Updated: Jan 4
You may have heard – you may have even read on this fine website -- that fundraising galas are dying. I’m here to tell you it’s true. Unfortunately, it gets worse. Earth has a limited shelf life as well, with some experts predicting we may only have 1.75 billion years left on the planet.
Don’t let the naysayers fool you. Galas aren’t going anywhere. They are a critically-important piece of a robust fundraising plan. The key is making sure your gala is a piece of the puzzle, not the entire picture. While galas aren’t going away, the nonprofit which relies solely on special events to sustain the organization will likely become extinct.
Unfortunately, some people are under the misguided impression that fundraising events exist only to raise funds. In reality, galas, golf tournaments, and other special events also help raise awareness. They offer the perfect opportunity to introduce new donors to your cause, to educate a captive audience, to cultivate existing relationships, and to celebrate the impact your organization has made on its community.
Millennials are often weaponized in the crusade against fundraising events. ‘Only 41% are even interested in galas!’ reports the anti-events fundraiser. Well, according to research done by Nonprofits Source, 55% of millennials attend fundraising events. This tracks with Baby Boomers, 58% of whom attend special events, and the 56% of donors worldwide who regularly attend fundraising events, according to Double the Donation. At best, the data is inconclusive. At worst, it’s wishing for an outcome that simply isn’t reality.
Fundraising events are evolving. The pandemic led to improvements in online giving, but virtual events were only a temporary solution. We are social creatures, so "virtual event fatigue" set in pretty quickly. When we returned to in-person events in Florida, the Alpert Enterprises' (my employer) team of live auctioneers broke fundraising records on a weekly basis for months on end. Far from killing special events, the pandemic has served to reinforce their importance.
When done correctly, galas are an important part of an organization’s overall fundraising strategy. So, get out there and party with your favorite charity like it’s 1999. Y2K was a myth, and so is the notion that galas are dying.
Joe Girvan is a licensed auctioneer and fundraising consultant. You may reach him at Joe@AlpertEnterprises.com.