Event 360’s expertise is in helping organizations raise money in an experiential way—through consulting on and producing large and small public events such as runs, walks, rides, scavengers hunts, mobile marketing tours, festivals, etc. While we do not offer services for galas, we regularly field questions about this area of event fundraising. These include:
- “What are people willing to pay for my event?”
- “What’s the best way for me to convey the mission of my organization to our guests?”
- “What’s the most effective communication method to the general public?”
- “What will my guests find to be the biggest turnoff at my event?”
- “Is Facebook/ social networking effective?”
- “Do guests expect a paper invitation?”
- “When should I start selling tickets to maximize sales?”
Justin Baer, the founder of CharityHappenings.org jumped in to get the answers to these questions and more by creating a 30-question survey, which more than 850 people responded to nationwide. The full results are published in the CharityHappenings.org 2010 Events Preference Survey.
Below you’ll find some of the most surprising and useful elements for event planners to consider, based on the feedback of many in the philanthropic gala-going community.
- Let the president rest. Attendees don’t want to hear from your organization’s board members or officers. They prefer to hear how your mission is working in a speech delivered by someone who’s affected by the cause you serve. This speech can either be delivered in person or through a video presentation with excellent production values. And always make sure to keep this part of your gala brief.
- Themes work. Event-goers crave an experience that takes them away from their day-to-day lives. Remember, too, that many philanthropists attend gala events to network, and the best way to network is to have fun participating in some kind of shared activity. So yes, costume parties make sense. So do Sock Hops and Western Roundups. Spend your funds on creating atmosphere and magic. That will grow your constituent base and keep people coming back year after year.
- Auction experience. In keeping with the note above, an overwhelming number of respondents indicated that they prefer to buy “unique experiences” such as lunch with someone famous, or tickets to a sporting event or concert. The key word here is participation. Today’s up-and-coming philanthropists crave priceless experiences such as trips, outings, and communal opportunities. Maximize your auction receipts by offering a wide selection.
- Memorabilia for auction must be of excellent quality! This coincides with discussions I’ve held with various event organizers. The memorabilia you auction off must be of choice quality to create the biggest impact and win the most worthwhile bids. If you don’t know what qualifies an item as choice quality, consult an expert. I’ve been very impressed with the work done by specialists like Anthony Nurse at Charity Fundraising Autograph Store. Remember: Success and profitability lies in outsourcing what you don’t know.
- Facebook yes, Twitter no. 98.9 percent of respondents cited email as an “effective to very effective” tool for communicating event information. 94.7 percent offered the same critique for word of mouth. 81.6 percent said the same for Facebook, after which a precipitous drop occurs. Only 32.8 percent of respondents stood up for Twitter.
Download the full copy of the 2010 Charity Event Research Report by clicking here.