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January 31, 2018

Is Your Gala Worth It? Three Ways to Find Out

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, fundraising galas are a part of most fundraisers’ lives.

A gala can be a great way to acquire new donors, get your message out, strengthen your brand, and so much more.

It can also be a major drag on your resources — both financial and human.

We love a good gala, but we do have a bit of a beef with the “sacred cow” nature of the traditional big bash.

We see so many organizations that keep doing a resource-intensive gala year after year because that’s just what they’ve always done. And we see others try to emulate the successful big galas around town and end up just burning out their staff and volunteers.

All fundraising events should be required to pass muster when it comes to achieving a real return on investment, and the gala is no exception.

Here are three critical things to look at when assessing the value of an event:

1. What are your fundraising objectives overall and is a gala the best way to achieve them?

Hint: If your only goal is to “raise money,” an event is not the most cost effective way to do that. All events must have a purpose beyond cold hard cash or they’re not worth it. On the other hand, if your objectives include bringing in new donors and engaging volunteers, a gala might be an option.

2. What is the real cost of the gala (including labor)?

Ouch! This exercise will hurt, but it’s an important one to do. You also need to think about the opportunity cost of what your staff and volunteers are not doing while they’re busy with that big event!

3. How is the gala integrated into the rest of your fundraising strategy?

Do you have a follow-up to convert gala attendees to annual givers? If you have to throw a big party and provide an expensive dinner every time a person gives to you, they may be costing you too much. That sounds harsh, but more often than not, the people who love you will give just because you ask!

A good gala isn’t a stand-alone event. It’s part of a strategic fundraising plan grounded in real numbers and solid objectives. Go in with your eyes wide open!

Hey Colorado readers — we’ll be presenting on this very topic at the Nonprofit Learning Lab on January 31 in Denver. Hope to see you there and learn more about how you’ve made your galas work for you!

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