Is your non-profit considering hosting a fundraising gala? Or do you have a donor who would like to host a fundraising event for your organization? Though planning and executing a fundraising ball takes a huge amount of time and effort, a successful fundraising ball is a unique way to interact with donors and raise funds for your cause—if planned correctly, step by step, with a clear goal in mind.
Don’t rush out and book a venue, or set a date. You need to sit down and ask yourself valuable questions about the crowd you expect, what kind of event they would appreciate, your goals, and what you expect to gain from your event. What kind of action do you expect from your attendees at your fundraiser? Are there other ways you can leverage the event?
Another factor to consider is volunteers. If you need to keep your expenses low, determine whether you have a volunteer base that you can draw from to work at your fundraising ball. Another option is to book a hall that provides staffing, or to start recruiting early (the earlier the better).
Plan your event
Once you define your goal, it’s time to set your event details in stone:
Select your date and book your venue as soon as possible. Once you have these important details confirmed, contact an entertainment agent to book your entertainer. The best acts’ calendars fill up quickly, so act promptly. Hiring an entertainment agent has a few benefits, most notably that an agent can choose the right act for your expect guest demographic. The right entertainment can make or break your event, and reaching your goal.
If you are serving food at your event, determine the amount of your budget designated for appetizers or dinners. For a less expensive option, consider holding your event after dinner and serving hors d’oeuvres and after dinner drinks. If you are serving alcoholic drinks, consult your insurance representative about your event liability coverage.
Draft a promotion plan
Promote, promote, promote, but don’t feel you have to (or should) be the only party promoting your event. Leverage your network, and ask your board members to do the same. Reach out to potential supporters with an integrated multi-channel approach that fits the guests you are trying to attract.
Use social media, save the dates, email marketing, networking, and media for outreach. Ask your board members to sell a certain amount of seats or bring in a specific number of sponsorships. Most importantly, put your promotion plan on paper so your efforts are clearly written out and specific tasks can be designated.
Explore your fundraising options
Don’t be shy about fundraising at your gala. Your guests expect to be asked, and you won’t raise funds unless you do. But you can’t push too hard for donations either. Find the right combination of asking and entertaining to make your gala successful.
Ask for sponsorships and funds prior to the event. Kick start your fundraising before the event begins. Sell tables at your event, if applicable, and sponsorships to local businesses. If you have any honored guests, ask a local corporation to sponsor a table for the guest of honor.
Coordinate a silent auction. Leverage your professional and personal connections, and the connections of board members and volunteers, to solicit items and gift certificates for silent auction packages for your guests. Make sure your packages are appealing visually even if you don’t have all the items to display, and that the silent auction tables are in a prominent location for the guests to find. Have your emcee or entertainers make announcements about the silent auction.
Tie your gala entertainment into your fundraiser. Use your emcee or entertainer to make announcements about your auction or other fundraisers. If you have a unique fundraiser that will take place on the stage, have your emcee or entertainer officiate the fundraiser.
Show your guests the impact they can have. Use displays, slideshows and videos to show what their dollars support. You can also have a beneficiary of your services describe their experience on stage, or tape and edit their testimonial into a video.
Create a dynamic event atmosphere
Guests who are enjoying themselves give more. Choose a theme appropriate for the evening, and hire plenty of entertainers that make the night entertaining and memorable. Don’t feel confined to booking one entertainer or that you have to locate the talent yourself. Contact a talent agent for entertainment recommendations and booking. They have a diverse group of entertainers to choose from, years of experience to draw on and the expertise to make your fundraiser a success.