The conditions inherent to any off-year summer can be a challenge for fundraising. The election seems light-years away for the average voter, and the interest and urgency that can drive contributions often has yet to materialize.
And that’s true in a “normal” off-year. Add to the mix that we’re just now beginning to emerge from pandemic restrictions, and the current campaign landscape is genuinely unprecedented.
Yet, this unique situation also provides candidates with an unusual opportunity. All of us have been cooped up at home to varying degrees over the last year-plus, often deprived of many of the activities that we enjoy most. That means people are more eager to get out and have fun, giving campaigns a chance to capitalize on events in ways that they might otherwise not in a more typically slow, off-year summer.
With that in mind, here are eight great ideas for end-of-summer events that can help candidates maximize this unusual opportunity.
1. A Rooftop or Box Party to Watch a White Sox or Cubs Game: Socialize and unwind over a few cold ones as the Sox make their postseason push or commiserate with Cubs fans about the dismantling of the 2016 champs. A baseball game, especially one viewed on a pleasant summer evening, is an ideal, laid-back gathering that’s a blast for sports fans and non-fans alike.
2. Chicago Architecture Tour: The beautiful architecture of the Windy City provides an ideal backdrop for a riverboat excursion. This is one of the most popular attractions in Chicago, having seen more tourists than even the Vatican in recent years. It provides an unorthodox and extremely scenic way to host an event, with ever-changing scenery and breathtaking views.
3. Cantigny Park: This sprawling facility provides an extremely versatile location for a summer outing, with picnic grounds, gardens, museums, and the stunning 27-hole Cantigny Golf Club. Whether an intimate garden get-together, an enjoyable and educational museum party, or a golf outing, Cantigny Park has something for everyone.
4. Local Forest Preserve and Picnic Areas: After a year of social distancing, masks, and only spending significant time with people in your own household, what could be a better return to normalcy than a good, old-fashioned, summer cookout? Rent an outdoor pavilion or a tent, throw in some games and activities that everyone can enjoy, add a grill to the mix, and you’ve got a perfect combination for summer socializing.
5. Local Concerts: With large events beginning to make a welcome comeback, a lot of localities have resumed the practice of holding summer concert series in a park or the town square. Another terrific option for a get-together or fundraiser is to reserve a seating area or tent at one of these concerts. You and your guests will be able to enjoy a more relaxed evening with drinks, food, and music.
6. Navy Pier Party Yacht: Treat your supporters to an upscale day or evening on beautiful Lake Michigan. Rent a yacht with a full-service bar and catering and enjoy the stunning Chicago skyline. The party yacht experience can have a laid-back vibe for a more traditional crowd, or you can put a little more emphasis on the “party” component to appeal to a younger-skewing demographic.
7. Chicago Crime and Speakeasy Tours: Take advantage of Chicago’s fascinating and sometimes-infamous history with a private tour that explores the city’s most notorious figures, such as H.H. Holmes, Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti. Considering Illinois’ history with criminal politicians, this event is easily branded to be both fun and relevant.
8. Parkway Bank Park: Looking for a hidden gem that has it all? Look no further than Parkway Bank Park. You and your group can enjoy anything from indoor sky diving to a Chicago Dogs baseball game. Food options are plentiful, including the famous Hofbrauhaus. Then, after dinner, you can enjoy a night of music at Joe’s Live or a comedy show at Zanie’s Comedy Club. No matter the group, Parkway Bank Park allows you to put together an itinerary that’s sure to be a winner.
No matter whether it’s one of these ideas or one of your own, the key to hosting a successful fundraising event in Q3 this year is making it an entertaining and memorable experience for supporters.