The end of the year is rapidly approaching, so I thought I’d keep this issue of Extreme Fundraising light-hearted. Read this posting from Amy Kincaid and her Fundraising Breakthroughs blog gave me the fodder for this riff. This was posted on her blog:
Quotable excerpts on the danger of “fundraising” galas by leading advisors to nonprofits. From a thread last week on Charity Channel.
“I refer to galas as the ‘hail mary pass’ of the fundraising world. When the clock is running and you don’t think you have the time, energy, expertise, or money to engage in a more effective means of fundraising, someone decides it’s time to do a gala…
“…just about ANYTHING makes more sense than an event as a fundraiser.”
—Renata J. Rafferty the author, “Don’t Just Give It Away: How To Make the Most of Your Charitable Giving”
“I would define a gala or other fundraising event as an event that has nothing to do with your mission, or so little to do with your mission that a funder would laugh if you tried to fund it as a real mission-related activity.”
—Hildy Gottleib, the the author of “FriendRaising: Community Engagement Strategies for Boards Who Hate Fundraising but Love Making Friends“
What do you think? Are your galas the last gasp of your fundraising?
Based on my recent experience with the Fall Pops Concert we held last month, galas work for certain organizations, especially if fundraising is not the only goal. We ran a concert with musicians from the Bangor Symphony Orchestra. Since this was our first, it took up my bandwidth for some of the entire year but totally dominated my fall.
And in our case, this was worth it. We raised $35,000 for a one night event. It looks like we’ll clear about half of that–generally consistent with national averages.
Since this was our first time, we did some things we won’t have to do next year. That will help us decrease the cost of the event. (Of course, if we factored in my salary, this event, like practically all fundraising events, wouldn’t have raised much if any money.)
As important to us as the money we raised is thatÂ we sold 435 tickets. That’s 435 people from our service area that came to an Inland benefit event. Some came because of Inland. Others came because of the BSO (our BSO, not the Boston Symphony Orchestra!).
Whatever the reason, that is 435 people from the community that pitched their hat in our ring. And it created incredible buzz in our region. People are still talking about it. I’m hoping that will significantly improve response to our year-end appeal that’s going out this week.
So here’s my current take on gala’s: they are the last gasp if it’s the only thing you’re doing. If your board is desparate and is saying, “Let’s do something!”
But they can be helpful if they’re a strategic part of a comprehensive fundraising and community relations program. And if you don’t factor in salaries as part of the expense!
Marc, you hit the nail on the head with your statement: “galas work for certain organizations, especially if fundraising is not the only goal.” It definitely depends on the audience…high society types usually love gala events and are still big individual givers.
Your recent event gave you a chance to make a big impression on a lot of people, initiate new relationships and at least a brief chat with ones you already know.
I think where some organizations falter is deciding to do that big event every year. For some groups that makes sense but others it doesn’t. And after doing this event you know how much WORK they are!
That’s a great point. Sometimes doing this annually can be too much of a good thing!
I think that holds true not just for galas but any periodic event.
At the dance studio where my daughters take lessons, they produced a jazzed up version of the nutcracker ballet. It was great.
It became an annual thing and each year, less people have attended. One parent suggested that they should probably do it every two years.
When I started hosting chess tournaments, I did it on a monthly basis. After several months, attendance also started to dwindle.
Now, I do it on a quarterly basis. That has worked out a little better.
Maybe you just have to space them out a little more although once a year seems like a good number.