Getting Your Home Party Ready
Making Your Home the Centerpiece for a Charitable Event
What Dorothy realizes in The Wizard of Oz is true—there’s no place like home. And this lesson may also be true for holding a charity fundraiser. And so in an area rich with both philanthropy and beautiful homes, it makes sense that the two can combine for a good purpose.
For those with enough space and time, hosting a party for a good cause at their home has many advantages—it encourages more conversation between guests and organization members and provides a special ambiance given the warmth and comfort of a private home.
If you’re thinking of hosting a fundraiser at your home, here are some tips on preparing your space to bring in guests and donations while minimizing problems.
Why in Your Home?
So why host a fundraiser at your home? Beyond being house-proud or wanting to show off recent redecorating projects.
To start, hosting an event at your home makes the entire experience feel more personal and intimate for your guests. Because most homes accommodate fewer guests than a reception hall or public venue, the invitation list is shorter and more intentionally chosen. The smaller guest list makes it possible for each guest to meet and talk to the beneficiary and host, adding to a more welcoming feeling.
“I think guests come with expectations that they can interact with members of the organization personally,” says Jan White, of Meetings By Design. At larger galas with hundreds of people, attendees likely won’t know everyone else, and may not receive as much information or get the chance to talk with a member of the organization. But smaller house parties change guests’ expectations, and allow them to ask questions and talk one-on-one with organization members about such things as how their donation will benefit the organization.
Not only does hosting at your home allow for a more intimate fundraiser, it also makes the beneficiary more credible to your guests. By hosting, you’re showing guests you trust the organization and their mission, and are willing to support them even by opening your doors for them.
“Receiving this kind of generosity and trust is very special to us and we think that it transfers to the attendees of an event,” says Sophie Tentrop of Home of the Sparrow.
A fundraiser at your home also provides more control over the event. Many rental venues have restrictions on details such as decorations, which vendors you must use for catering and entertainment, and how long your event can run. But at your home, you decide—candles can glow along the edge of the room, your favorite caterer can provide the food, and the event can continue into the wee hours.
Remember—saving on renting a venue certainly helps the charity keep event costs lower, too, so more funds can go to its mission.
So, if you’ve hosted large family events or parties for friends, moving up to a fundraiser may be an easy step to take!
Preparing the Space
Now that you’ve decided to host, what’s next?
First, it’s important to talk to the beneficiary to decide how many people to invite, who handles which details, and what expectations you each have.
“When preparing for an event at your home, it’s important to be open about expectations,” says Sophie Tentrop. “Who’s taking care of food or catering, who’s bringing wine and non-alcoholic drinks, and to what degree is access to the kitchen needed? Are you preparing a sit-down dinner for 10 people or a garden party for 60 people?”
Clarifying expectations early on helps the rest of the house prep run smoothly.
Once you know how many people to expect, what the arrangements are for food, and what kind of speaker or presentation you’ll have, the rest of the house can be prepped accordingly. For a smaller gathering, there may be little need to reorganize your home. But for larger parties, furniture may need to be moved to open up the space and improve the flow.
Also, try seeing your home as a guest would. Consider the rooms your guests will see—from arriving at the entry, the main room for mingling, a bathroom or two, a closet or extra space where coats can be stored.
Walk around to see what areas need prepping for the event. What needs to be cleaned or de-cluttered (also consider what irreplaceable or breakable things should be removed both inside and outside) and what furniture should move?
It’s also advisable for the caterer to do a pre-visit to see where best to set up and prepare food. They may choose to work in your kitchen, or prepare in another room or a tent farther away from the party to keep from interfering with the guests.
Don’t forget the outside of your home! When the weather is warm, your backyard or patio may serve as the perfect place to host your guests or for an overflow crowd. Mow the lawn, weed the flowerbeds, clean the patio, set up some lights around the yard and make sure there’s room to put tables for food and beverages.
If you do choose to hold the party outside, make sure you have a backup plan in case of rain or changing temperatures.
Keep in Mind …
Parking needs to be considered before guests arrive. Some homes have long driveways or extra land where cars can park, but many don’t. If parking is limited, find out whether local police can close off part of a street to accommodate your guests’ cars or post signs for parking on one side of the street. Make sure to include on the invitations reminders to carpool or use Uber.
You may want to let your neighbors know about your upcoming party. This helps prevent competing events on the same day, which could make parking even trickier. Also, your neighbors will then have no cause for concern if they hear extra noise or activity from your house that day.
During the actual fundraiser, as host, you should be prepared to mingle. “The host and hostess should be there actually hosting. That’s their first and most important priority,” says Jennifer Cadwalader, a volunteer for Willowdale Steeplechase. This means welcoming guests when they arrive, introducing them to the organization and the cause, and helping them feel welcome. For a house party, many guests may be your acquaintances and will expect some face-to-face time with you.
Adding the Wow
If you commit to hosting a fundraiser at your home, you’ll want it to be a night your guests will remember—and a night they decide to support the cause with a donation.
First step, think about how you can integrate the organization’s mission into the event itself.
“To meet face-to-face and see how the organization actually works makes a lasting impact,” says Jan White. For example, if you’re holding a fundraiser for a group that provides students with access to the arts, consider having the students design the invitations, showcase their artwork or talk about how the organization has helped them.
Next, remember your home may be the biggest “wow” of them all. Beautiful grounds and stunning architecture are found in homes all around County Lines country, perfect settings for memorable fundraisers. When preparing your home, think about your home’s star feature—the spiral staircase that leads to a balcony, the living room’s high ceilings and bay windows, the lush gardens surrounding the patio in the backyard—and make it the central location for your guests to be.
Not only will your guests love being able to see your home, they’ll also be warmed by your hospitality. “Having an event at the home really is the star feature, and having that intimacy of hosts opening their homes to the guests,” says Jennifer Cadwalader.
After weeks of prep work—cleaning, moving furniture, installing decorations, planning details, connecting with the beneficiary—your efforts will all be worth it when your guests enjoy your beautiful home … and make a generous donation.
Photos courtesy Chester County Community Foundation, of the Diederich home
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