Putting the Fun Back into FUNdraising

Back in November, we planned a cocktail reception for the Lung Cancer Canada annual gala at The Arcadian Loft. Our mandate was to design an evening that was as far-away-as-possible from the typical sit down dinner/rubber chicken affairs that too many gala-goers have to endure. We were also asked to come up with something novel to replace the omnipresent Silent Auction… And to that end, we incorporated a “game” into an otherwise elegant and on-point evening.

I can’t take credit for the idea: my mother used to do this at my birthday parties when I was but a young ‘un. Everyone would sit in a circle and pass a present (wrapped in multiple layers of paper) around, while some random song played on my 45RPM record player. When the music stopped, the person holding it would unwrap a layer and so it would go until the final layer revealed the prize inside. We thought it might be fun to try this on a larger scale — because, really, who doesn’t love to open presents? — all while raising funds for lung cancer research. I’ll show you the pics from the game, but first, a little background:

The Lung Cancer Canada logo is a pair of green leaves, attached to look like a set of lungs. The symbolism of the leaf was a big part of our mandate that evening. This photo is of the pins that were given out to guests when they registered that evening.

Decor was kept simple, both for financial and esthetic reasons:  vases, filled with salal leaves and green votive candles everywhere.

A big, (wo)man-made tree stood in the centre of the room, representing The Grove, a memorial area in Sunnybrook Park where trees are planted in memory of people who have lost their battles with lung cancer. You can see some of the leaves that we ‘sold’ that evening to play our game dangling from the branches.

The next photo lists the prizes to be won and the costs associated to join the fun. This is something we stressed very heavily to the committee: we didn’t need a lot of prizes, but we needed really, really great ones. There was nothing on that list that was worth less than $500; the Grand Prize was a diamond necklace worth $2200! Talk about a good return on a $20 leaf!

So here’s the promised explanation of the gist of the game: there were 11 presents, all wrapped in different shades of green on the table. Guests needed to ‘buy’ leaves from volunteers wandering the room; and could, in turn, redeem each leaf to unwrap ONE layer of paper on the present of their choice. What people didn’t know was how many layers of paper there were on any given box… some had as many as 47 (and yes, Gabi and I had the pleasure of wrapping each and everyone one of those!) and some had as few as 10. An important rule was that people couldn’t touch the parcel before taking off a layer, because you could feel which ones had a lot of padding… And that would be cheating…

And so, once the speeches were done, our little corner of fun opened up and it was so exciting for Gabi and I to see the great response to our idea. Not to mention the gratification for the seemingly endless hours we spent wrapping… Here are a few of shots of the first people to partake:

Here’s a picture of the very first winner, who won a $500 gift certificate to William Ashley! Look at the smiles on their faces — one of the best parts of this game was how people reverted to their childlike selves:

Next I’m going to show you an uninterrupted series of pictures of a woman who THOUGHT she’d won, only to discover that we’d tricked her. Here’s the reason: some of the wrapping was getting so thick (and you could visually tell there were a lot of layers on there), that we started putting boxes inside boxes, so that we could start with a clean slate, wrapping wise. Watch the progression of her experience:

What a fun part of the night it was — people LOVED it and it created excitement all ’round. We sold out of leaves sooner than we ever could have imagined; the response was that enthusiastic. Gabi and I looked at each other at the end of the evening and said, “Could you imagine how much more we could’ve raised if we’d had more prizes and more people to help us wrap these damn boxes?!!” Alas… It’s good to set goals and now we have something to work towards for NEXT year!

Very sincere thanks to our friend T.H. Jackson Huang from IKONICA for donating http://www.buy-trusted-tablets.com his time and talent to take photos for us. And to DJ Michael Coombs for spinning the tunes and giving the space a great atmosphere from the moment it kicked off. And to Gisele Sterling from Sterling Kjargaard for tying all those ribbons on the leaves, making our tree and for working so tirelessly, even with such a small budget. Go team!