Table hosted events continue to prove they can be a meaningful piece of an annual development plan. They can be a powerful tool in bringing donors closer to your mission. A table hosted event is pretty much just how it sounds – several engaged volunteers or donors each host a table of guests (usually 7-9) at an event. It is a fundraiser, but there is no cost to attend. The intent is that those attending will be compelled to support the organization at the event. It can be a particularly effective tool in acquiring new donors.

However, just putting hosts in the room without training them is an event pitfall. The “training” can be informal and called something else (think “kickoff,” “handoff,” etc.), but it needs a few key elements to inspire your hosts. You want to share the vision, walk hosts through the tools, and help them brainstorm who they should bring!

If an organization does a host training for their event that incorporates the above, and you look at the event data by table – you could likely tell which hosts attended the training and which did not. This recently held true for a client who recognized a trend after analyzing data from their event – the tables with trained hosts had significantly higher revenue and attendance success. Even for an organization well versed in this style of event, it is still beneficial to gather hosts into a room to coach them on how to be the most effective hosts they can be for you.

Sheldon House, a clubhouse model program under the umbrella of Cherry Health, utilized Kennari’s approach to training their hosts. This was the third year of their event, but the first time they did a host kick-off.  It was held right at Sheldon House with a meal prepared by some  of their members. Very cool! Tara VanDyke, Club House Director, said that adding the host kick-off events were one of the key factors of their event’s growth and success. “The [kick-off] events gave us a chance to talk about why table hosts are connected and supportive to our program, in turn building a shared level of engagement and perhaps some increased awareness/support. It also prepared table hosts better than we had in the past and helped them think more broadly and strategically about who they could invite to their table.”

Want to know what their success looked like? In 2018, they had $1,600 in donations and 68 attendees. This year, over $13,000 was raised with 125 attendees in the room. Way to go Sheldon House!

For those of you who have tried to get hosts to a training but were not successful, here are some ways to keep it fresh and unique:

  • Hold it in someone’s home. Especially someone who has been a stellar table host in the past. Choose a home that has some panache.
  • Host it at a local brewery. Another Kennari client recently did just that for their kick-off host happy hour. Each host received one drink ticket on the house.
  • Encourage returning hosts to attend so they can share their experience on what worked for them.
  • Have a client share a testimonial.
  • Have a hands-on or interactive component to your mission at the beginning of the training. Maybe share a brief video.
  • For sure you should build in time for hosts to share what they love about your mission. You will be surprised to hear some of their answers, and it helps rekindle their love for your organization.

At your next event, watch your hosts closely. Did your “trained” hosts respond to the directions during the ask? Did they wait to pass out their pledge cards? Which hosts did not? You may find your own answers about your event’s success by looking at your data. Take the time to do a deep dive after the event and then make plans for next year right away! Need help creating a unique host kick-off celebration? We’d be happy to talk with you about it – just fill out our contact form.