A next-generation organizer shares his tips

LightbulbTimes certainly have changed in the last decade when it comes to charity galas. It seems like every charity – big and small – now has some form of gala, and for good reason. Done properly, galas can be a great way to raise a lot of money in one evening to support your cause.

I’ve led the Regent Park gala committee for two years on behalf of www.3to6team.org,
a group of young professionals who work with the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment
Foundation to fund after-school programs for over 3,000 youth in the Regent Park area of
Toronto. I hope this article will give you some insight into what organizers think about.

The Big Draw
Every gala today needs some draw to the event, whether it’s a local act, singer, or entertainer. If it’s a focused gala with a targeted audience, this may not be as important, but if it’s a gala where ticket sales will be open to the public, a strong entertainer or act will clearly help sell tickets, raise money for the charity and create a strong “buzz” about the event.

The Cost
Depending on who you are trying to target, the price point is incredibly crucial. Make it too expensive and you may lose your target market. Make it too cheap, and the attendees may not feel the pressure to buy tickets until the very end, which is an organizer’s nightmare. Today, for the young professional audience, gala prices generally range from $85 to $150.

The Value
The next logical item on this list would then be the value. As a guest, do I perceive I’m getting value for the money I paid for the ticket? Yes the money is going to charity, but guests still need to feel that their time and money were well spent. Difference-makers in this category could be items like an open bar, food service, celebrities in attendance, a good Silent Auction, and grab bags at the end of the evening, to name a few.

The Venue
Location certainly does play a factor in drawing people to the event. Many organizers spend a little more in order to be in a “trendy” location or new venue. It’s always tough to gauge precisely if that affects the amount raised and if the cost is worth it in the end, but it is something to keep in mind.

The Brand
Galas are great because, done properly, they can be a consistent part of the guests’ social calendars every year. Easier said than done, of course. But if guests leave feeling they were a part of something special, had a great time “partying for a good cause,” and tell their friends about it the next day, then the event has accomplished what guests had hoped for.