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Designing Large Nonprofit Galas & Fundraisers

April 24, 2015

Large parties are a key component the success of nonprofit organizations. The buzz of a fancy fete equals big press for an organization who is often eager to share their message. A nonprofit can’t survive without supporters and in turn those who sustain the organization need to feel involved. The prestige of a well-placed table, or bidding on a coveted auction item is what makes a patron feel included and appreciated. 

 

So while all the flash of the large scale event is important, the devil (or dollars you are looking to raise) is in the details. You need your guests to feel individually special as well as to create a unique feel to the overall night that sets your party apart from all others. 

 

Here’s how:

 

The Party

Develop a theme that reflects the nonprofit organization, and then have all details reflect that theme. Streamlining creates an organized and sophisticated feel to the event. Utilize all distinct components of the organization and that will invoke exclusivity, making your party stand out.

If the organization is environmental in scope, use recycled paper for all print material and serve a vegetarian or locally sourced meal.


Arts organizations are extremely visual so be sure to include the art and/or artists in the event as much as possible. 


If your nonprofit is a social service organization, say a food bank or homeless shelter, your attendees may not relate directly to the mission. Make sure the logo is utilized and display photos that can visually describe the service. Utilize all distinct components of the organization and that will invoke exclusivity, making your party stand out.


The Ask

 

Galas and fundraisers serve many purposes but the bottom line is that they serve the function to positively impact the bottom line. Attendees know what they are showing up for, so do not be shy about the donation ask. Whether it’s a raffle, a silent auction, a live auction or direct appeal, make sure that message is advertised in the invitation and on the website. 

 

Most importantly, make sure that fundraising details are mentioned throughout the evening. Announce when auctions open and close, whether there are door prizes or raffles and who wins them. Try to create a sense of urgency and exhilaration for guests to be at such an exciting event.

 

Unique Details

 

In a large nonprofit event, no detail is too small. What little token can you offer to attendees that they can only get at your party? Think of a small gift they can take home as a souvenir of the evening. A the gala for a botanical garden, volunteers roam the party selling live praying mantis eggs, elegantly wrapped in silk saches for $35 apiece, and that's something that could be given to high level donors. It’s a one-of-a-kind gift that your guests will never forget-or find anywhere else!

 

It’s true that unique details can come at a cost outside of a nonprofit event budget.  Think of creative ways to cover costs, offer unique sponsorships to patrons you feel might be interested.  One arts nonprofit looks for Photo Booth sponsors, then recognizes them with a special sign on the booth.  It is always worth asking business sponsors as well.  Sometimes businesses are willing to donate their services in turn for recognition at the event or on the organizations website.

 

The Thank You’s

 

Gratitude should be conveyed quickly and sincerely.  This is best accomplished after the event, ideally the next day.  Two quick and meaningful ways is a direct phone call or an email that includes a Thank You video.  You should also praise everyone involved on your website and all social media outlets.

 

Handwritten notes of Thanks are very well received but take longer and aren’t always received very swiftly.  Be sure to thank all auction item donors, committee members, volunteers and anyone else that assisted with your event.

 

Most importantly, parties should be fun!  Don’t forget to raise a glass to yourself for all your hard work.  It’s true, large nonprofit galas and fundraisers are a serious undertaking, but with the proper planning and attention to detail, the event can be a wonderful experience for everyone involved.

 

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