As was suggested in one of our recent LinkedIn discussion questions, some employees feel an obligation to attend their organization's annual gala even if it's not exactly the way they want to spend their evening. While they are a time-honored method of increasing awareness and raising money, some would argue they aren't really worth all the hoopla.
One person who holds that view is Steve Klingman, who wrote in his book "Fundraising Strategies for Community Colleges" that nonprofits should consider scrapping the gala altogether and replacing it with an annual fund campaign. While he acknowledges the positives of galas -- fundraising, showing the flag, cultivation, recognition, volunteer involvement and people having a good time -- he maintains those good aspects are overwhelmed by negatives:
- A gala event has a low yield as a fundraising vehicle.
- A gala saps annual fund dollars. Rarely do event-driven programs coexist with robust annual fund dollars.
- A gala pre-empts other fundraising efforts for a significant portion of the year.
- When staff time is added in, net revenue is too low.
- A gala focuses donor attention on the event rather than the mission.
- A gala distracts volunteers from more beneficial involvement. Using them to make annual fund calls is much better use of their time.
- Donors quickly forget a gala.
- A gala is expensive to produce. The cost of such items as dinner, facility and balloons can easily eat up 50 percent of each ticket.