I try to keep an eye open for opportunities to learn new things every day. Last week, I learned something about house party events that was so simple, but potentially game changing if you take it to heart. What I learned was . . .
House party events aren’t just a fundraising strategy.
As a young non-profit professional, who was just learning his craft, I was first introduced to the idea of a “house party” event format as a fundraising technique. The idea was simple. Ask someone to host a small party in their home. Work with them to identify a guest list of potential donors from their list of friends and colleagues. Make a group ask during the get together and collect pledge cards. My former employer used to call these “leadership circle” events.
Personally, I didn’t like the house party strategy for fundraising. Early experiences demonstrated to me that donors were very effective at hiding in group settings. For example, someone who had the willingness to support your organization and the capacity to do so with a substantial gift, usually ended up making a smaller contribution when asked as part of a group in contrast with a one-on-one in-person meeting.
Fast forward to much later in my career, when I was working as an internal consultant for a large national non-profit organization. I was re-introduced to house parties. Instead of using it as a solicitation vehicle, local affiliates where encouraged to use the strategy for new prospect identification and cultivation. At first, this tool was branded “House Party of Hope,” and later it was re-branded “A Party with a Purpose.”
Again, house parties were still being used as a resource development activity. So, I never saw this strategy in any other light. That is until just last week when we hosted a house party in our basement.
The purpose of our house party was to introduce the newly hired CEO for a statewide organization to our circle of friends. The stated purposes of this get together were:
- Introduce the new CEO to his organization’s constituency
- Introduce the organization’s constituency to the new CEO
- Use a facilitated question/answer format with the group to collect stories to help the organization craft a shared vision, set goals, and develop a new strategic plan
Last week’s experience helped me see house parties in a whole new light. No longer was this strategy simply a tool in a non-profit person’s resource development toolbox. The more I thought about it, the opportunities seemed to be endless. Here are just a few of my thoughts:
- Host a house party to validate a final planning document with any number of stakeholder and constituency groups
- Host a house party to engage potential collaborative partners in a discussion about what is possible
- Host a house party to engage staff, build team dynamics, address workplace challenges, start a new program, etc
- Host a house party to collect stories from clients/constituents to gauge your organization’s impact, develop a marketing campaign, identify additional needs, etc
- Host a house party to educate the community and initiate a call to action focused on your organization’s public advocacy agenda (Note: I believe I once read the American Medical Association did this in the 1950s or 1960s to defeat national healthcare legislation moving its way through Congress)
- Host a house party to identify new potential board volunteers as a precursor to the board development committee building prospect lists
I literally believe the sky is the limit with regard to how a house party strategy can be used to advance any non-profit organization’s agency.
If you are interested in learning more about house parties, click-through the following links for a treasure trove of resources and reading materials:
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America: A Party with a Purpose
- Facebook: The Fundraising Houseparty
- Convio: Using House Parties to Engage Constituents
- Ramparts magazine: “Huelga! Tales of the Delano Revolution“
Has your organization ever used a house party strategy? What were your objectives? Were your objectives met? Please use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC