For nonprofits, an annual gala can be a huge event that provides a significant percentage of the necessary funding for the year. But if you’ve never hosted a gala before, you’ll need to do some strategic planning on the front end.
6 Tips for a Successful Gala
A fundraising gala is more than something nonprofits put on their annual calendar. It’s a meaningful event that can make or break a successful year – and it requires purposeful planning and execution.
As you prepare, here are some different suggestions to work through:
- Identify Your Goals
Whether you’re actively raising money for a specific campaign, or you’re gathering donors together to recognize them and collect annual contributions, goals play an important role in the planning process. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to plan a successful fundraising gala without having a tangible and discernable set of objectives.“Keep your goals in mind as you plan out the program for your gala,” DipJar’s Ryder Kessler advises. “Having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve will help you structure your program to focus on those main objectives.”Everyone needs to be on the same page with goals. Even if there are multiple opinions on what the goals should be, everyone needs to coalesce behind the objectives that are identified and put into action.
- Choose the Right Location
The location of the fundraising gala is a key detail that should be fleshed out as soon as possible. Once you have your goals in place, you can narrow the list of potential venues down to the ones that fit your specific needs.Do you want to be indoors or outdoors? How many people will be attending? Do you need parking? Do you have specific needs regarding catering and alcohol? What’s your budget? The answers to these questions will further clarify which venues are realistic options for your event.
- Set a Good Time
With a fundraising gala, timing is everything. It needs to be held at a time that’s convenient for as many people as possible. Think about the time of year, the day of the week, and the time of day.Avoid planning a gala on a date where there are other major events happening in the area. It’s also best to avoid summer when families are often away on vacation. Weekends can be good, but don’t discount a weeknight – like a Thursday – for a more low-key event. Nighttime tends to work best, but there’s nothing wrong with a late afternoon event that wraps up in the evening – particularly if it’s pleasant outside.
- Cultivate Partnerships
When planning and executing a fundraising gala, partnerships are key. You want to make certain that you’re maximizing your budget and building inroads with the community.Try using partnerships to fund part/all of the event. This can be done through ad space and recognition. One of the classic methods is to use a step and repeat banner at the red carpet portion of your event. This makes it easy to give sponsors premium visibility that they’ll be satisfied with.
- Pre-Raise Money
One of the best ways to build momentum prior to your fundraising gala is to pre-raise some money from some of your most loyal donors. When people see that others have already given, they’re more likely to feel compelled to write their own check.
- Do Something Memorable
You never want a fundraising gala to be forgettable. Unfortunately, a lot of nonprofits host boring events that simply blend in with all of the other boring events donors attend. The best way to elevate your nonprofit in the eyes of your donor base is to do something memorable. This may look like hiring an exceptional live band or giving out impressive gift baskets as people leave.
Your first gala probably won’t be something for the record books. You’ll make a handful of mistakes and find yourself in situations where you aren’t 100 percent sure how to handle something. But that’s okay! You’ll have plenty of chances to grow and improve in the years to come. Use this as a learning opportunity and focus on improving with each year’s annual gala. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert with a wealth of knowledge that can be tapped to host powerful and profitable events in the years to come.