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My Tips on Fundraising Events & Galas: Part 1

Cal Shakes Gala 2017 Placesetting

This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

We have a doozy of a topic this month, friends. We love ‘em, we hate ‘em, we love to hate them: it’s fundraising events and galas.

But they don’t have to make us tear our hair out! There are a few things to do to help us maintain sanity and make sure our event is a success.

Before you do anything else: establish a goal. Do you want to build relationships with your current donors? Do you want to engage new supporters? Something else? This will help shape a lot of your decision making.

Also remember that the event is just a blip in a donor’s experience with your organization – so consider the entire experience (before, during, and after the event) for the guests.

Now: let’s get to the event! Make sure that you are illustrating the impact that your donors have through their participation as a supporter.

  • Make sure you have visuals that illustrate impact: ideally, display boards with personal stories or quotes and a photo.
  • If your event has a speech component, make sure there aren’t too many talking heads. Including the board chair and executive director is nice, but make sure to have a testimonial of some kind that illustrates impact.
  • If you’re doing a video, focus on the story, and keep it short and sweet, but from the heart. It’s always nice to have the person who is featured in the video there in person, if possible.
  • If you are going to have clients at your event, make sure they are not used as props. Assign them to a staff member they are comfortable with, who will show them around and introduce them. Do not relegate them to a table in the back or ignore them. Incorporate them into the event in a way that feels celebratory and comfortable, but also natural.

Once you have those elements in place: focus on the guest experience.

  • Have great customer service. No matter what is happening behind the scenes, everyone interfacing with attendees should have a smile and an attitude of gratitude.
  • Start and end on time. If you’re having a cocktail hour, be transparent with your guests about the fact that there is an hour of networking before the program begins. Whatever schedule you sent out, stick to it, even if it means shortening some speeches. No one wants to feel as though their time isn’t valued.
  • Keep an eye on quality – to an extent. There’s a delicate balance of investing money in a quality experience but also not going overboard. Make sure that you show that you are using donor dollars in a responsible way.

Stay tuned for Pt 2 next week!

-N.C.