Your team has worked tirelessly. They sold out the gala, secured sponsors, prepared scripts, the production is set and the meal is in final preparation. They applied the tips and tasks of Phase One and Two in the event cycle and now it’s time to execute Phase Three: The Experience.
Phase One: Imagine – Who’s Coming to Dinner? Tips for Planning a Fundraising Gala Sample Tip: “Guests want to feel they are experiencing something special while supporting your cause, so make their time with you truly memorable. Plan every detail of how the environment, sound, lighting, staging and program complement the experience.”
Phase Two: Produce– 15 Tips for Producing a Fundraising Gala Sample Tip: “Unless you are going for a medieval feast theme keep your theme balanced and simple so not to overshadow the purpose of your event. Themes can provide inspiration for speeches, menu, propping of the space, event visual identify and creative collateral material.”
Phase Three: The Experience – 7 helpful tips to execute your event
- Prep your people. Prior to your guests’ arrival set aside time to bring your team together to review the program plan, individual staff and volunteer roles, last-minute changes and any special information about guests. Holding the meeting in a 15-minute scrum or stand-up format can help use precious time efficiently, address any team event jitters and identify any last minute details requiring attention. Inform the team of the point person(s) who will host VIPs, liaison with the catering and call the show with the production team. In the final preparation remember to take time to pump up your team, thank them for what they have done and will do to make the event a success.
- Make every step count. What often separates galas from good to great is found in the execution of details. The ease of venue access to being greeted upon entrance, speed of registration check-in to coat check efficiency, and finding tables in a dim-lit room to locating restrooms all represent experiential touch points. Adopting the mindset ‘make every step a guest makes the best possible experience’ will help ensure you have every detail in place.
- Stay true to your program promises. Deliver what you promoted the event to be and fulfill your sponsor agreements. Avoid the common pitfalls of over programming the speeches, content or activities and remain true to start and end time.
- Take the guesswork out of the guest experience. Personally I like to walk through the venue 60-minutes prior to doors opening to find those little things out-of-place or that might create discomfort or confusion for guests (e.g. directional signs, unobstructed pathways, table numbers). Imagining yourself as a guest can help cross check every detail.
- Be selective with solicitation. The core purpose of your gala is to raise funds and friends and neither should be at the risk of the other so consider carefully any additional solicitation. If you have promoted event raffles, pledge drives or auctions guests will come prepared to participate, however keep in mind you are building long-term relationships with new and existing donors and it may be best to reserve some donation requests for post event campaigns.
- Fix without fuss. Even with the best laid plan unexpected things happen. Anticipate the scope of possibilities and be prepared to manage through them. Identify a ‘go-to’ person [other than the lead event manager] who has a deep knowledge of the event, guests, venue and has the skills and demeanor to solve problems quickly. Adopt the all-team goal to achieve a problem free event.
- Thank again and again. Develop a matrix of who, when, why and how individuals and partners will be thanked. The matrix can help to avoid any embarrassment of missing individuals or sponsors .
I hope these 7 tips will help with your fundraising gala. I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas by replying here with your comments.
Look for my upcoming blog on Phase Four: Reflect – Evaluation Tips
Author, Keith D Publicover is a Toronto based Charity Impact and NonProfit Management Consultant with more than 30 years in the Sector. He owns/operates the social enterprise – Resolute Clothing Co which raises financial resources from products sold to support vulnerable youth.