Last week I helped plan the best gala ever – well, at least in MY career – and I have been planning events for 17 years! This was the organization’s first gala ever – and they raised over $250,000. That’s net, folks. There were many reasons it was so successful, such as:

Heavy Sponsorship Support – We raised over half of the money before the event ever started with sponsorships. Many of our sponsors were individuals rather than businesses. They invited their guests to come to the event and with so many sponsors, we didn’t have to hustle to sell tickets.

Unique Live Auction Items – Every one of our live auction items were very unique experiences you can’t just “buy” because you have to have the right connections. That’s a formula for a great live auction. And we kept it short – only 7 items.

Small Silent Auction – We had over 200 guests, but we only had 23 silent auction items. We focused on nice packages, but the range in starting bids went from $75 – $3,000. The guests could spend their time visiting with friends instead of shopping and there was lots of competition for everything.

Specific Special Appeal – Our special appeal (paddle raiser) was for something very specific that people could see and touch. We started the appeal right after an emotional and heartfelt story. We also secured a hefty gift toward the project before the event, which we announced that night to get off on the right foot. The bid cards were flying and we exceeded our goal.

Open Format – We decided to skip the formal seated dinner and went for food stations and passed appetizers with an open bar (wine and beer only). This approach made it fun for our guests and helped the event to end much earlier than it would otherwise.

Excellent Vendors – We spent money where it counts. We hired a professional auctioneer (a must for a live auction) and brought in our own sound to make sure the auctioneer could be heard. The food was terrific and so was the venue.

Overall Expenses Low – Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t spend money unnecessarily. We saved money on wholesale flowers and a volunteer who did the decorations, basic table linens instead of something unique, a nice menu that wasn’t extravagant, a professional and affordable designer, and donated desserts.

It should go without saying that all of this was only possible because of a very dedicated and organized staff and volunteer committee. It was a pleasure to work with them and I feel fortunate to be part of helping them make a huge impact in our world. I am available to coach organizations on how to host a successful fundraiser. Contact me if you’re interested!