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How to Host an Effective Fundraising Gala?

Posted on 23 November, 2020 at 14:55

By Kudakwashe Ngoma 

As a non-profit sector player, you're probably aware of the many benefits hosting a fundraising gala can offer. This classic event is often more formal than other fundraisers, with guests like corporate supporters, major donors, community leaders, and board members. With so many important people in one place, your non-profit has the opportunity to state your cause in a compelling way and excite your donors to continue supporting your mission. As a result, fundraising galas require extensive planning to get right. Everything from the venue to the seating arrangements to the check-in process has to be organized well in advance to ensure the success of your fundraiser.

For social entrepreneurs looking to upend the status quo and solve the world’s big problems, holding a fundraising gala may seem archaic or even offensive. Still, non-profit organizations have been holding galas for generations—because they work. Of course, a gala won’t work for every cause or organization. To begin with, your social enterprise must be a non-profit. You need to understand the nature of your cause and cross-examine it with the fundamentals of fundraising gals. In this issue, we shall look at some key points to take note of when planning to host a fundraising gals for your non-profit.

1. Craft A Program That Focuses On Your Fundraising Gala Goals

Your goals are what set the foundation for your gala; without them, you won't have a clear direction or a way to assess your event's success. Whether your goal is to gain funds or gifts from major supporters or celebrate the support and achievements of a recent project, your goals should be an essential part of the planning process. Keep your goals in mind as you plan out the program for your gala. Having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve will help you structure your program to focus on those main objectives. Let's say that your organization is planning a fundraising gala to launch your capital campaign. One of your main goals might be encouraging guests to contribute, thus your whole program should be centred on getting your guests to understand how the funds will actually help change the communities for the better.

2. Decide On Your Fundraising Gala Theme

A fundraising gala theme can add to your event's personality and make the experience more enjoyable for guests. Plus, planning will go faster once you've determined your theme. Think about it this way: you can narrow down your options when picking food, decorations, and venue locations if you have a very distinctive fundraising gala theme in mind. The following ideas can help spark your creativity on working around to create a perfect theme:

·         Black Tie Event — Keep your event simple and classic by sticking to a black and white colour scheme. You can get as creative or unique as you want with this theme as long you keep the contrasting colours constant.

·         Holiday Celebration — If your event is near the holidays, this theme is perfect to get your guests in the giving spirit. Create a comforting environment using rich reds and greens.

These are just a few of the themes your organization can choose. Feel free to create your own theme or pick something that directly relates to your cause.

3. Create A Fundraising Gala Budget and Stick to It

As with every fundraising event, having a definitive budget is crucial if your organization wants a return on investment. A well-thought-out budget should include both estimated and actual costs of expenses as well as your projected fundraising goal. Everything from the decorations to the sound equipment to the catering to the event management software should be documented on your budget with estimated costs for each item. Of course, unexpected expenses or situations will arise; you might have to pay more than you predicted for the venue or you didn't consider the expense to hire a sound crew. Either way, it's important to have a section in your budget dedicated to unexpected circumstances. Predicting the amount of funds you'll spend will help you determine if seeking out corporate sponsors is necessary to stay within budget. 

4. Determine How You Will Accept Donations During Your Fundraising Gala

While registration fees and admission costs may be some of the main ways you generate funds from your event, they shouldn't be the only ways. You should encourage guests to make contributions throughout the event and incorporate other fundraising ideas (charity auctions and raffles) to generate even more funds. Since there is a wide variety of giving methods available, your organization should incorporate multiple options so that there is a preferred process for everyone. Three popular donation methods for events include:

·         Donation Kiosks — These portable donation tools allow guests to contribute using their credit cards. They're often simple and fun to use and perfect for smaller gifts.

·         Text-to-Give — Since it's highly likely that every guest will have their phones, text-to-give is a convenient option that allows guests to give donations of virtually any size in confidence.

·         Mobile Donation Forms — Guests are probably most familiar with using mobile-friendly donation forms. The process is generally short so guests can get back to enjoying your event.

These forms of giving are great ways to encourage donations because they're easy for guests to understand. Make sure to have multiple giving options available as this will increase your chances of reaching (or exceeding!) your fundraising goal.

5. Speakers and Entertainment

Putting on a program that is as fun and memorable as it is inspirational is a key to getting the right people at the event and for getting them to open their wallets once there. From the start of the evening, consider the guest experience for all donors. It is equally important to respect their time, have auctions filled with items that appeal to their tastes, provide a well-timed program and post-event entertainment. Speakers should have a connection to your cause. In fact, your program beneficiaries make great speakers particularly because they can provide the all-important testimonials that can speak to the donors on how worthy your cause is to them and the greater societies. You’ll want to choose those who are willing to accept coaching to ensure that the whole event is flawless.

6. Follow Up

After planning for your big event for a year or more, it is tempting to think of the day after the event as the first day of vacation, but experts caution that following up after the gala is a critical part of the event. Start as soon as possible. If you've thrown a successful event, your guests will be engaged and excited to speak with you. Call and email the next morning. After the gala, ensure that all guests are acknowledged for their support and that they are aware of updates of future gala dates using email and social media correspondence. It is imperative to note that everyone who buys a ticket or attends the gala provides some contact information; and your team should follow up with everyone through sending letters to everyone who attended, expressing appreciation, reporting on the total raised and crediting them with the event’s success. The follow through really needs to continue throughout the year, updating guests on the use of funds, progress made and plans for the next event. It is also encouraged to share photos of the event on your website and social media. Tagging guests in their photos can help them feel appreciated in the days following the event. The faster such photos are posted, the better.

Good luck with your fundraising.

NMap Technologies