How To Cash-In On High-Profile Black Tie Affairs

Jim Luff
Posted on April 10, 2019
Because charity groups want everything donated, you must convince them of your value. You will need to invest in a few lunches or cocktails to share in detail what you can offer and how it benefits the charity. Never lose that focus. (LCT image via Getty Images)

Because charity groups want everything donated, you must convince them of your value. You will need to invest in a few lunches or cocktails to share in detail what you can offer and how it benefits the charity. Never lose that focus. (LCT image via Getty Images)

Charities raised $410 billion in 2017, according to Giving USA Foundation. That was up $20 billion from 2016. The 2018 numbers are likely to be even higher. Most of these dollars are gathered through fundraising events that see money flow out from local charities to local businesses to produce and host charity events. This includes staging, lighting, sound, talent, food, venue rentals, and most importantly, ground transportation. Are you cashing in on your piece of the pie?

Getting In The Door

This is perhaps the most difficult task in partnering with charity events. If you can open that door, it will likely release a stream of money gushing at you forever. I hope to point you in the right direction, although you can pursue so many avenues in this market. The key is knowing who to contact, who might use your services, and what your overall role might be for the event and the future. Finding who to talk to is 80% of the challenge.

Who Should I Call?

Charity events are put together in many different ways by many people. Anyone could be the right contact for you. Large events require supervisors of food, decorations, entertainment, and publicity who work together to make it all mesh. Any of these people could be a starting point. To find them, you need to know which non-profit charity is organizing an event. All charity events fall under the umbrella of the parent non-profit organization and their board of trustees or directors.

The best place to start is with the president of the non-profit. Many boards are volunteer-based, and those serving as officers also have full-time jobs. If you can’t get in touch with the president, try the vice-president, secretary, and treasurer. These people are considered the executive board. You should be able to get their names and contact information from the organization’s website. Look for a tab that says board members or about us.

Most boards create a sub-board or event planning committee to manage a specific event. If this is the case, ask for the committee chair and contact that person. Many non-profit volunteer boards hire a marketing company, an event company, or a promoter to manage the entire event. This becomes more complicated, because the third-party company will have to relay your offers to the board. The silver lining to this inconvenience is the valuable contact you develop with a third-party event company. That person and/or company can get you in the doors of other events in the future.

It’s About Relationships

It isn’t realistic to think you can make a few calls and partner up with a charity group or third-party management company and land an agreement. Because charity groups want everything donated, you must convince them of your value. You will need to invest in a few lunches or cocktails to share in detail what you can offer and how it benefits the charity. Never lose that focus.

“How it benefits the charity” is your closing tool. If you really want to be noticed and are willing to put in the time, volunteer for the planning committee. Offering to roll up your sleeves and help a charity speaks volumes and will get you in front of the decision makers. First impressions last. Send your best chauffeur in your best vehicle to pick up your potential new partner for your lunch or cocktail appointment. Make sure you and your chauffeur are dressed impeccably as you are defining luxury at this meeting.

How Can I Get Involved?

You can get involved in numerous ways and accomplish an endless number and types of deals. Your participation can be as simple as having a vehicle on display to providing rides to and from the event either on a donated or paid basis. The best way to support a charity is to help them with sponsorship. No event can get off the ground without sponsors. Because event organizers know this, they promise the world to sponsors. This includes tickets to the event, table signs, and a suite of perks such as free cocktails.

Including a limousine or other chauffeured vehicles for a sponsor is one way to earn revenue in this market. A typical sponsorship can range from $250 to $250,000 depending on the event. When someone spends $5,000, you may suggest they receive chauffeured transportation to show true appreciation of the sponsor. You may also suggest two prices for event tickets, one that includes transportation and one that only includes admission. Offer to donate back a specific dollar amount to the charity for every ride you book for the event. Watch them promote your service for you.

Event promoters work hard to get their messages out to the public to sell tickets. They will likely get free advertising (or reduced) simply because they are a non-profit. Organizers typically give free tickets to media outlets for on-air giveaways. Convince the organizers to provide transportation for contest winners and mention your name every time they promote the on-air giveaway. You must decide how much, if anything, to charge for this ride since your company is getting advertising that closely associates you with the event. Make sure all mentions of free transportation include your company name.

Shuffling Money

In an arrangement similar to hotel contracts, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. You might consider sponsoring the event for an amount you are comfortable with in exchange for having your logo appear on printed tickets or electronic tickets listed as the “Exclusive Transportation Provider.” Combining your sponsorship with paid rides for other sponsors and special rates for ticket holders, you are likely to earn back your investment and then some.

The opportunities you gain driving the well-heeled people attending these events is invaluable. Developing a relationship with a promoter is an even bigger bonus. Don’t be shortsighted and think of this as a one-time deal. You want to get on this circuit and ride it forever. You want to use it to expose your company to potential new clients and be included in future events. As a sponsor, always make sure you ask for a vehicle to be on display, promotional mentions from the stage, and signage or an ad in the program.

Working With Venues

We mentioned numerous avenues for entering this market. Working directly with venues is another way for new and repeat business. When a charity hosts an event, the first consideration is where the event will be held. Venues compete fiercely in this market and as part of their rent offer to throw in extra things.

This can include stages, sound systems, security guards, and catering for one fee. Why not add transportation to the list? Venues are frequently used by wedding, retirement, and other parties. If a “house car” is included with the rent, it sweetens the offering the venue has for its customers and they can build it into the price of the rental fee as an option. This relationship becomes a new source of revenue for you. Prepare a list of the vehicle types you operate and their respective prices so the venue can roll them into their proposals.

The TNC Battle

It’s hard to pretend transportation network companies (TNCs) have not seriously encroached upon these events. You can’t help but notice a line of private cars stamped with logos in the window as events draw to a close. This is where we become the disruptors. People attending these events are supporting the cause of the charity event.

Being listed as an event sponsor implies doing business with you is supporting the charity. Having your logo printed on the event ticket with your phone number drives calls. Clients may think riding in your vehicle for this event might be discounted. When your company name is closely associated with an event, people will know it is not too chic to arrive with a neon-pink sign glowing in the window.

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Related Topics: building your clientele, charity, client gifts, client markets, customer service, fundraiser, How To, networking, VIP service, wealthy clients

Jim Luff General Manager
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