For many of us, summer is waning, school is back in session and for some of us, it means our favorite season, football season, is mere days away! That means that we will spend many of our Saturdays hosting donors in suites, hospitality areas, and at events tied to the fall. For those of you without football, cherish your fall Saturdays for they may be basketball weekends in the winter and spring or other events in the near future. One of the often overlooked parts of donor relations is the sheer act of hospitality.
You’ll not find a nicer more accommodating bunch than at a donor relations conference. Hospitality was defined early in my life by my mother, who often opened our home to massive corporate parties for the employees of the companies my father would head. She would also host fabulous small dinners for executives from around the world and amaze them with her baking prowess. But hospitality always meant more than that to me, something I discovered and was formally trained on at Disney through their coursework at the Disney Institute, my belief is that no finer training program exists. But what does hospitality mean to us in donor relations?
Hospitality is the fine art of making everyone, including strangers or uninvited and unexpected guests, feel welcomed and appreciated. It’s about doing the little things that add up to the big ones, the unexpected touches in the expected places. It all starts with the knowledge we are able to gather in advance of having a guest as well. For example, it might be knowing that your top donor has a certain beverage preference and then having it there for him or her when they’re seated. Or it could be having hand written notes in their car waiting for them with cold bottles of water when their car arrives from valet.
Hospitality best be served in other instances as well, not just the soft touches but the practical ideas as well. How about having portable charging batteries ready on the tables for guests if you know its going to be a long day and they want to share memories. Or having someone waiting ready to take photos at a special location for them, or marking these special photo locales for them. Or if it’s a couple having a night out away from their children and spending time with your organization, maybe its sending them home with some fresh baked goodies for their kids or a toy they can remember this by. No kids? Maybe furbabies? Send them home with a thoughtful toy or treat for their companion.
If your guests are there to spend more than one day with you, it might be providing them a list of external activities and hidden tips or tricks to the area. It may also be adding an extended break in the evening to allow parents to Facetime with their kiddos. One of the recent nice touches I saw was on the back of the guests nametag, the organization had included almost a fortune cookie like phrase inscribed on the back that was really a nice touch.
So what’s the plan if you have to run a hospitality area tied to an already existing event? There are a few key factors to ensure a great hospitality experience.
The welcome - Make sure each and every guest is welcomed by name and given a quick tour of the space and amenities available and that they are THANKED for attending.
Climate - Make sure as much as you can that you have accessories and experiences to help abate the heat or warm from the cold. One of my favorites is to have a nice bowl of chilled towels waiting for guests that they can apply to freshen up. Another one in the winter is to have bowls of already warming hand warmers they can place in their pockets to keep snuggly. Ensure your guests don’t go hungry or thirsty. Having portable snacks that they can eat on the go is always welcome and think about their eating experience before you lay out a tray of nachos or serve meat on a stick!
The departure - Finally, ensure they have smooth passage home once the game or match or performance is over. Make sure your staff isn’t the first to leave and abandons the guest when they need it the most. The leaving time is crucial as you say goodbyes and thank them again for their gift of time.
What do you do to provide excellent hospitality? How do you add in extra touches and elements to please your guests? What are your tips and tricks to share? I would love to hear your thoughts.