10 Questions Nonprofits Should Ask When Planning a Gala

As the peak of the Summer is nearing, many corporations and non-profit organizations just like yours are starting to think about their annual appeal and chances are, they are also thinking about next year’s gala. While silent auctions, donning black ties and evening gowns, and deciding on fish or chicken cannot be discount from the list of important line items for a gala, there are a few things to take into consideration and ask when planning a gala:

1. What Is Your Goal? 

It is important that the key decision makers of your organization share the same understanding of what you are looking to achieve. Nice corporate parties have their place, but a gala is your golden opportunity for fundraising. It is critical that you or your event planner create a meaningful experience — one that balances fun with cause-related messaging — to encourage attendees to open their wallets and bring friends along next time.

2. Who Is Your Target Audience? 

When planning a gala, defining your goal and your audience drives everything else you do. For instance, an event geared toward major gift donors will have a much different feel than one geared toward long-time volunteers. The nature of your audience will impact programming, entertainment, the type of ask, ticket pricing and so much more.

3. Where Should You Hold the Gala?

Some of our clients like to host eventsown on their site so that donors can see the state-of-the-art facilities and equipment their support helped make possible. Depending on your goal and audience, a high-end venue might be a better fit

4. What Date Should You Select for the Data?  

When considering a date for your gala, staying away from galas during the holidays is e best advice. Many people are busy during the holidays, so that’s generally not the best time to host a gala. No matter what the season, be mindful of what else is going on — whether it’s other local charities holding events or a national celebration like the Super Bowl. Be sure to pick a date well in advance so you can line up a venue, catering,and entertainment as well as get on board members’ calendars, and send “Save the Date” notices as early as possible. Don’t forget to look at the Jewish holiday calendar as well.

5. What Types of Activities and Entertainment Should You feature? 

Again, consider your audience. A wealthy, older crowd will be comfortable in a traditional setting, with a formal sit down dinner and tasteful Jazz quartet. On the other hand, an audience that is young and hip will prefer a more casual environment with alternative or mainstream music. The more you are able to connect your mission to the entertainment, the better. For example, an organization that provides micro-finance loans to woman in Africa might choose an African women’s choir to sing traditional music during the gala. .

6. What’s Your Budget, and Can You Handle the Upfront Expenses? 

No organization wants to lose money on a gala. Do your homework upfront so you’re aware of all possible costs, and then stick to the budget. Hiring a professional corporate event planner is highly advised so they can assist in referring you to the right vendors, hand deposits and costs negotiations with the venue, catering and entertainment — that are due months in advance. Hiring an event planner ,who comes with experience and a Rolodex of vendors and contacts who can create an experience for your guests and take a big load off of your hands so you can focus on the fundraising is highly recommended.

7. What’s Your Income Model? 

A lot to think about here. Sponsorships allow businesses the opportunity to align themselves with your cause and help defray your expenses. Ticket pricing, of course, is key. Keep an eye on what other local charities have charged for similar events. And think about what your invitees will be willing and able to spend to attend.

8. How will you get the word out?

Will local magazines and TV stations donate free advertising? are you including social media as part of your campaign? What kinds of PR tactics can you employ? How will you tell your top donors about the event? A strong marketing plan will address these and other questions.

9. What Messages Do You Want To Communicate During the Event?

When considering the message you are communicating, the focal point should be one that will be heartfelt, moving and meaningful when delivered. If high-end donors are your audience, you might aim to convey the fruits of their generosity, such as research advancements, community outreach goals met or capital improvements. And remember: don’t be shy about asking for money. Be direct in your ask and communicate how gifts will be put to good use.

10. How Can You Connect Attendees With Your Cause? 

This ties in with my above point about creating a meaningful experience for your guests. Reinforce to attendees the importance of your cause and why their support really matters. You may consider a larger budget for video, visuals and editing in order to convey the “story” or your organization in an impactful video explaining the significance of their contribution. Also, be sure to invite those that directly benefit from your organization’s work; they can meet and mingle with guests, deliver a meaningful keynote address, or offer inspiration to guests.

Stay Fabulous. Be Inspired.

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