Work events: Whether it’s a gala, a homecoming event for university parents, a campaign launch or any other community-facing event, there’s a belief among folks who aren’t frontline fundraisers that we just love to attend these. That we’re naturals at introducing ourselves, making conversation, working the room, and using it to move strategies forward. What many of us know, of course, is that this is not true, and that events often push us outside of our comfort zone, requiring us to be even more intentional in order to be strategic.

So we use that intentionality to introduce ourselves, make conversation, and to make that conversation purposeful, in support of philanthropy at our institution. There’s a lot of talk in our field about “hooks” to engage supporters in meaningful ways around our role and philanthropy, and those can come into play for events too.

But in a recent conversation with a professional new to advancement, we began discussing “unhooking” — exiting event conversations that are lovely, but not strategic or in alignment with our role of introducing or reaffirming the importance of philanthropy.

Imagine you’re working an event. You’re chatting with a fantastic supporter, one whose annual support is thoughtful but who will not be growing that support. Or you’re chatting with someone who is in someone else’s portfolio, and you are not able to move that relationship forward yourself.

How do we as fundraising professionals “unhook,” or exit the conversation gracefully, but with intention? I shared a few examples with the colleague of how we can leave the conversation with as much strategy as we entered it:

  • “It was so nice talking with you! I don’t want to stop you from visiting with our other guests/going to the food stations/etc., so I’ll let you do that. But thank you so much for your support of our organization. It makes such a difference, and I’m really glad you can be here for us to show you how you’re making a difference and say thank you!”
  • “I’m so glad we were able to connect! I’d love to introduce you to my colleague who works with alumni and supporters of our school of engineering, as I know she would be very glad to chat with you. Let me introduce you – she’s right over here.”

Each of these further build the groundwork for the individual relationship by reinforcing the role of events and/or advancement professionals. I’d argue that each of us can build our impact even more by making sure we have the thoughtful “unhooking” language that works for us at the ready.

What language do you like to use? We would love to learn your tips and tools.

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