The March 29 article regarding the value of galas (“Charities Rethinking the Value of Galas”) covers Asset STEM Education’s decision not to host a fundraising gala, in favor of a letter writing campaign.
Though the major factor behind a gala event is to raise funds, it is not the only purpose. A total focus on letter writing and email campaigns to boost donations could turn out to be a long-term disaster for some organizations. Simply put, there is no substitute for direct interactions with donors and patrons.
Pittsburgh is the No. 6 city in the country for charitable giving, according to Charity Navigator. This is largely because of donors interacting with other like-minded people at fundraising galas.
Many factors influence the outcome of a gala, including accurately identifying your audience, earning the compassion of supporters without eliminating a celebratory atmosphere and exposure beyond the event itself through media coverage. Often, engaging an event planner who specializes in fundraising can make a huge difference toward achieving a highly positive financial result.
The kind of networking that takes place at galas is hard to recreate. It is no coincidence that we see many familiar faces at events. They support each other’s causes. It’s where new board members, committee heads and chairs emerge.
Casual gatherings like races or golf outings, as the article suggests, can be very effective as well. However, to infer that galas are too expensive and don’t allow for enough donations to justify their existence is to look at a book cover and disregard the full story within.
Upper St. Clair
The writer is founder and owner of Sammar Accessories, a silent and live auction fundraising company.