NAME: 2012 SU QLD Frontline Chaplaincy Appeal Dinner
TYPE: Corporate fundraising dinner
CLIENT: SU QLD
BY: j2 ideas & events and SU QLD
VENUE: Great Hall, Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
BUDGET: TOP SECRET
Australia’s fastest growing youth and children’s not-for-profit is the interdenominational Christian organisation, SU QLD. Among their many programs is the School Chaplaincy Program. Every year, more than 500 school chaplains ‘on the front line’ in Queensland state schools, provide support and care services for more than 330,000 young people, their teachers and parents.
To support program goals, since 2001 SU QLD has held an annual fundraiser known as “Frontline”—SU QLD Frontline Chaplaincy Appeal Dinner. Entertaining and emotive, the event premise is to motivate people of capacity and influence towards financially investing in Frontline. By creating an appropriate ‘emotional journey’, guests are able to understand the experiences of young people through a flawless visual and auditory medium. Audience members are affected in such a way that they are compelled to want to give. They see; they believe… and on the night, they generously invest.
Frontline follows an unorthodox fundraising model: not one guest is asked to pay for their seat. Based upon a relationship marketing “table host” methodology, supporters of the chaplaincy program commit to hosting a table of 10 – each person an invited friend or associate, welcomed with an expectation that they will pledge support for the cause through the evening’s appeal proceedings. In effect, this model leverages existing relationships with supporters and sees them adopt an advocacy role, securing seats for the event through their own networks and connections.
CHALLENGES & TRIUMPHS:
Frontline incorporates live entertainment, keynote speakers, fine dining and a fundraising appeal, crucial to which is a ‘production’ that ensures guests embrace the notion ‘seeing, believing, investing’. Within a limited budget, j2 must employ the most creative ways and means to affect the audience’s emotive state, while ensuring overall professionalism of the event and appeal to a corporate market. Being the 12th annual event, in 2012 challenges existed in creating this ‘impact’ upon guest arrival and enhancing the evening’s emotive journey.
The Great Hall at the BCEC is an expansive space with a high ceiling. An audience feeling remote to proceedings and an atmosphere too open and static would correlate to a dampened fundraising effort. Consequently, j2’s planning aimed to combat any ‘hollowness’ by creating a warm, intimate and engaging space. Implementation of a stage set that would ‘draw-in’ the audience was key. A large-scale main screen (16m x 5m) was utilised.
Another design initiative was the hanging of white umbrellas from the Great Hall’s ceiling—reflecting that ‘not every day is a sunny day for kids across Queensland’. Umbrellas were suspended at varying heights, framing the stage and front screen, then moving out into the void above guest tables.
Critical to the success of the suspended umbrellas was effective illumination, for which specialists, jlx, were engaged. jlx brought the umbrellas ‘to life’ programming subtle lighting changes to enhance the mood in the room at key moments. This included simulating a thunder storm during the opening sequence.
Intrinsic to the success of Frontline is the ‘right’ entertainment. For three years, both SU QLD and j2 had attempted to engage vocal group, The Ten Tenors. Scheduling commitments had precluded The Ten Tenors’ participation until 2012, when j2 secured them as feature act.
The event resulted in new record-high donations ($725,000t).