3 Ways Your Gala Can Further Your Major Gifts Program

‘Tis the season for galas!


You probably know that galas and other special events can be a heavy lift for any organization, but maybe you haven’t considered ways to maximize benefits beyond the event itself?

With a goal of furthering your major gifts efforts, let’s take a look at these 3 actions related to your next event:

1. Marshall your team to attend your event with a purpose.

Advise your staff and board members that you hope they will do some “work” at your event. I’m talking about the “work” of building relationships with event attendees.

Before your event, make time to go through your RSVP list to see who’s coming and gather additional info about them. Then assign a handful of guests to each board and staff member attending with a directive to casually make contact and engage with these folks during the course of the evening.

Are community VIPs expected? If so, provide your CEO and board chair a sheet pre-event with those people’s headshots and a few sentences of biographical information so they can be prepared. Your team should be good conversationalists, good listeners, and willing to report back on what they heard/learned during the night.


2. Use your event as an opportunity to ask – before, during and after.

You probably have some major-gift prospects you’ve been cultivating for some time, waiting for the right Ask opportunity. Why not ask them for an event sponsorship? Even if they decline, the communication you have around the opportunity is great cultivation.

Along those same lines, consider sending out an annual fund appeal after your gala, targeted solely at those in your database who did not attend. You can share your event’s success and offer them one more chance to get in on the positive momentum.


3. Rally the nonparticipants.

An organization I know once staged a small VIP donor event at a board member’s home the night before their big gala. The invitation list was small and intentionally included only donors and prospects who declined to attend the gala for one reason or another. The gala keynote speaker—an actor from a hit Broadway show—also attended.

The event was a lot of fun, with great energy and so many well wishes for a successful gala. And yes, the group was asked for a gift of money! If another event in addition to your gala sounds crazy, you might be right! But it can be done if you keep it to a simple house party as described here.

In the end, your events, including your gala, are really a mechanism for individual giving and an opportunity to support your annual fund. The value added by events happens before, during and after the actual gala evening.

When you think of a gala in this way, the whole concept seems refreshed, less tired. You can think more creatively about ALL the opportunities a gala offers to further relationships with major donors.

Has a gala furthered your organization’s major gifts program? If so, how? Please share your experience in the Comments box below.


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