community event because that’s the beginning level of the stewardship. So each of those levels will incorporate a whole different group of your supporters and donors. And then we build a structure and a plan for how those three events will fit into their year. And after that, is when we start saying, what kind of an event? Where will it be? What time will it be, etc. So we build it to be crafted. But we also need to make them feel excited and confident in the vet, because I call it grumpy board syndrome. Can you say that? You have this. And I show up. And these board members and honestly, I can stereotype and it’s it’s also a lot of white rich board members and polo shirts who want to be playing golf, and they’re all looking at me, like, we were embarrassed at last year’s event, we don’t have confidence, it’s going to make money, we don’t like this event. So my job is to go and show them how if they do it, right, they’ll be proud of the event, and that they’ll want their friends to come. And that’s a continual dance that I do with boards and committees, and staff as we go through the planning process. And the planning of a major event takes nine months, I think that you have to instill confidence in the board and get them excited, which gets that whole energy growing, then you’re going to populate those seats with people who are excited to be there, which builds excitement in the room, which builds engagement, which maximizes return on investment.

Mallory Erickson  06:19

Okay, I think you said at the very beginning something like there are five goals of an event, can you break down those five goals for us?

A.J. Steinberg  06:29

The first goal, of course, is fundraising because I will never say that there’s a fundraising event that should lose money. Although I will tell you I’ve seen many events not make enough money to warrant the investment. But the first is making money. And the second one is marketing your organization. Because every time you have an event, every poster you put up, every time you have a new committee member come on board, your community probably doesn’t even know in general, that you exist, that’s what’s shocking is that they don’t know that you had the cancer support group or your specific dog rescue. So every event should be a marketing opportunity. So your goal is to get the word out that you exist. The third goal is promoting your programs, because you’d be shocked how many people have no idea what your organization does. And for example, I worked with the Boys and Girls Club A couple years ago. And I was shocked that they invented basketball, they invented Mother’s Day, they have afterschool programs during the summer for kids who are at risk. So all of these amazing programs, people didn’t even know they existed, they just thought it was after school stuff. So you want to make sure that your event educates people as to the scope of what impact your organization is having. The next one is you want to have a call to action, you want to make sure that you can let people know how that they can be further involved with your organization. And I always say we’ve spent four hours making them fall in love with you don’t just say, Okay, see you next year, and then they never hear from you. That’s ridiculous. We have to keep that love going. And the last goal is appreciation because we have to show appreciation for the donors that make it possible. And similarly, we show appreciation at every step of the way in every committee meeting for those committee members who are volunteers. For the board members, we show appreciation to them, the guests who show up and give us their time, that’s a big appreciation moment. And then just keeping love going and letting them know the impact and appreciating that it’s their participation that makes that magic happen.

Mallory Erickson  08:39

Okay, thank you for breaking that down for us. I’m curious when you think about those three different events throughout the year in that free family event, for example. So that event isn’t one that likely in that moment is going to be fundraising. Right? Right. So how do you think about that, but I’m when I hear those other goals. I see a lot of them reflected potentially in that type of event. So can you talk to me a little bit about how an organization figures out which goals they prioritize for which types of events,

A.J. Steinberg  09:14

I would say all of them because even a community event, the more people you have an event, the more value it has to sponsors. So sponsorship goes hand in hand. With events, you can have sponsorships for the whole year, as long as you have the assets to give sponsors a wall to put their name on a program to put their name on a logo on. When you have a community event. What you’re doing is investing in the next generation because as we’ve seen with this generational clip of wealth that’s happening is that as the greatest generation dies, the baby boomers are inheriting wealth, but the millennials are getting a huge chunk of that wealth too, and they have children. So what we’re trying to avoid is this pitfall that’s been happening for generations where we pay so much attention into the older generation who gives us the money, that when they pass away, their heirs take the money and go away. They just take it and they spend it on their own person, they’d have no affinity for your organization. So when you have generational events, events, where there’s many generations, you are starting with getting the whole family involved, the children, the parents, maybe the grandparents, this is great for sponsors, because the more people you have an event, the more exposure they have. And that’s better ROI return on investment for their sponsorship dollars. And also to if it’s a family event, you have a larger group of sponsors, potential sponsors that you could be hitting. So it’s still fundraising, fundraising can be donors raising their paddle, or it can be sponsors, who are participating with you as a partner.

Mallory Erickson  10:47

Okay, I love that we’re talking about this, because inside power partners, I do a lot of work around corporate sponsorships. And I do something called asset mapping, where I have organizations think about all the things of value inside their organization that can be leveraged to build different types of partnerships. So can you talk to me a little bit about, like, uncommon, but really effective events assets that most organizations don’t think about?

A.J. Steinberg  11:19

We’ll start with galas. Because I’ve only done 4 million galas. I like to have a sponsor for all the big ticket items that are going to give them bang for their buck and give them exposure, the whole idea for sponsors is they want to know and once again, there’s like seven reasons that they sponsor, but we’re not going to go into all seven, but obviously getting their name out that hey, look at the good work we’re doing. We’re having an impact in our community. So part of what I do for sponsorships is the first thing I do is the valet because that’s the first touch when you so we will have a big sign that is usually like a $2,500 or $5,000 sponsorship. And it’s usually real estate agent, because they want to get their name right there in front of them. So the first thing that people see is the sign thinking about that real estate agent for valet last thing, I let them put their card with a cookie or something to the valet. The next thing we do is host the cocktail reception, which is an hour and a half. We have that hosted by a sponsor. And the cocktail napkins have their logo on it, we have a special drink with implementing their name, including their name. The next thing is the paddles. Nowadays, we don’t have paddles with numbers that are wood, we have usually pieces of cardstock, the front will have the guest name and the number and on the back, we have a huge logo of the sponsor of the Paddle Raise. That’s usually like a $5,000 sponsorship. The reason being, we have a photographer at the back of the room. And at the beginning of the gala, the emcee, I always have him say Let’s make sure our arms work. Let’s have everybody raise our paddles together. And when they do, we snap that photo of 350 logos throughout the room. super impactful posting on social media and things like that. We have what I call the afterglow, it used to be called the after party. But I’ve kind of found that if you’ve done a really successful event that has hit all those synapses and created communities, people don’t want to leave, but they want to talk they want to continue that amazing glow. So we call it the afterglow. And we’ll have when they leave the ballroom. There’s usually in the foyer, a cocktail table setup, we’ll have decaf coffee, specialty drinks and a bar. We’ll have like homemade doughnuts being made that they can have. And then we’ll have that be sponsored as a sponsor, because that’s the last thing that people see before they go back to the valet. It’s amazing feel good moment. So we have the branded cocktail napkins, we can have their logo put on a cookie or things like that. So those are some of the sponsorship things that I sell.

Mallory Erickson  13:51

Okay, I love those. And what I’m hearing you say that I think about a lot too is like, what are all those touch points? Like what are all the moments where somebody’s eyes or hands or feet are traveling around the event? And then seeing ultimately, some brand or relationship happening there to some sponsor getting recognized. So I love hearing those things. I’m curious, like, is there an event not a gala but another type of event where you saw an organization do really really creative sponsorship things just to get people’s creative juices flowing?

A.J. Steinberg  14:31

You know, like you’re proud mama like you see somebody in the like, look at they took what they learned at my workshop and they’re doing crazy great with it. I had a workshop for a row two Rotary Clubs locally who were doing an event called Holiday in the village in Westlake Village. Their first year they did it was an amazing event and they made exactly this much money after like killing themselves. So I gave them a workshop. We had maybe 30 People from two clubs there and I went over all the different ways that this holiday in the village could do sponsorships. And of course, I walked them through the basics of sponsorships. And if you’ve ever seen the European Christmas Mart’s Have you ever seen the pictures of them where it’s like, beautiful with slights, and food and holiday gifts, so they had recreated this in this little section, and I didn’t really think much of it, but I thought, okay, so I went, and I volunteered to work. And when I showed up at the holidays in the village, the first thing I saw was a darling choo choo train for little children to ride on that would ride around. And through the entire holiday in the village, every car had a sponsor on it. And it was brilliant, because everybody was taking pictures of their kids and posting it on Instagram, Facebook, whatever they’re doing. And then I walked in further and all these orange Santa hats, but the logics which is a credit union, everyone was wearing Santa hats with a sponsor logo on things like that make me super excited, because it was just a community event you didn’t pay to get in. They made their money through the vendors and the sponsorships. So they made over $50,000 in sponsorships, and that was just from taking the workshop, it was like it went from we have zero to be $50,000. And they’re already getting sponsors for next year. So amazed that answer that question.

Mallory Erickson  16:19

I love that. And that last sentence that you said, because I think what I hear in those examples are really fun and creative, like things that are going to make the sponsors also really happy. Their name isn’t just on a welcome sign. And you know, it doesn’t feel like the same kind of like rinse and repeat. I think a lot of folks right now with events like the last few years have been bonkers, you know, 2020, every event was getting canceled. 2021 I feel like half the organizations were like, Should we bring it back? Can we bring it back. And then many of them had to cancel their events, again, because of different surges. And so I feel like there’s a lot of overwhelm when they think about their events. And so they’re either thinking like, kind of trying to go back to old versions of their events, or they’re like, I can’t figure out what might be next for this. And so I think to hear about creative and fun ways that are engaging both for the participants at the event, but also for your sponsors, and finding that sweet point is so helpful to hear.

A.J. Steinberg  17:19

And you don’t need to throw an enormous event to get sponsors. So one of the things that I say is if you’re in and more upscale area, you have some upscale supporters, instead of inviting, like trying to sell 300 tickets, do a gala, have a very intimate party at the sports car dealership, have them be a sponsor, have them pay because they want people to come in. And then you can do an educational evening, for a wine tasting evening, among the cars, which is a great sponsorship opportunity for a sponsor, because they want to get people in to see their cars and to do that, there’s thinking outside the box with events is gonna get you a lot farther than just saying, Oh, we’re going to do what we’ve always done. Because as you’ve noticed, people are starting to hate galas, everybody’s going to them. They’re all the same. And unfortunately, when you have event committees, who have been putting these on forever, that’s all they know what to do. And they’re very intimidated by change. They don’t believe it’s going to work to change things up. It’s really hard to get their mindset to say, for example, the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, I worked with them on their gala. And they said we want to have some entertainment. I said you don’t need entertainment, it will take the focus away from this incredible mission you have they’ve never done a gala before. They didn’t do a silent auction. They didn’t do a live auction. They did a Paddle Raise. They kept saying this is never going to work. People will be bored. Why would they pay 250 $300 to show up at this event. If there’s no entertainment, there’s not a DJ, if there’s no dancing, I said trust me, which I hate to say because you should never trust somebody who says trust me. But I kept saying, you know, you’ve got to understand the neuropsychology of engagement is we spend the first hour and a half building community. People come in, they welcome they feel good. I have board members, when people walk into events, I call them my goodwill ambassadors. I don’t let them sit with their golf buddies and drink at the bar. I’ve assigned them people to meet at the front of the line at registration. And then they take those people and I say I want you to introduce them to the executive director, to the board director to other people. If it’s a sponsor, I have the meet, met and greeted at the registration and introduced to people who potentially want to buy the car need insurance, whatever it is, then that hour and a half of community building doesn’t need to be surrounded by auction items. When we move them into the ballroom. The first thing we do is we do an intro welcome really quick. We show usually a mission video or have a mission moment, and then we’ll say okay, we’re gonna let you socialize. The reason being is the number one complaint in exit polls for major events is that people felt they were talked out too much and they didn’t have enough time to say socialize. So we built this feeling of community in the cocktail reception. And then we move into the ballroom where they have dinner. And that’s more community building. And we have the staff and the board go table to table just like a wedding. And thank people for coming, then we have a very, very tightly scripted stage program. My stage program is literally minute by minute by minute, there is not one superfluous moment, there are no children, tap dancing, there is no singing, if I can help it, even if it has to do with children. Because the whole focus should be on your organization. That’s it, your organization, your mission, and the audience’s impact in the world by participating. That’s where the magic happens. That’s where the affinity is built. crescendos in the Paddle Raise, that should be your most meaningful moment. I always say so how many hours do you think the typical organization spends getting silent auction items,

Mallory Erickson  20:56

200 hours,

A.J. Steinberg  20:57

you’re probably right, probably 100 200 hours putting it in pulling teeth wasting resources. And the silent auction is entertainment. It is nothing more than entertainment. And the amount of hours it takes you to do it doesn’t move you forward in terms of stewardship with those guests at all. It builds no affinity whatsoever. If you spent that same amount of time crafting your stage program and writing your paddle race script. Think how much more amazing the return on investment would be in that. So that’s what I tried to do with my clients is we literally work on scripts, minute by minute crafting a stage program that the apex is the Paddle Raise, then after that, we’ll move down to the honorees. If you follow that structure, everyone’s going to stay afterwards and go to the afterglow, because they’re feeling so good about their participation, they didn’t need to have 17 live auction items, which by the way, just pisses off 90% of the people who can’t bid on them. If your auctioneer tells you, you need more than seven auction items, they’re lying. That means they just want to make more money, you will lose money and they’ll make money and you’ll lose the affinity of the people in the room.

Mallory Erickson  22:04

Wow. Okay, let’s talk more about this this affinity and engagement piece because I think what’s so interesting about what you are talking about here that I feel like I’m finally hearing about more and more these days is the role of community in creating engagement and affinity that we have, I think believe and I think I hold this belief deep down because even as you’re talking I feel in my body, some like discomfort around even like hosting a birthday party and not having like a thing or they’re being entertainment. They’re like, how do I incentivize that activity or make people want to come? And so I think we have these like really deeply rooted beliefs about what we sort of like, oh, people to show up to certain things. And what I hear you saying is that like, actually what people deeply want. And what the science tells us is they want opportunities to connect, and that their connection with each other with like minded people in a room mixed with like a unifying program and very specific program that reminds them, why they’re in that room and why everybody they’ve been building these connections within that room are there that that is actually what deepens their engagement with the organization.

A.J. Steinberg  23:25

You nailed it. And I think that we don’t give people credit enough that we don’t have to be entertained all the time, is that we really do want to be with people we care about to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. And there’s ways so instead of a silent auction, for example, I worked with a military organization. And during cocktails, what we did was we had stationery set out in a big table, and people wrote thank you notes to the service people. And we sent them after that was like one of my favorite things is because when people walked in, the first thing they did was realize, look at why we’re here. There’s people overseas doing something, they’re away from their family and their kids. This is amazing. And to be able to say thank you to them was so meaningful. And then when I sit people sit down at my tables, first of all the sponsors any table that has a table host meaning they bought a table or a sponsor, I have frames pretty famous that I have, of course for 40 of them. And I say thank you to the Steinberg’s for hosting this table. But thank you to Union Bank for hosting this table. So immediately there’s a gratitude. Plus prime real estate is right on your plate when you sit down. So I always have the napkins in a pocket fold and slid into it is a napkin insert is what I call and on the front. There’s a logo, they’re just thin. They’re like called rack cards are like nine by four. And on the front that has a logo of the event and a thank you note from the executive director or Committee Chair. Thank you for joining us. And on the back we’ll usually put facts about the impact of the organization that people don’t know. So it’s an icebreaker. It’s another reason that people see why we’re there. I never Do goody bags or junk like that, because those days are gone, I won’t lug 300 boxes anymore because they’re left behind. Instead, we’ll do one gift, like a jar of honey or a little mini Bundt cake with a nice, thank you sticker. And we don’t put them at the table. We have them as the guests leave, and they have volunteers handed to them. And thank them personally for joining them. We hope we’ll see you next year. That means so much for us to have you here. And that’s just that whole continuation of community building. Anytime that people feel appreciated anytime they see the impact of why they’re there, that’s going to just amplify the impact of building affinity with your guests.

Mallory Erickson  25:42

Okay, I love everything that you’re saying I’m curious for new events, or newer organizations who might be saying, Okay, well, I see how this could work once you have a committed donor base, or once people already start to enjoy your events or have some relationship with you. But talk to me about how this works for organizations where perhaps this is the first gathering that they’re ever putting on. And they feel like they really need some type of draw to get people in the room. Maybe they’re inviting a lot of people who aren’t currently donors of theirs. And they’re really trying to sort of build initial community. Do you have recommendations for them in particular?

A.J. Steinberg  26:23

Yes, get your influencers to host the party, keep it small, and have your influencers there, the influencers are the people who already support you, who have lots of friends, who have been to a lot of different parties or galas or whatever, it don’t spend a fortune on it. You can have wine and cheese at a wine bar, and it could actually be free because the wine bar could do it. But then have that moment where maybe 20 minutes of the half hour of it is where somebody from your organization gets up and explains the transformative work you’re doing and the impact in the world. When people get there, they’re invited by their friends that it’s are you familiar with the Ben avant model? Ben avant is a company that charges like $10,000, just for you to thankfully, let them work with you. And then we’ll tell you what we do. But basically, they are the one our party people. So they have a model. It’s called the Ben avant de and Evon, if you want to do with it, the Ben avant model is where there’s like 10 tables, and there’s 10 table captains, every table captain invites nine people or eight people to sit at their table, you come, there’s cocktails or in the afternoon, high tea, whatever it is, they sit down, there’s a 20 minute presentation, there’s an ask at the end. And then people leave. But it’s the beginning of a cycle of stewardship. I don’t love that because it feels really not genuine to me. I’ve seen it Malibu because people have so much money and not much time. And maybe works if you’ve got no but Gibson is one of the cable captain, but it doesn’t really work. But if you bring people to the dog rescue for a picnic, think about how nice to have a picnic. And then to have a presentation about what happens in the lifespan of a lost dog. And then have your storytelling as we know storytelling is so much more impactful than all those little neurons engagement is firing when you hear a story, have a picnic, have a family picnic, it costs almost nothing and then do something where you talk to them about the story of real dogs. Take them through the journey and say, This is the story of a dog that we’ve saved. But there’s so much more to do. And we’d love to have you as a partner with us on the journey of the dogs for next year. And just for $5 You can come in and make sure they know how they can opt in a decently low price. And then you bring them in. So if you’re new, you’ve got to figure out what do you have to offer. I know that there’s been food banks that had people come and while they’re surrounded by the food that’s being packaged for the homeless that they’re serving, just be creative, whatever your mission is, if you can try to tie that into the event so much more impactful because people understand why they’re there. I do a lot of homeless shelters at like four seasons, hotels, and it always makes me feel weird. Because we don’t want to eat the dessert because it’s too fattening. We don’t eat the bread and all the food. Half of it goes back to there. And yet we’re talking about feeding the homeless. It’s just a strange dynamic in my mind.

Mallory Erickson  29:19

Yeah. And you know, a lot of what I hear you talking about that I think about a lot too is, is how do you create these long term relationships like you can maybe like with the benefit model or whatever, like you can get 10 people to do you a favor and invite nine of your friends and then you have a favor and then we all wonder why fundraising feels so uncomfortable. And it’s like well, because we’re out here fundraising with favors and guilt and hounding people and all those things as opposed to how do we create experiences that the right people want to be a part of. And because it does do these things, it builds the affinity with your organization, but engagement is a gift To the person who is there who’s being engaged as well. And I hear that a lot in sort of what you’re suggesting is like, sure, there might be these like one time, or these strategies that check some box one time. But the more sort of, you’re aligning the makeup of your event with the mission of the organization, the deeper that relationship at the event itself is going to go.

A.J. Steinberg  30:27

It’s true. But it’s also that you have to have a protocol in place before your event even takes place on what you’re going to do, the minute they leave, I have a three step protocol, which is if anybody wants to email me, I’ll email it’s but basically, within 24 hours, the first email goes out, and it’s thanking them and it doesn’t just go out to the people who are there, it’s your entire database gets this thank you email, because you’re creating FOMO Gee, look what you missed. It was amazing. This is how much we raised, we had 350 people. And then thank you, thank you, then maybe two days later, you send some photos or a photo album of it, and then let them know the impact. Tell them a story. So this email blast says the story of because of you Ruby, who’s in Tanzania will be able to go to school, whatever the story is, give them a story. Then a couple weeks later, there was another email blast saying the loves just flowing, we have to share with you how impactful this still is, it was three touches are super important to building a relationship. Anybody who donates and if you could do everybody who raises their paddle a phone call, do it. If you don’t have enough time, just at least the people at the top levels and share that you don’t have to do it yourself. Have your executive director and all your board members make the call and thank them sponsors. I take those tribute books, those event booklets that are all left over on the seats, I collect them all. And I send them to the sponsors with the thank you note and photos of their sponsor logos, because those sponsors most likely weren’t at the event. So I send them the tribute book afterwards as a thank you. So they can see not only their logo on the tribute book, they can see who else sponsored. And they could see the beautiful quality of the book and see how beautiful the event is. And then I follow up with a phone call giving them the opportunity to sign on for next year at an even higher level. Because we’ve treated them so well. So everything happens afterwards, you build this incredible affinity, it’s up to you as an organization to actually expand on that in the coming weeks, months year, when you don’t want to be the person who only calls when you want their money.

Mallory Erickson  32:35

Yeah, I wonder if you’ve thought about this piece I’m sure you have in certain ways. You know, I think about just the exhaustion of fundraisers. And I think about this an embarrassing story that I’m going to share publicly now like one time, I was so stressed and scattered around an event, I got into a car accident with a U haul filled with silent auction items, because of just like the level of like stress that that event was creating. And so I know for so many people, the moment that that event is over, like the burnout, the like paralysis, it just kind of fully sets in. And do you have recommendations, I love what you’re talking about in terms of thinking in advance about how you’re going to use your time after the event. Because when we think oh, I’ll do that the day after the event, we will not.

A.J. Steinberg  33:26

Because you can’t even imagine how many people hire me and then say just so you know, I’m going on vacation two days after the event. And I’m like, cancel, you’re not gonna be able to do that. It is so much work to close out options and to close out and descend the thank yous and to finalize everything. And that stressful story about the U haul. That’s one of my nightmares is I always think what happens if I’m in an accident on the way to an event. It’s really bad. Everyone’s exhausted. But this is the time to rally you can do it. It’s only a couple more days, I know you want to go home. Oh my God, just want to put your pajama bottoms on and have a glass of wine and lay on the couch is like all you want to do. But this is the time you have to really back up. And this is when you start that relationship building. The clock is ticking. So do not let your energy flag let everybody know that maybe in two weeks, everybody have a retreat. Everybody have a couple of personal days that you really need to have your staff beyond their A game right afterwards to build that affinity.

Mallory Erickson  34:30

I wonder if there’s a way when folks think about their event planning timeline that if they’re taking that time into account from the beginning, it will ultimately I think impact how intense things are not that it’s not intense putting on an event but I was just interviewing a behavioral scientist on the podcast recently and she talked about I cannot remember the term for this but she talked about the fact that humans all speed up the closer they get to a bus stop No matter what time it is, even if they’re 30 minutes early, even if they’re like just the human body, the closer we get to our finish line, the faster we start to move. And so I wonder if thinking about the event as the finish line versus two weeks after the event as the finish line would shift how people sort of regulate their energy throughout and conserve enough energy to be able to keep going and doing those post event activities, instead of like speeding up that sort of behavioral tendency to like, speed up and burnout, right? When we’re at this sort of perceived finish line. What do you think about that?

A.J. Steinberg  35:40

I think that’s brilliant. I never thought of it, I do tell all of my clients, that they should write their Thank you protocols in advance and have them ready just to put the number in and press send, all of that can be done in advance. I love the idea of extending the end of your event until two weeks afterwards. And that will keep people from really just flipping out. I mean, people are so overwhelmed. I don’t know why they’re still so shocked that there’s so much to do after an event. It just seems interesting that that hasn’t sunk in yet. But yeah, I think that’s a brilliant idea, just shift the end time to be two weeks after and then you can celebrate. And there’s something really wonderful about a successful event. The glow afterwards is great, but it won’t last forever. And that’s the thing, you can keep going on adrenaline for a couple of days, for sure. Because you’re like, oh my god, we tripled what we thought we’d make. And it’s amazing that at some point, even this is interesting, I just realized recently is that no matter how successful your event, everybody’s in love, I should probably record what people say after these events. To me as the event planner, I’m like, you know, look at everyone’s thrilling listen, I’m going to record you. But then a week later, inevitably, it’s like, you know that one salad, or they were just you know, I really didn’t like the placement of that option. It’s like little tiny things. And they’ll glom on to it. It’s so interesting after the afterglow, suddenly, they want to be a Monday morning quarterback. And I think that’s human nature. So I think you have to be prepared to just take notes and go. After an event. I also do send post event surveys out right after event to all my committee members and board members. And that helps for people to assess in their own private home. It’s just a spreadsheet, and then they check, check, check. And then if anybody wants it, they can email me and I’ll give it to them. But it really is a deep dive into all the elements of an event what didn’t work. And then I can look at that at my own time. And I don’t have to have anybody in a session where everyone’s kind of some people start complaining about things that other people liked or whatever. I do want to say this, because this is about engagement. I do not do mobile bidding ever at my events. And I know a lot of people love mobile bidding to take the phones out and bid on auction items. But a live event is one of the few times you can have an entire room full of people live. That’s why it’s a live event. You can have them on the phone, or on Zoom anytime. A live event depends on community building and the minute you get them on their phone to make a bid. They’re not getting off, they’re going to be looking at their phone. We are trying to reset the neurons to be in person community. I do you use the platform’s always I do it for capturing registration for inputting auction items. But when it comes to the actual event, it’s old fashioned bid sheets with paper. And in the ballroom never ever do I do those big thermometers. And every auctioneer worth their salt will tell you, they don’t want to have mobile bidding during the paddle race. They want to have paddles go out.

Mallory Erickson  38:40

Oh, that’s really interesting. How do you handle that if it’s a hybrid event?

A.J. Steinberg  38:45

Well, my comment about hybrid events is the House votes of events, because a House vote is neither a really great boat, nor really great house. And that’s what I look at for hybrid events. They are neither really great live events, nor really great virtual events. Is that the kind of event you’re talking about where some people are there live? Yeah. And some people are watching. Yes, you know, it’s a whole different dynamic. A live event is four hours long. A virtual event is one hour long. There was one I know of that was 10 hours long, that was super successful. But it was a battle of the bands for a very popular New Orleans high school that people were tuning in all day. That’s typically the that but it’s better to have two separate events, one live and one virtual, because you can’t talk to a camera and talk to people in the audience at the same time. And if that’s the only way you can do it, then that’s it. It’s not optimal. I would split them up.

Mallory Erickson  39:40

So you would have like the live event and then maybe there would be like a virtual event a week or two later that had like a replay and like

A.J. Steinberg  39:48

the here’s the highlight. Yeah, and the Academy Awards has portions that they’ve pre recorded and said, you know, those boring awards by technology you don’t care about Well, here’s a really quick two second clip of them. but you can be having this virtual event that’s less expensive. And it’s a different feel more casual, and just said, let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

Mallory Erickson  40:08

That’s how I would do it. Okay, that’s really interesting.

A.J. Steinberg  40:11

It’s a lot cheaper because it’s very expensive to do live feed. And to do it, well, it’s very expensive to do that technology. You can use Zoom for virtual events, and it’s super cheap. So don’t spend the money on the live feed.

Mallory Erickson  40:23

I love that recommendation. So the silent auction piece is really interesting, because obviously, based on my sort of predicted amount of time, I have seen a lot of organizations waste a lot of time with silent auctions, the ways that I’ve typically thought about silent auctions have been how they can be used to actually start conversations with potential corporate sponsors that I sort of see them as an initial engagement strategy, because a lot of folks, I have a nice way of thinking it, I found that it’s like, opens up a conversation, it gives them an early access point to the organization. It’s not a huge lift for them, but maybe they’ll get an invitation, they’ll come to the event because they have an item there include a ticket or something like that. And so it starts to build that relationship where sponsorship was not necessarily on the table. So when I was curious sort of what you thought about that, or if there were other ways you’ve seen silent auctions be really successful.

A.J. Steinberg  41:21

I liked the sponsor element. Although I don’t know if you’ve been doing silent auctions the past five years, it’s gotten really hard to get good silent auction items. The most of the silent auction items I see that are meaningful, are because they come from relationships of the committee and the board. So the jeweler who gives a $5,000 gift certificate, or the condo from Maui, these are all relationships, which is why this is a whole other conversation is that choosing the right committee and choosing the right honorees is the make or break thing for events. The things that work really successfully for silent auctions are keeping it small, do not do 50 items 25 to me for a 300 person event is the sweet spot, because you’re just wasting your time and too much walls wine wine is really really a great you can just do a wine polar or a wall of wine and do that. It’s an interesting thing. Like I said, I consider silent auctions to be entertainment and icebreakers because it gives people something to look at and do during the cocktails if they don’t know anybody. You got to make some money, but that money would have gone to the Paddle Raise probably anyway, people come in knowing what they’re going to spend at your event, one way or the other. There’s pitfalls with silent auctions. I’ve had a couple where people actually got into fights over auction. Yeah, I know. It’s so stupid. I don’t know. But if you have relationships with say, somebody who is in the airlines is on your board, maybe you can get airline tickets. But even that’s really hard. It’s just a different world now than it was 20 years ago in terms because so many people and most auction items, you have to go online and fill out a form. Yeah, that’s

Mallory Erickson  42:58

interesting, you know, that piece around the relationship component of it is I completely agree with that. And I think what I’ve seen is that sometimes board members or committee members feel uncomfortable asking for sponsorship, but they feel comfortable asking for silent auction items. And so it’s like their, you know, kind of like, back door.

A.J. Steinberg  43:21

So I always say, You’re not asking for money, you’re offering an opportunity. And it’s important enough for you to sit here every month and beyond the committee. Imagine how important that would be to someone else, when I really work on the asking skills of my committees and my board members, and then also to is, is that I also do the asking. So for sponsorships. All I asked them to do is give me a warm introduction. So if you have a relationship with somebody over at Bank of America and your private banking person, and once again, this you’d call it asset mapping, is that what you call in? We do asset mapping people sign it and then I follow up with them. And I’ll say, Okay, can you make the first phone call or the first email and say ha Steinberg’s gonna be giving you a call. I’m on the board of this organization or the committee super meaningful to me, could you take her call, she’s got a great opportunity for you. They don’t have to mention money, sponsorships, anything that I call and I do the ask, and that makes everybody so much more comfortable is knowing that they can share their assets that they don’t have to talk money about.

Mallory Erickson  44:23

I love all that I could talk to you forever about this. But thank you so much for this conversation today. I’m so grateful and where can people go to find you to learn more about working with you and anything else you want to leave folks with today?

A.J. Steinberg  44:38

They can go to Queen Bee fundraising at QueenBeefundraising.com That’s me or you can find me on LinkedIn and Queen Bee fundraising and AJ Steinberg and I do a lot of online trainings and a lot of in person trainings. I don’t know about you Mallory, but I like in person trainings. I think that there’s so much more impactful but that’s me.

Mallory Erickson  44:57

Yeah. It is so nice to be to gather in person as much as we can be, I feel spoiled a little bit by the virtual too because it gives me more time with my family. So I feel like I’m always balancing that piece. But yeah, I love being together in person and you know makes the case for the in person events, and the in person trainings and all the things. So thank you so much for this conversation today.

A.J. Steinberg  45:20

Thanks for having me. It was awesome.

Mallory Erickson  45:29

All right, there’s so much wisdom inside this episode. Here are a few of my top takeaways. Number one, when planning a fundraising event, you need to identify a target group or community segment to engage with galahs aren’t for every donor or every organization. So make sure to plan a few different types of fundraising events that will attract various segments in your community. Number two, there are five goals of fundraising events. The first one is fundraising, you have to make more than you spend. The second part is marketing your organization. The third is promoting your programs. The fourth is giving a call to action for how donors can get further involved. And the fifth is showing appreciation for donors volunteers, board members, community members and guests. One of the goals of community events in particular and free family events is to invest in the next generation of donors. I also love the way he talked about being creative and thinking outside the box with events and how that’s going to get you a lot further than doing what you’ve always done in the past. And lastly, I’d love the way we talked about how to prevent burnout after a fundraiser. He talks about how you should write thank you protocols in advance and extend the end of your event to two weeks after the actual event date. So you don’t think about the event night or the event day as the finish line and then crash. Okay for additional takeaways and tips inside this episode, head on over to Mallory erickson.com backslash podcast to grab the full show notes now. You’ll also find more information there about AJ and our amazing sponsors give better. Thank you for spending this time with us today. If you enjoyed this episode, we would love it if you would give it a rating and review and share it with a friend. I am so grateful for all of my listeners and the good hard work you’re doing to make our world a better place. And if you miss me between episodes, stop by and say hello on Instagram, under what the fundraising underscore. Have a great day and I’ll see you next week.

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