Here’s a fun new idea for ways to engage nonalumni major donors: invite them to a great conversation. The University of Houston has been running “The Great Conversation” fundraiser for 22 years, which is a hybrid between a dinner party and a college seminar, and it raises $300,000 annually. As the hosting dean of the Honors College puts it, the event lets “a small college play an enormously big role in the cultural and intellectual life of the city.” Donors purchase tables based on topics and fill them with acquaintances interested in engaging and lively conversation.
A faculty member typically leads the discussion, but cannot lecture. Topics are far ranging and the conversation is modeled after the Socratic method of dialogue between a professor and students. In the past, the University of Houston’s event has touched upon the United States policy regarding the Middle East, PBS’ hit series Downton Abbey, and the craft beer movement. While the topics drive the discussion, the title is what brings in the debaters.
If you’re looking for a great way to engage a crowd of intellectuals who are often looking for greater stimulation, perhaps something like “The Great Conversation” could work for you. Visit the University of Houston’s page for more details and ideas for topics and conversation.