Effective Fundraising Event Seating Strategies
Who Sits Where? And Why? Do you assign your donors seats (or tables) when fundraising? Seating plans have a major impact on how successful your event will be, both in terms of money raised and overall guest experience. So give plenty of thought to this topic! Here are some things to consider when determining who sits where.
The Golden Triangle
Ever heard of a golden triangle? It’s pretty common in fundraising land. In a Golden Triangle setup, with the stage in front, major donors are situated in a triangle shape relative to the stage. You know who your major donors are and what their giving capacity and history is. Use it to your advantage!
Placing folks who love to (and will) raise their paddles in the coveted Golden Triangle is not only good optics, it’s good momentum – when others see those paddles fly high, they’re inspired to do the very same, and before you know it the whole room is engaged and involved! Momentum and energy are beautiful things at fundraisers so maximize them in the room at every opportunity.
A Golden Triangle seating arrangement also makes it easier for your host, benefit auctioneer and their team to see and communicate with donors. Having donors nearer the stage also increases the chances of your auctioneer and team being able to positively influence them with subtle body language and gentle cues of persuasion. Don’t miss out.
Pro tip: Never situate donors FAR from the stage with a dancefloor or similar.
Where NOT to Put Tables
Avoid placing tables behind the stage, near the wings of the stage or behind large visual barriers like pillars, columns, etc. If your fundraising auctioneer can’t clearly see donors, they can’t interact with or encourage them. It’s incredibly important for your auctioneer to be able to make eye contact with donors. It makes a huge difference in how much folks will bid.
A word on centerpieces – always limit centerpieces to 12” tall or less on tables to help eradicate visual barriers in the room. Bigger is definitely NOT better when fundraising!
Your staff members and volunteers are the folks in the room who are most likely to have to get up and take care of details during the live program. (Thank you for all you do, invaluable staff and volunteers!) That said, the far sides and rear of the room is the best place to seat them. That way if and when they do get up, they don’t distract donors away from your deliberately crafted messaging by weaving their way through a labyrinth of narrow aisles, bumping into folks and blocking their views of the stage and subsequently their understanding of your carefully crafted messaging.
The Big Five
Cater to what you know of the Big Five types of donor personalities when planning seating charts. Does your donor love the spotlight? By all means, let them shine and place them front and center, and ideally near other competitive bidders – competition breeds competition and that’s great for fundraising and overall room energy! Perhaps your donors prefer to avoid the limelight. Seat them somewhere a bit more discreet, to cater to their personalities and desires.
One word – Beware. Sponsor tables are often loaded with folks who are there for the free dinner and drinks – basically they came for the party. These are not the people who necessarily champion (or even know) your mission. While we understand, appreciate and thoroughly enjoy a great party, these may not be the folks who will positively or substantially increase your bottom line. Be very intentional with where you place these tables.
Strategically place anyone who will be speaking onstage near the stage so it’s quick and easy for them to move to the stage when it’s their turn. Your stage manager should alert them when it’s nearing their time to present so they are able to swiftly move to the stage without distracting anyone or making the whole crowd wait. Flawless presentations please donors. And isn’t pleasing donors the whole goal?