• Flourish

Team Flourish take on Foxley Kingham's Gala Dinner

What happens when your client asks you 1. Whether a fundraising dinner is a good idea and 2. to execute it! Here at Flourish HQ we love a challenge and have a team who love event work and have a huge amount of experience, but every event is different just like each of our clients and each of our tweets!

In our experience fundraising dinners can be a huge asset to generating income for a charity but there are a number of elements that you must consider to get it right and the first has to be – know your audience. Is there capacity and depth of pocket for an event which will not only charge a fee for a table, but will also ask guests to potentially dig deep and get involved in raffles and bidding on auction items? Once you understand your audience you can go about finding a venue and of course this isn’t without process. Location is imperative as is the style of venue. Too expensive in terms of dining can really hurt the income from table sales, equally you have to provide your guests with value for money too and a wow factor. There is a sweet spot. Most venues have the capacity to swell and shrink but our top tip would always be to look for venue without an overzealous expectation for minimum numbers if it’s your first event!

We were fortunate when we were venue hunting in Bedfordshire for the Foxley Kingham Charity Foundation Annual Dinner that Offley Place was deep in the building of the new Hester Ballroom available for hire and it would be ready for Friday 14th September 2018! The space was gobsmacking and the natural light made it a ‘this doesn’t compare to the others scenario’.

And so the Flourish team set about working up a Gala Dinner invitation congruent with the logo and venue. A mailing list was lovingly put together by the Charity Committee at Foxley Kingham HQ and off went the invitations. Whilst telephone calls and follow ups were made to all 130 companies, Flourish were busy in the background sourcing a band for the night. A disco had been discounted as not quite right – the interaction between band and audience is something very special and as long as the band could support some background dinner music we’d be happy! Number 7 Band have all been making music since they were all very little. They are a local band that truly love what they do and it comes across not only on the demo on their website but in person. Bob Halford is a straight talking front man, with no airs and graces and we were able to negotiate an excellent rate with him because of our charity status – THANK YOU!

The next element that is NEVER easy is finding an MC who hasn’t been booked for months in advance and we were fortunate to be recommended by charity partner CHUMS Steve Evans who was available and who was show stoppingly brilliant. Again another non nonsense booking – all we needed to do was to supply a detailed overview of what exactly he needed to do and when – a running order. We infact have a direct quote from Steve saying that he has “never in all his years had such a detailed overview of what was what” – you need to read that with a Welsh Accent please!

With the Band and MC taken care of next was to look for a photographer who would be able to capture the event but not erode the income that the evening would generate and networked Jules found Rupert Lloyd, a local lad based in Harpenden who’s hobby is photography and boy did he nail the photographs.

And then there was the finer detail – John Lloyd-Richards whose piano playing was magical and our guests flowed through the main doors of the house to the conservatory where the drinks reception was held!

Table centres had been agonised over too, how bad could battery operated candles look (the answer is not bad at all!) There is of course an enormous amount of toing and froing as the date drew closer with final numbers to be confirmed, accommodation at Offley Place (which has a modest 16 rooms for occupation!) dietary requirements which can often create a little anxiety but not for the team at Offley Place who were first class in delivery. There is the printed collateral such as an events programme which details what’s happening and when, plus a list of the raffle and auction items to be squeezed into the 8 page programme. The Charity Team at Foxley Kingham did a fantastic job of sourcing the right balance of gifts and events for the auction.

Donna and Jules were found at Offley Place from 2pm on the day of the event sweeping the floor and making last minute tweaks to the table setting. Placing the Programme, Raffle Envelopes and paperwork for a Silent Auction that also ran during the event and was fundamental in the overall income for the charity.

There is precision timing during events that nobody knows about apart those who DO – from moving people through from reception to table (there is often a sweep steak) and from meal service to clearance. Only when Steve handed over the reins to Bob and our guests made for the dance floor did the Flourish team exhale. With over £12,000 in the bag for the charity which was raised from table sales, raffle and auction pledges it was in the bag - the rest looked after itself.

And so … will Foxley Kingham plan a repeat event leveraging on an event well done with income generated for next year or will they leave it a year – that decision is for the wash up meeting next month!

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