That’s because they’ve usually felt necessary, but not particularly interesting.
Let’s be honest: rare are the people who look forward to planning and throwing a gala.
Rare are the people energized by finding sponsors.
Rare are the people who are great at working with crowds of volunteers. (Rarer still those who leave volunteers feeling excited and well-employed.)
Rare are the people who love dealing with rental companies, caterers, and sound systems.
(Tired just thinking about it? Me too!)
If you’re one of those talented and rare people, I salute you!
For most nonprofit staff though, fundraising events feel like time away from their real work.
But they don’t have to be that.
It depends on your goals and expectations.
Here are some reasons fundraising events suck. And some reasons they don’t.
When they suck
- Events take too many staff hours.
- Staff time isn’t counted when evaluating the cost of the event.
- There are so many moving pieces, so many details you need multiple spreadsheets just to start your day.
- Volunteers are key – and working with them requires skill and sometimes patience.
- Something will always go wrong.
- Attendees are often not your donors. For many, your event is a one-night stand.
- Making the event attractive to and useful for sponsors is tricky.
- Haranguing board and volunteers to invite their social circles is tiring for everyone.
When they don’t
- Your event isn’t all about money.
- Your mission is the centerpiece.
- You celebrate volunteers’ work. And focus on the relationships built with them more than the dollars raised.
- The event is well-staffed, so staff have an opportunity to meet and talk with donors.
- Attendees get a chance to see the organization’s impact in person.
- Everyone leaves feeling they’ve accomplished something for a good cause. (Because you’ve spent all night sending that message.)
- Event follow-up is strategic and part of the overall development plan.
The key to a useful event
So the gala is going to happen, regardless. How do you make sure it’s worth it?
I turned to my friend and event specialist, Kristin Beth Ferris of The Ferris Group. (She’s one of those talented and rare people I mentioned, above!)
Her most important suggestion for a successful event?
Focus on your mission.
We suggest our clients think about their mission and what is at their core and incorporate that into their events. Not all galas are created equal – some are glitzy, some are more down to earth, some are techy – it truly depends on the client.
Using cell phones for bidding or pledging can be FABULOUS and streamline your efforts. However, if your crowd is not phone or internet savvy, they may reject the technology. Then you’re disappointed, because it just doesn’t work with your audience.
Keep these two things in mind
- What works at one event will not necessarily work at another.
- With every idea, think of your mission, your audience – does it work for them? It might not.
And a bonus for you:
And here is a thorough primer on event sponsorships from my friends at Accelevents.