DickersonBakker Blog

Never Trust a Client With a Mic at a Fundraising Banquet

“I never trust a client with a mic,” a director once told me. It can be a PR nightmare. I’ve heard horror stories about clients saying inappropriate things or complaining about the agency when they’re on stage at a fundraising banquet. Bad news bears.

Clients need training before they’re given a mic. I saw this firsthand recently at a fundraising banquet. After the ED’s speech, they had time for testimonials. Now, the banquet hall was PACKED—I’d say three hundred to four hundred people as a captive audience. I was a new potential donor and excited to hear the stories of their clients.

The first person mumbled. It was like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher: Mwa-mwa-mwa. I couldn’t understand a word he said. And the next two girls clearly didn’t want to be there. Their mentor would ask them questions like, “Would you say XYZ Agency made a difference in your life?”

“… Yes,” they would respond. And that was it.

The man after that told us his life story. His whole life story. He started at age five and meandered until the present day. I lost interest by age seven.

The banquet was almost three hours long on bad chairs in a hot room. My enthusiasm was as dry as peeling paint when they eventually got to their “ask.”

Now, you want to tell stories. Stories are POWERFUL. But presentation is everything. When clients aren’t trained, or worse, you don’t know what they’re going to say, bad things can happen besides your donors getting bored.

So, what to do? Several things. You can record their stories. Then show the video at the event. This gives you the power of editing! If they’re long-winded, you can cut it down. If they say something crass, you can delete it. You still get the impact of visual testimonies for your donors, but without the wild card.

Alternatively, you can write down their stories. You or another trained presenter can read them on behalf of the client at the event. You know how they usually have actors play the doctors in prescription commercials? You can have “actors” play your clients’ stories. Just make sure your donors know ahead of time that this is a portrayal.

Finally, you can train your clients. Of the ones you can trust one hundred percent, you can coach them in public speaking. I know an ED who does this. She has a handful of current and past clients whom she can trust to take to events. She practices with them and teaches them how to have a public presence. Their stories are powerful, but they’re INCREDIBLE when you tell them right.

You want to share the stories with your donors, but you want to make sure they’re shared in the right way. There’s a lot of power in the mic, and you want to make sure the wielder is worthy. The mic is mightier than the… brochure. Use it wisely.

Take your message to the next level. Contact DB&A to better captivate your audience.

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