Updated: Apr 27
Any other fundraisers with an event planning background having flashbacks as you watch Bridgerton?
While admitting that I am still only a few episodes into
Season 2, I’ve had a few ‘aha’ moments about the similarities between the show’s wedding season parties (and guests) and fundraising events.
The dresses. No, The International Red Cross Ball was not attended by demure young things in pastel gowns. But the time in the dress shops of London shares a lot with the dressing rooms of Saks Fifth Avenue or a Worth Avenue boutique. The investment in appearances, the assurance that the gown is one of a kind… there is a spirit of competitive dressing for galas that is rarely seen in one-on-one major gifts conversations.
The flowers. The gardens of Aubrey Hall are incredible and provided bouquets and centerpieces to delight the senses. I wish I could smell them! At each televised (fictional) event there are beautiful displays of flowers and we see that the hostesses are always focused on making a good impression with their displays. I particularly love the attention to themes (lilac for first love!) and to guest preferences. I was always astounded at the cost of decor at the galas I coordinated. Whether it was elaborate themed centerpieces and backdrops or photo walls created with roses, the goal was often to portray opulence and elegance. And of course, the gala chairwomen had the opportunity to choose their favorite look!
The strategic introductions. No, the (stated) intent of fundraising galas was never to introduce potential spouses - although that is known to have happened –But we fundraisers / event planners certainly work to strategically place tables near each other. More often though, we struggled to avoid the potential unpleasantness should people be seated too near their rivals. Sometimes these were literal rivals (political) or current rivals (former friends involved in bitter lawsuits) or, in the most Bridgerton-like dramas… former spouses or lovers. As glamorous as the parties always were when I was a staff hostess, and continue to be for organizations that are easing back into pre-COVID like event schedules, there is always an underlying intent of fundraising that can’t be too far from the minds of the planners. So strategic videos, donor recognition, and carefully placed board members are always at play. The pre-work of building a committee, identifying sponsors and table hosts, and assuring that invitations are received in the right homes … these are all portrayed on Bridgerton with merely a little twist to the mission.
The celebrity sightings. It may be the Queen of England who demands special attention on Netflix - but at galas it can be anyone from the local TV personality serving as MC to the keynote speaker.
What they don’t show on television, of course, is the really hard work that goes into the planning and execution of an incredible gala. There is a reason that “Marriage Season” is only a brief month - the preparation of the events is exhausting and expensive.
Non-profit organizations court major donors… and the hope is that they will end the gala season with a commitment. So maybe the goals aren’t that different between the Balls of London and the country portrayed in Bridgerton and the fundraising galas of Palm Beach, New York, and the Hamptons!
How do you make sure that the mission stays front and center? How can you be sure that your event doesn’t have it’s own Lady Whistledown distracting from your very important work?
Keep the mission front and center in your communications.
Remind your donors of your goals throughout the program.
After the event, make sure that they are thanked not only for attending the party - but for helping to make your organization’s work a reality.
Don’t let the drama and fear of scandal take your eye off the prize - continue to court your major donors and true (love) connections will be revealed!
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