After two years of lockdown and restrictions on large group gatherings, people are eager to get out and “do something.”
Many nonprofits hold galas, but several factors are creating headwinds. Seating capacity might be one. Inflation drives up costs which get reflected in ticket prices. The trend towards casual living may mean less people want to dress up.
What are some fundraising alternatives?
1. Picnic auction
My wife and I have seen this done in Brooklyn, NY. The organization invited members to pack a picnic for two and assemble on the meadow at a nearby park. Once everyone was assembled, the picnic basked were gathered in front of the crowd and auctioned off. Attendees packed their own picnics (which they donated) then became the high bidder for someone else’s picnic. The overhead cost is very low because it is literally “self-catered.”
2. Reverse 50/50
You know all about 50/50 raffles. You sell 1,000 tickets at $100 apiece, grossing $100,000. One ticket is drawn, and the winner gets $50,000. The organization keeps the remainder. Although the $100 ticket price is not cheap, your odds of winning are better than in many lotteries.
The reverse 50/50 is different because the first ticket drawn is not the winner, the last ticket left is the winner. It’s an ideal theme for an informal event with light food, beer and soft drinks. The excitement builds as the odds get better. You are hoping your number is not called until the very last draw is over.
3. Dine around
This event has low overhead costs but requires willing hosts who enjoy entertaining. Several members within an organization agree to host a dinner at their home. Let’s assume eight diners per house and a dozen hosts are involved. Tickets are sold, maybe at $100 each, bringing in $9,600. Everyone gathers at a central location and is handed an envelope revealing their destination house. They each go in their separate directions, regrouping at the twelve houses where they have a three- or four-course dinner. The overhead expenses are low because the hosts are donating the ingredients and beverages.
4. Progressive dinner
This is another informal dining approach. Several hosts with homes a short distance away agree to put on part of a dinner. Ideally the houses are within walking distance. One house does appetizers, another the entrée and a third serves dessert. Diners start at the appetizer house, then move as a group to the entrée house, ending at the dessert house.
You can see how the numbers could be scaled up if you did a first and second seating with two waves of guests making the journey. Costs are low because the hosts are paying for the ingredients.
5. BBQ in a barn
This is a scaled-down gala done as a group event. Someone has a barn, ideally a party barn on their property. The organization arranges for food and beverage stations inside and outside along with ample seating. Everyone shows up, spends the afternoon enjoying beers, ribs and pulled pork sandwiches along with side dishes.
6. Garden party
This could be called an afternoon gala. It’s basically a picnic with a tent and better food.
You rent a big tent, tables, linens and chairs. You bring in a caterer to serve an afternoon meal. There is a program, possibly with a live and silent auction. Here’s an interesting observation: If you say “picnic” or “BBQ” people dress a certain way. Call it a garden party and you see straw hats and blue blazers everywhere.
7. Cocktails at a nice house
This requires a board member with deep pockets and a nice house. They agree to host a cocktail party for 100 people on their property. Tickets are $100 each.
They either invite 100 of their friends or the event is advertised to the membership. Half do not respond, but the other 50 accept and bring someone with them, keeping the number at 100 people. The host covers the expenses. The organization gets $10,000.
8. Farm-to-table dinner
This can be similar to the BBQ themed event, except farm fresh food is substituted for the BBQ. You buy fresh produce from local farmers. You get a respected local chef to prepare the meal. Farm to Table has been a hot concept for several years. You can put a decent price on the tickets because they might sell out.
Fundraising does not always mean organizing expensive galas with many moving parts.
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