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When Sell, Sell, Sell feels like Hell, Hell Hell.

When Sell, Sell, Sell feels like Hell, Hell Hell.

ticketsTales of a Not-for-profit Gala

You know the drill: rule number one of the “big annual fundraiser” is to SELL SELL SELL. Tickets, that is. And that sure is what it feels like: your volunteers are selling tickets to get bums in seats, to make sure the room is full, to get those tickets out to the “general public” who will definitely be interested in your gala – I mean they’ve never heard of you before, but hey: now’s as good a time as any to get to know your organization, right?


Are you selling tickets, or engaging people to BUY tickets?

If selling tickets feels like a chore have you really thought about who you are selling tickets to? It’s time to switch gears. 

You’re selling tickets if:

  • You don’t care who comes to your event, as long as the ticket sales are strong.
  • You think that “outside marketing” and “big name radio sponsorship” will definitely secure your success
  • You haven’t actually picked up the phone and called any of your key influencers within your community. You’re sure they’ll hear about it with your awesome promotion and communications materials targeted at the general public.

Here’s what getting people to BUY tickets looks like:

  • You can articulate to your volunteer team WHERE the gala proceeds get invested. Bonus points: lead with this info when you talk about the gala.
  • You’re inviting people to buy into what you’re offering with their ticket purchase: a safe haven for abandoned animals, a place where kids can be kids again, access in a small community to a medical machine that will reduce wait times for surgeries by half.
  • Your communications about the event talks mainly about who you help with the Gala. It’s not the Hospital X Gala, it’s the “Gala to keep health care in our community.”
  • Your board understands that their active support of the event – social media, peer group, promotion at work – matters and is integral to the event’s success.
  • You’ve worked from your inner circle – those MOST closely connected to your organization, a.k.a. Board, staff, volunteers, past clients, stakeholders etc – to engage key influencers about HOW buying a ticket makes a difference to your organization. You’ve also personally engaged these people to seek out the support of their friends.

I have strong feelings about this. Galas get a bad rap because they often lose sight of why they exist. Galas do not exist to sell tickets. That’s the fundraising mechanism. Focus on the end-goal: how you make a difference in your community because of the money raised at the Gala.

While you’re at it, lean in and use your Gala as an opportunity to educate and engage your community.

  • Run an activity that helps your audience FEEL a connection to your organization
  • Engage a speaker on a topic of interest for your community
  • Bring the discussion to a higher level by talking about ideas that matter.

Don’t get “sparkles and sequined” out of a great opportunity to connect in a meaningful way over a glass of champagne.

Nobody likes to be sold to. Everyone wants to buy.

Tired of living by the roller coaster Gala event cycle? Check out my Fundraising Fundamentals class to learn about building your very own multi-channel fundraising plan. Staff and volunteers welcome!