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Five Tips for a Better Gala
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Posted: 5/31/2016 3:37:49 PM

Five Tips for a Better Gala

Fundraising events in New York are often held in the spring and fall, which means this year’s gala season is fully upon us! We’ve planned galas for many different clients, and we’ve observed a thing or two about what works well for a successful evening of fundraising. Here are a few key tips to consider when planning your next gala!

  1. DO give your guests plenty of time to arrive and socialize.
    Galas are part of the city's social season for a reason. These events are an opportunity for guests to enjoy each other's company and network. A reception that’s too short can put a damper on the overall social atmosphere.
      • TIP: When it's time to begin the program, ask the table hosts to gently lead their guests in to dinner. This encourages guests to get to their tables in a timely and respectful manner.
      • Bonus tip: Consider having a marching band lead the way…

    Guests are greeted by a drum line on the flight deck. (Photo by Romina Hendlin)
  2. DO keep the items in silent auctions tightly curated and cohesive.
    We’ve seen clients get bogged down by having too many items to manage. If you have to devote an entire team to organize, track and ship multiple items, consider whether it’s really worth the resources, especially when the margins for returns on your investment may be slim.
    • TIP: Packages of several items bundled together tend to have more traction than auctioning individual items on their own—after all, it’s not a flea market!

  3. Silent auction displays in hangar 2.

  4. DO keep your speaking program brief, on message and to the point.
    Easier said than done, we know, but long programs tax the attention spans of your guests, diminishing their enjoyment of the event in general and potentially compromising your organization’s ability to meet its fundraising goal.
    • TIP: To cut down on the lineup at the podium, cut out the introducers for the introducers (who then bring on the guests of honor). A simple “voice-of-god” announcement along with a title card on screen will do the trick.
    • Bonus tip: With a prerecorded message, you never have to worry about running over time.

    Gala presentations in hangar 3. (Photo by Sarah Merians)
  5. DO use technology to turn your guests into active fundraising participants.
    Smartphones will be ubiquitous at events—even at high-level galas. Instead of asking guests to put them away, encourage and direct their use through social media, online auction bidding and text-to-pledge engagements. These tactics extend the reach of your organization’s message and fundraising potential beyond the scope of the immediate audience.
    • TIP: All of these can be set up in advance and promoted before, during and after the event!

    Text-to-pledge is promoted during dinner in hangar 3. (Photo by Sarah Merians)

  6. DON’T forget the “FUN” in fundraising.
    Want to retain guests from one year to the next and expand your audience? Provide the right amount of entertainment and fun so that guests can’t wait to come back! An after-party with lively music—a band or a talented DJ—will inject excitement and energy into even the most formal of galas and give your guests lasting memories.

    Left: Dancing on stage after dinner. (Photo by Sarah Merians)
    Right: After-party with a DJ on the flight deck.