Planning a charity gala can seem pretty daunting at first. But don’t worry, there are a few essential steps you can take to ensure you cover all your bases when you are in the thick of the preparation phase.
With this comprehensive list of steps for how to plan a gala, you can stay organized, stress less, and look forward to having a great time at your event!
The first thing you will need to do is set a fundraising goal and budget for your charity gala event. You will want to get started with this step at least a year in advance. Something to keep in mind is that you will want to offset the cost of the event (including venue rental, decorations, food, entertainment, etc.) while still raising an ample amount of money for your cause.
Next up, consider the date you want to hold your charity gala event. There are many factors that go into determining the appropriate date for your event. This is another step you will want to take about one year in advance. If your event is a recurring one and you have a guest list that is expecting the fundraiser to come up at a certain time of year, you may want to keep your date as-is.
However, if this is your first time planning a charity gala, you will want to be sure that the date you select does not overlap with any holidays or other major events. You will also want to ensure that executives, members, volunteers, recurring donors, and other key players in your nonprofit organization book the spot in their calendar in advance. As these folks all have important roles to play, you won’t want them to be double-booked during your charity gala.
A step you will want to take several months to a year in advance is to involve your stakeholders. You will want to make sure that your nonprofit’s executives, board members, and committee members can commit to bringing in funds and donations for the event. As charity gala fundraisers are often how nonprofits can secure large donations, it is essential to tap into donors within the networks of the key players in your organization. Keep in mind that you will want to be sure to coordinate with everyone involved so that your organization is not soliciting donations from the same potential donors.
Ideally, you will want to have clear deadlines set for each key step in bringing your event together. One helpful way to do this is to create a spreadsheet with your list of steps to accomplish, including when you want to have contracts signed, promotions started, branding completed, solicitation communications sent out, and ticket sales opened. If you are outsourcing any tasks or services, be sure to leave some extra buffer time in your spreadsheet. Life happens, and the best thing you can do is prepare for the unexpected!
One of the many moving parts in preparing for a gala fundraiser is securing a venue, caterers, technical teams, and talent such as musical guests. At least eight months in advance, you will want to make sure that your venue is booked, and that all other proposals are prepared to send out. As you represent a nonprofit organization, you may be able to negotiate the price of certain services, or even have some services donated. Be sure that contracts for most of the services your gala will require are signed at least six months before the event.
Between four and six months in advance, you will want to have finalized your communication tools. This includes having sent out all of your solicitation letters and packages to potential sponsors. Further, you will want to have created your visuals and branding. For this task, it helps to work with a professional graphic designer, and possibly be able to get their services donated to your cause.
Ideally, no later than three months before the event, you should have sent invitations for your event to your nonprofit organization’s network. The sooner the better so that potential attendees can reserve the space in their calendars.
You will also want to open up ticketing as far in advance as possible so that you can have all of your seats reserved and resources prepared. One of the easiest ways to sell tickets in an organized and efficient way is to leverage an online ticketing system. Free online ticketing platforms like Zeffy can allow your nonprofit organization to save up to thousands of dollars on platform and transaction fees, all while streamlining your fundraising event ticketing process.