Wilmington is a particularly vibrant place to be when it comes to nonprofit fundraisers; our community is caring, generous and social.
Hopefully, for the guests, a gala feels like a special night out. But as anyone who has worked at a non-profit or volunteered on a board or committee knows, it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to put together a successful fundraiser. We are in the midst of it now, and for those who don’t know what goes into the planning, here are the basics. For those who do, here’s an opportunity to commiserate!
Bringing together good folks who are skilled and believe in your mission is the greatest key to success.
Not so long ago, we had a professional event planner on our board and I marveled at his ability to integrate the big picture and all the many (many!
But whether you have professional support or not, it takes a team. You need volunteers who are creative, resourceful, willing to work hard, responsive, organized and generous with their time and talent. And it really helps if they are enjoyable to be around!
I am deeply grateful to say that we have such a group this year – volunteers who think about every aspect of the guest experience and who want to make this fundraiser genuinely fun.
Date, location, sponsorships, auction items, food, band, decorations… each of these factors can make or break your event.
For example, for 31 years, we had our big annual event on the first Saturday in March. This year, tired of competing with the Duke-Carolina game, we have taken a leap and are planning for September 23. We shall see how it turns out! To some it may seem like a no-brainer, but changing “our day” after 30 years feels significant.
Of course, there are hundreds of other details: permits, table rentals, linens, parking, volunteer coordination, layout of the space, check-in and check-out processes and so many more.
Oh, the things that can keep us awake at night….
Each non-profit has its own “special sauce” for an event. At DREAMS of Wilmington, talented kids perform and display their artwork to inspire the audience. At Full Belly Project, the menu is global to reflect the group’s mission.
For us, the magic is in the details.
If you’ve never read any of the Harry Potter series, our gala will be an entertaining night out, with good food, a popular band, interesting silent auction items and plentiful beverages. But if you do like Harry Potter, this will be a very memorable evening – with all kinds of big and small references to the characters and scenes from the novels, and the opportunity to dress up and be part of the Hogwarts experience.
Even MORE Magic
And then there’s the luck factor. This year, September 23 happens to be the 150th anniversary of the continuous publication of the StarNews, and they offered to work with us on this event. Our missions fit together naturally. Our offices are even across 17th Street from each other! We are so very grateful for this partnership – especially in a year when federal grants are changing significantly and it is more important than ever for the Literacy Council to raise awareness of our programs and impact.
Ultimately, that is what really matters – the programs that are made possible by these grand events.
So, decide what nonprofit mission speaks to you and get involved in its fundraising events – it truly makes a difference and you just might have a fantastic time.
Yasmin Tomkinson came to the Cape Fear Literacy Council as a volunteer tutor in 2002. It was a great experience, and she was very pleased to join the staff in 2004. She is now the Executive Director and enjoys working with adult learners and the volunteers who help them reach their goals. Yasmin studied Education and American History at Vassar College and got an MBA with a concentration in Non-Profit Management from Boston University. She worked for education-focused non-profits in rural Utah, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Boston before moving to Wilmington.