Planning your First Gala?
by Karen Perry-Weinstat
Whether it’s your organization’s first gala, or simply your first time planning a gala, proper planning goes a along way. Sharnell Bryan of The Chronicle of Philanthropy shares advice from people who have run special events to help make your first gala a success:
Form a committee: Form a committee early (9 months to a year prior to event) and be sure to include people who have large networks of friends and professional associates, as well as experience in planning events. Mix trustees with staff members and rank-and-file volunteers who have a true passion for your mission.
Choose event wisely: Plan an event that is related to your organization’s mission. A charity’s locale and its ties to community groups play a big role in what sorts of fundraising events will be successful, in terms of attendance, sponsorships and fundraising potential.
Estimate potential return on investment: Research is important when choosing a fundraising event to determine an event’s costs, feasibility and likely success. Events that honor a prominent local leader generally make money, as long as expenses stay lean.
Budget carefully: Experts suggest establishing a budget for the event before doing anything else. Start with the biggest expenses, such as food, beverages, catering, location and marketing.
Reserve a location well in advance: Space should be secured up to a year in advance — as soon as the organization has established a firm date.
Delegate intelligently: Some tasks are ideal for volunteers, such as stuffing envelopes, checking arriving guests into an event, selling raffle tickets, and preparing gift bags. Staff members are best suited for responsibilities requiring greater accountability, like managing the charity’s donor information.
Seek sponsorships: Corporate sponsors can help defray the cost of the event. Nonprofit groups have to make it clear what benefits the sponsor will receive, as they will expect meaningful of recognition in return for their donation.
Spread the word: What good is an event, if people don’t know about it? Charities can get free publicity by persuading local newspapers and websites to post announcements. Post information about the event on an event page or website. Send out email blasts and post about the event on social media, and encourage others to post socially, as well.
Expect the unexpected: Even after all the planning is done, don’t get complacent on the day of the event. Even the best-laid plans can still go awry. Be flexible and expect some glitches.
Remember the mission: Taking time to remind attendees about the charity’s mission will make the occasion more meaningful. Attendees should know why they’re there and the positive effect their support will have.
Give thanks: Let donors, staff members, and volunteers know that their support is appreciated. The follow-up after the event is the most important part. It’s the most fertile period for cultivating those who attended and thanking the people who helped put the event on.
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