5 Simple A+ Gala Tips

For many nonprofits the annual gala is the biggest fundraiser of the year.  I have been to many gala’s and each one seems a remake of the last, but every now and then one stands out from the crowd.  What makes some gala’s worth more than others? And what makes some more memorable than others?  The difference is always in the details, and some of those details are fairly easy to implement.

Here are a few ideas for creating a stand out event, that are inexpensive and effective:

1. Show Me the Way– There is nothing more frustrating than paying a lot of money for a ticket to an event and then not being able to find your seat.  Have volunteers greet guests and show them to their table.  It is an easy way to start the evening off right.  During the trip to the table volunteers can share why you are there, what you are planning to do with the funds raised, and how successful you have been with prior years monies.

2. Breeze On By– Create a simple check-in and check out process for your silent auction.  Insure that you have enough volunteers to man both stations.  You certainly don’t want guests waiting in a long line to check out during the best part of the event or right before they leave the event.  Pre-register guest so that they can be charged while they are at the event without having to wait in line.  Then have them simply pick up any winnings on the way out.

Photo Booths are a fun way to make a gala event memeorable.

Photo Booths are a fun way to make a gala event memeorable.

3. Make It Fun– Do something fun and memorable.  Photo booths are popular right now and they are a great example of adding fun to an event.

4. Surprise and Delight– I like to make sure that each event I do has an element of surprise.  For example, you could purchase keepsakes for each guest, or have a stash of extra drink tickets to pass out during the event (of course, you planned it all along, but the guests don’t know that.)  Maybe a guest appearance by a local celebrity.  FOMO is a very contagious disease.  (FOMO-Fear of Missing Out)

5. Follow-up– I once had the donor of an auction item ask me for a receipt when I picked up the item.  Of course, I happily gave it, but I mentioned that after the event everyone would be mailed a receipt.  She kindly replied that everyone told her that, but almost no one ever delivered them.  Be sure and send hand-written thank-you notes and receipts.

Take-away: What are you doing to make your gala an A+ event?

Galas are very time intensive events, if your organization is making an investment in hosting one, make sure you make it worth it.

Nonprofit Lessons from Black Friday

My favorite (I say that about every holiday) holiday has come and gone.  Yes, I am one of those crazy shoppers who just after saying thanks for all of my blessings embarked upon a 13 hour shopping spree.  It has become a tradition with my family and I love the social aspect of it all; the great deals don’t hurt either.

My Daughter’s Inaugural Black Friday Trip

As I began to plan and prepare for the big day (a week ahead online) I was quickly overwhelmed by the volume of emails I received.  I am confident that I received over a hundred each day.  What surprised me most about this pre-week email onslaught was that I had not received one single email from any of the nonprofits I support.  I figured it must be in spam, but no indeed there was nothing.

Then the big day came, went, and cyber Monday was here.  Again, the emails flowed in and again, not a single email from any nonprofits.

Here’s an idea: if you are a nonprofit that serves children during the holidays, why not ask shoppers to pick up a few extra things for those in need.

Surely, there are nonprofits that sent things out around the big day.  I must have just missed them or maybe they are all waiting for today, Giving Tuesday.   Is your nonprofit doing something to raise awareness or funds today?


1. Make a Plan.  Year end fundraising right now, don’t miss the biggest fundraising opportunity of the year.

2. Jot it down.  Black Friday & Giving Tuesday will be here again before you know it.  These days presents a great opportunity to reach out to your donors that are in the spirit of spending, so don’t forget what could be an important ask for your nonprofit.

The Best $29 Add-On Ever

Today I was asked if I knew of an easier way to remove duplicates from the numerous spreadsheets nonprofit accountants and fundraisers use?

As a matter of fact, I do.  My very favorite add-on of all time is made by Able Bits, and it changed my life. 🙂

Their Duplicate Remover tool lets you remove duplicates from your Microsoft Excel 2010 worksheets or find unique entries in your tables in a breeze (and it really is a breeze).  You can also:

  • Instant search to remove duplicates in 1 Excel table.
  • Use step-by-step wizard to find all Excel duplicates in 2 spreadsheets with different number of columns.  (This feature makes it easy to match constituents.  For example: Assume you had a list of people who donated, but you only had the email address.  With this tool you could match the email only list to your complete donor list to help fill in the blanks on the email list in seconds.)
  • Choose one or several columns for comparison.
  • Delete all duplicated rows; select and color found entries or add a status column; copy or move dupes to another location (I love this feature too.  Let’s assume we have two lists of donors from two events and we want to see how many match.  This feature allows us to compare the two lists and move all the matches to a new location.  In seconds, we end up with all of the donors that were on both lists in a new separate list to follow-up with.  AWESOME!!!)

This tool is a must have time saver for those nonprofit professionals trying to match one list to another for events, solicitations, analysis, and more.

Take-away:  Try the Duplicate Remover for free here!

Three fundraising lessons’s from Apple’s ipad

Raise Funds Faster than Apple Sells iPads

Apple’s iPad has more than 15 million customers, and I have joined the ranks of the 15 million.  I was convinced that I didn’t need an iPad, but now I am not sure how I will live without it.  

As nonprofits, I think we have an opportunity to start thinking more about how we can innovate and borrow best practices from those that are doing it well.   

Mind Map

1. Be cool!

iPads are undeniably the must have gadget of the young and the cool. They are easy to use and visually appealing.  We need to make sure that our organizations are attractive to younger generations. 

Organizations that are doing the work to appeal to younger generations are becoming wildly successful.   If you need an example just take a look at charity:water. They embody “cool”, and they are by no means the largest fundraiser in the space.  They are using their “cool” along with some fantastic marketing strategies to very successfully connect with GenX and GenY donors. 

2. Be fun!

The iPad is used about 1/3 of the time for games.  It is alluring to step into the shoes of a race car driver or a super hero even if it is only for a few minutes. Think about how to make your next event, program, or project fun.  Is there a way you can turn your giving program into a game?

3. Be Shareable!

The Ipad makes it easy to share information. You should do the same for your organization.

Nonprofits can use simple tools like forward to a friend in emails or share in social media icons.   Tools like Sage Fundraising Online shown above allows supporters to promote their fundraising efforts through Facebook and other social networks; or let supporters embed a form directly into their personal website or blog with a simple copy and paste. 

All of these options allow your advocates to share information about your organization easily, just like the iPad!

Take-away: Think of ways you can be cool, fun, and share more with your constituents, and for more tips and to download the full presentation and mindmap visit my slide share account @ “Ipad Like Innovation for Nonprofits.”