Gala Worst Practices
Continuing our series of “worst practices” blog posts, below is a partial list of things to avoid in producing a gala fundraising event.
· Only giving awards to major donors or board members. Resist the temptation to honor people who already get attention and mentioned for what they do. It is seen as poor taste.
· Losing money on the event, but convincing yourself that it doesn’t matter because there were other peripheral benefits. If you know in advance that an event will not make money (maybe it is the first year or maybe a powerful guest speaker cost a lot) that is fine…once. I have seen many organizations convince themselves that the good will and press attention justifies poor revenue generation.
· Letting people sit wherever they want. Put some thought into where your sponsors, volunteers and those with complimentary tickets are sitting. Make sure important guests feel that way.
· Not planning proper lighting, sound, stage, lights, coat check, and other logistics. It’s an event. Invest in it sounding and looking good.
· Taking too long at the microphone. People don’t come for long speeches from the organization or your honorees (there are rare exceptions for Presidents and rock stars).
· Settling for anything that is lower quality, including food or service, because you are a charity
· Assuming that the silent auction logistics will be smooth. Connecting a winner to their prize is harder than you think. I have literally seen a log jam at the end of the night because bid numbers, names, and items were not connected in a way that made sense. It was a disaster.
· Withholding food from guests for more than 30 minutes while people speak from the stage. Put yourself in the shoes of the guest.
· Failing to greet or say farewell to your guests. Invest in volunteers to warmly welcome and send off your guests.
· Failing to make a successful ask in the room. You have your supporters all in one place. Not planning a stellar ask is a huge missed opportunity.
· Failing to update and gather additional contact information from your guests. Events aren’t just for fundraising. These are your most engaged people, make sure you update your contact info from them as they arrive.
· Not sending out attractive invitations far enough in advance of the event. Even if “scrappy” is your thing, don’t assume that works for galas or major donors.
· Forgetting to do a “walk through” and simulating how the evening will run. Plan for noise, delays, crowd, time for awardees to get to the mic, step and repeat, registration, and much more.
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