Fall is upon us and in addition to football and PSL, it is High Gala Season from Albany to Alaska. I hope yours is a terrific success, filled with More Fun and More Sharing. I love Galas more than many straight, white, middle aged-ish fellows, due no doubt to an upbringing in the arts and as someone who enjoys a good looking party. Gentlemen, buy yourself a tuxedo and have it tailored correctly. Rentals don’t serve for a fully grown man. Prom was a long time ago, Bro.
A dear friend from a prior career stop reached out recently, flush with success from the most successful Gala to date for her young organization, including a new (and quite extraordinary) paddle auction that raised a pile of cash.
“Bravo!” I replied, “So what does Monday look like?”
Monday After the Gala and the days that follow are some of the most critical times in your fundraising year. If you’ve done the job, your Gala night has energized key stakeholders, introduced your mission to a new prospect pool, and raised a good chunk of cheddar for your operating budget. If you haven’t and missed the revenue target, all the more reason to get back on track with your work.
The weeks prior to Gala have been consumed your team (locust like) with table seating, auction organization, menu struggles, endless trips to Target, and hanging decorations for the Young Person’s After Party. All of this has left your staff team and volunteers in a puddle, worn out and strung out. Ready for a break. But you cannot with this which makes the days after the Gala so precious to the year’s ultimate fundraising success.
Where to begin?
- Take the morning off. The Monday After the Gala should start after 1pm. Let everyone have the morning to sleep in and catch up on life’s business. Managing people is difficult. Nothing builds loyalty from a staff like the magic, “Thanks for tonight and for working so hard on this as a team. I will see everybody Monday afternoon.”
- Document. Staff members are having terrific conversations with prospects and donors, learning new things and advancing relationships, but unless it is documented into your system (whatever that system is) it might as well not have happened.
- Loop in your key volunteers to assess the lessons learned from the event but more importantly to document (similarly) the conversations. Who raised a hand during the paddle auction with gusto? Who was crying at the story of the Labrador puppy that learned to read while Mozart played? Who said, “I want more of this“?
- Set action steps for key prospects. This is the most critical of all. We assemble the right people in a ballroom, get them jazzed, generous and dancing, and then we forget about them on Monday. Events should be thrown to engage new prospects and donors into the cultivation pipeline. Otherwise there are far more effective ways to raise money like $5,000 low carb lunches, right?
- Start the Thank You process, in a hurry. We tend to forget to thank donors who participate in events, buy auction items, etc. because these are not traditional contributions to the annual fund. Your donors probably don’t think of it that way. Whatever fund code the gift goes into, start thanking people as if they gave an unrestricted gift. How would I react if someone called me in thanks for attending a fundraising event? I don’t know. It has never happened.
- Get back on track. Your fundraising plan has probably suffered from the Gala. Direct mail #2 is late, the individual gifts committee meeting was cancelled, and the corporate gifts team spend the last month selling gala tables. So you are behind. Get back on the Annual Fund Bus immediately. It cannot wait one more day.
Happy Gala Season. Save me a dance, and I shall have the duck.