When the governor, two past presidents of DU and the current president of DU all plan to attend your sponsor event, you want to pull out all the stops. And that's just what the Indianapolis sponsor chapter of DU did for its second annual Indy sponsor event, held in late January. From the venue – the stately Crowne Plaza Hotel – to the auction items − high-end hunting trips and merchandise worth $1000 or more – the Indy sponsor event's detail and execution reflected the hard work this chapter invests throughout the year.
Past presidents of DU Don Rollins and John Tomke joined current DU president John Pope and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (a strong DU supporter) for the event, which more than doubled its net/net from last year, going from $25,000 to $65,000 raised for the ducks. Attendance also saw a marked jump, from 95 people last year to 150 people this year, and two major sponsors, Duke Energy and Peabody Coal, each gave $10,000 to make the event possible. And while the night went off without a hitch, George Faerber, chairman of the Indy sponsor chapter, said the success didn't come without a lot of hard work from the 15 member volunteer committee.
"We are really fortunate here in Indy because our governor is a huge proponent of wetland conservation, and having him join such prestigious members of the DU community for our event created a 'perfect storm' to raise revenue for DU," Faerber said. "But the success we've had the past two years at this event wouldn't be possible without the commitment of our volunteer committee to get the word out and a number of life sponsors who stepped up to make this event possible."
How did Faerber's committee get attendance to jump more than 50 percent? That came thanks to a vigorous e-mail campaign, one Faerber said was rooted in the basic principle that marketing can never be a "one-and-done" deal. "One of the biggest challenges we had in getting more people to attend was just wading through the clutter of daily lives and all the advertising messages people are hit with everyday," Faerber, a member of DU for more than 30 years, said. "We found that in order to get through to people, it takes more time in front of them. I told my committee you can't just send one e-mail; you can't just make one phone call and expect that to get the job done."
Another tactic the Indy sponsor chapter utilizes is ongoing communication with people who attend the sponsor event in an attempt to keep them engaged with DU throughout the year. Faerber said too often, people will attend a DU event and then not hear about it again until a year later when the next one rolls around. So this chapter follows up with attendees to show them how their dollars are being used by sending them information about DU projects in Indiana and uploading photos from the event to the event website, www.ducksindysponsor.org
But the Indy sponsor event hasn't become one of DU's most successful events on those tactics alone. This chapter also prides itself on solid record keeping at and after the event. "A lot of times the record keeping at an event isn't good because everyone works so hard before an event, that once the event is done, they think they're done with it. But really, the work is just starting. You've got to report the event's numbers back to national and give people credit for what they've given to DU," Faerber said. "As long as people aren't left hanging, the chances they'll continue to give support to DU's mission are much greater."
Joe Borders, DU regional director for southern Indiana/northeastern Kentucky, said the Indy sponsor chapter represents everything a DU chapter should. "This chapter has, for the second year in a row, put on a spectacular event that raised many thousands of dollars for DU's conservation mission. And it's a direct result of their passion for DU and a commitment to doing the legwork necessary to get people in the door and engaging them long after they walk out. Every chapter of DU would be smart to use this chapter as a model."