To be clear, I mean the big Gala or dinner. I mean the event where your guests get all gussied up to spend an evening supporting your organization.
I have heard everything there has been said as to why to not have an event like this:
Too much time.
Too many staff.
Not really worth it.
Time, energy and money can be better spent elsewhere.
All of these can be true. But I believe that they don't have to be true. I believe that the Gala or dinner is not dead. I believe that you can plan a hugely successful event and wake up the next morning feeling really good about it.
Here are some things we do to create an event that rocks it without destroying us, our volunteers or our budget!
Create an event that is as far away from your typical fundraising dinner as possible. Make it fun. Honor someone. Invite someone special to speak.
Get board buy-in. Get them excited about supporting and selling the event. Their support is crucial.
Invite staff to not only be there, but to help with the event. Donors LOVE to engage with staff who are doing the work of the non-profit. Hanging out with staff makes a big difference for donors. Our staff wants to help, and their help doesn't just mean more engaged dnonrs but it also can mean that you spend less money on services that staff can help with.
There are dozens of wonderful companies in your community that want your business. They want to run your auctions, run your check-in, charge your credit cards and decorate your room. This year we are trying something different and inviting staff to run our check-in and check-out as well as being there to support our auctioneer during the paddle raise. I have seen it done successfully before and I really want to try it.
Table sales/sponsorships will make or break the event. If you rock it in sales you have a really good chance of having a successful event. This is an all-hands effort: board, staff, donors, local community supporters, past board members, etc. As someone who very much values relationship, be sure to bring value to sponsorships, real value. Being acknowledged in the program is not really value. Get creative.
Take care of yourself! Self-care is uber important when planning an event.
Location. Location. Location. Plan your event at a hotel or conference space that honors your business and the fact that you are a non-profit. I like choosing a place with a catering sales person who I like to work with and who gets what we want to do.
Continue honoring your donors and supporters. This is big for me all year and I make sure we keep our eyes on this prize when planning our annual dinner. Quick thank yous, immediate invoices when asked for and ensuring all benefits have been taken care of.
A special event such as an annual Gala or dinner can be quite the benefit for your non-profit and your mission and it doesn't have to be a nightmare!
Thanks for reading!