Personal Connections Among Reasons
Charity Supporters Attend Galas
Charity Fund-Raising Events:
What’s Important to Supporters
or B-list, people aren’t necessarily going to spend the money just to see them,
the CharityHappenings survey found.
What matters more is whether donors
have a personal connection to the cause.
Mr. Baer says organizations need to do
a better job of inviting people who can
relate to the organization’s mission.
But the next big influence in getting people to attend is a friend on
the board. “Think about who’s on your
board,” Mr. Baer says. “Don’t just pick a
popular person to be on your board. Get
a popular person who’s willing to go to
their friends and get them to support
your organization.” They should also be
willing to develop new contacts as well,
Mr. Baer adds.
With Ms. Ebanks as both host and on
the “Friends Committee” for New York-
ers for Children, the charity hit a “home
run with her,” Mr. Baer says. “She’s a
great presence, she’s a great speaker,
and she’s been affected by the cause.”
The third most influential factor is the
possibility of networking or even dating
someone. That’s how Liron David met
his wife—at a charity event in 2009.
“Even in a recession, people are say-
ing that at the end of the day, you have
to look at it as an investment,” says Mr.
David, founder of Eventique Produc-
tions, in New York. “If you’re looking
to date, or looking to meet new friends,
charity events are the best way to go.”
Access to event guests is one of the
top reasons people attended the “Ball
on the Mall” fund-raising event for the
Trust for the National Mall, says Li-
zette Corro, chief executive of Linder &
Associates, an event-planning group in
Washington. In May, a cross-section of
the capital’s diplomatic, political, social
and corporate world was present.
“I don’t know about finding a date, but
the access to other leaders is extremely
important in every event that happens
in Washington,” Ms. Corro says. “That
access is a priority as they select what
they want to attend and what they de-
cide to invest in. Who’s going to go there
and who do I want to be at the table
with is very important.”
Two out of three people in the
CharityHappenings study say that
they preferred that a charity event car-
ry some kind of theme. Mr. Baer says a
theme, such as a food-tasting event like
“Harvest in the Square,” can draw more
guests to the organization.
“We’ve heard it time and again:
eventgoers crave experiences that take
them outside of their day-to-day lives,”
Mr. Baer writes in the report.
Camillus House, a homeless shelter
in Miami, changed its gala event “Hope
Continued from Page 7
for All Ball” in 2006 from a black-tie
event to themed events such as “
Denim and Diamonds” and for the past two
years, “Guayaberas and Good Times.”
(Guayaberas are open-necked cotton
shirts usually worn untucked.)
“Because there are so many charities in South Florida, so many black-tie events in Miami, we wanted to be
different,” says Marcy Belfi, director of
special events at Camillus. “We wanted
to be casual. I call it casual chic or tropical chic.” Last year’s event raised $1.4-
million and drew 950 people; the black-tie events typically raised less than $1-
Social networks have not quite caught
on as the primary vehicles for getting
word out about the event—nearly 99
percent of eventgoers said e-mail messages were effective and nearly 95 percent said word of mouth was most effective. And Facebook announcements also
work for four out of five eventgoers, but
Twitter postings just don’t—barely one-third said such invitations worked.
The New Jersey Performing Arts
Center in Newark, though, knows traditional methods of communicating are
not enough. For its annual “Spotlight
Gala,” the organization marshaled its
guests, members, and trustees to encourage them to post on Facebook, to
re-tweet the center’s messages on Twitter, and to go on the radio to help sell
more than 2,000 tickets. “We’re really
trying to embrace social media and use
it to enhance the message,” says Sheila
Klehm, president of the Women’s Association of the arts center.
Key Motivations to Attend Events
Friend on the
to the cause
What Most Turns Off Supporters
‘Fast, Lean, and Targeted’
Conveying an organization’s mission at the gala is important, organizers say. With a captive audience, charities have an opportune moment to get
its message across and seek donations.
But many organizations do too much:
They let their president or M.C. go on
and on. And that’s a turn-off to many.
More than 200 of the eventgoers in the
survey said that long speeches were the
No. 1 nuisance at a special event.
A way to make sure the president
is still seen and heard is to make him
or her an M.C. of the events, Mr. Baer
says. “Like every great sales pitch, it
should be fast, lean, and targeted.”
Respondents of the survey said the
best way to communicate an organiza-
tion’s mission is hearing from someone
affected by the cause. A touching, short
video also works, says Mr. Baer.
To read a free copy of the findings
from the 2010 Charity Event Market
Research Report, go to http://www.
Share of Ticket Price Supporters Hope Goes to Beneficiary
50% of the price
75% of the price
25% of the price
100% of the price
5% of the price
15% of the price
How Supporters Want to Receive Invitations
Neither effective Not effective
nor ineffective at all
View a video about two special
fund-raising events in New York
to learn lessons about what works.
For details, go to:
Word of mouth
Note: Based on data from 850 people who attended charity fund-raising events.