Follow-Up Notes

A Million Dollar Committee, with President Tanaka

A Million Dollar Committee, with President Tanaka

I have received a lot of emails from people asking about having their own “Million Dollar Dinner”.  Besides what you see on this site –  here are a few cheat notes that I have sent others.   Of course these are my personal thoughts.  The event was put on by a team, and everyone had unique ideas, input and notes.

  • We charged $100 per.  At one time we hoped it would be “free” covered by sponsors but we couldn’t get enough sponsor dollars.  We invited NEW Bequest Society members,  and also invited Paul Harris Society members (give $1000 a year to the  Foundation) and major donors (gave over $10,000) as a way to recognize them.
  • Our dinner had 150 attendees.
  • Although my district had good Foundation support, the Bequest Society was very low key if not non-existent presence in the area.  This event changed all that.
  • We had one major sponsor – a local car dealer.  The funds opened many doors for us, budget wise.
  • We did NOT permit others to purchase dinner tickets to ensure it had an “exclusive” feel.   If someone asked “Could I attend?”  We would say “Of course – just join the Bequest Society!”.
  • Never underestimate the importance of booking a high-profile keynote speaker well in advance.  We secured the R.I. President in July 2012 for this May 13 event.
  • Personally – I don’t recommend multi District or zone Million Dollar Dinners.  One of the keys to the success I believe is the fact it’s an opportunity for Rotarians to get together and feel good about what they have done – together with familiar friends.  If the event is in another District or zone in a far off city – I feel it could lose appeal.
  • We also encouraged outright cash donations of $10,000, or a commitment of $3333 for 3 years in a row –  they were also invited to the event.  We had 7-outright gifts of $10K or greater totaling $101,036.70
  • I am a firm believer in making it easy for people so we had a link from our website to the attached Online Form.  It was  a “click and print or email” I devised myself.  (See documents).  Carolyn from The Rotary Foundation Canada reported it was used a lot.
  • As Governor I talked up the Million Dollar Dinner at every club –  of course it didn’t hurt to have the President of Rotary International attend the event to ensure excitement.
  • We had a team split the clubs up to call and talk it up.  This was mildly successful as it seemed difficult to get through to people and past voice mail etc.   Nagging via email may have been more successful, or a combination of the 2.
  • We used data from The Rotary Foundation who gave us in excel the names of major donors and Society.    We sent a lot of invitations via email and followed up with a mailed invitation. (See documents)
  • The evening started at 6 PM,  with a reception for the new Bequest Society Members and the special guest President Tanaka. That made them feel special   We had food and drink there.
  • Dinner was at 7,  done at 9:30 or so after we unveiled the large check.  That was exciting.    People were stunned at the dollar figure on the check. It’s important to keep this a secret.  In the end even some of the committee didn’t know the final amount.  That added to the suspense.
  • Talk was minimum as these people do not need a lot of education about the Foundation.    The Governor spoke for 9 minutes,   a video of  International Foundation Chair Wilf Wilkinson was 6 minutes,  President Tanaka spoke 10 minutes.   We had a youth introduce President Tanaka, a nice touch.  The sponsor spoke for 3 minutes.  The The Rotary Foundation Canada rep (Carolyn) spoke for 2 minutes.  The local mayor spoke – although she is a Rotarian I didn’t think it added anything to the evening.   “On behalf of the  city of…… “ blah blah yada yada.”  Would recommend  not doing this – keep it to the topic at hand.  This is a personal opinion of mine.
  • We had a Rotaract (youth) Club help with the evening.
  • I had to tell the caterers “No dinner service while people speak please”.
  • We have 1100 followers on our District Facebook site and we used it a lot to promote  this.  “Will we raise a million?”.  People were really intrigued!
  • The committee met once a month then more often towards the end –  at times using GoTo Meeting as we have a large District.
  • We had $60 table top pieces that were a huge hit.  A figurine with the name of the
    On every table.  Click to enlarge.

    On every table. Click to enlarge.

    event.  They were beautiful

  • We wanted to have NO fund-raising at this event – so one person per table won the centre piece.  We offered to order more and did for those interested.  Sponsors got them,  guests, dignitaries.
  • We had a professional photographer –a  great idea.  She was  a Rotarian and volunteered her services.
  • We called it “Black tie” and also emailed all attendees the week of the event mentioning “some will be wearing tuxes and formal gowns”. I am glad we did..  Many did.
  • Always have some background music.  I don’t like quiet rooms.  So we hooked up a satellite jazz channel.  Good ambiance.
  • Remember Rotary swag on stage etc.  Flags, theme pennant etc.   Rotary it up.
  • Use the Rotary Foundation team,  Carolyn was invaluable.  If you are not familiar with the Zone staff resources available to you, I recommend you contact your Regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator (RRFC) to assist in connecting you to your Zone Major Gift Officer (MGO).