It doesn’t matter whether your event is a large annual gala or an intimate occasion for VIP donors, you want it to be an affair to remember.
In all cases, getting the most bang out for your buck can mean scaling back on a few of your plans. One of the easiest places to do this without compromising the evening’s success is your entertainment budget.
If you find yourself faced with a restructured budget, turn your attention toward alternative entertainment that will delight your guests without taking a big bite out of the event’s budget. Below are just a few ideas to help you in your search.
Offer a “Last Chance” Sponsorship Promotion
Turn your challenge into a “last chance” opportunity for your current roster of sponsors. Offer all the same promotions you would normally provide; signage and branding in emails, programs and thank you cards, along with additional exposure during the evening’s presentation, such as a special stage introduction of VIP guests. Or, provide backstage passes to meet the performers at a special reception after the event.
Reach out to companies that have shown an interest in supporting your organization in the past with an offer that gives them a unique place in your program. This offer can be given to new and current sponsors.
Underscoring the Benefits of Underwriting
Most galas occur on Saturday nights, which can put an event planner in a difficult position when competing to hire a popular local musical group. If you don’t book far in advance you could be left with higher booking charges or even “B-side” selection entertainment. It’s a tough spot to be in, and the perfect time to turn to an underwriter.
Offering to fund part of the cost of your entertainment as their donation can give you more freedom to book a more well-known performer. Rather than acknowledging an underwriter as you would a sponsor, consider mentioning them as a VIP donor; either as an announcement prior to the program’s start or in a list of donors prominently displayed throughout the year in your marketing.
Turn to Friends of Your Organization
Turning to your non-profit’s greater community to seek out members with surprising hidden talents can uncover a wealth of opportunities to entertain your guests. Perhaps there is a hidden musician with a great swing band in your ranks; or a high-profile chef who can wow a smaller crowd with his or her culinary theatrics. In many cases, people who are committed to your cause will waive their fee, leaving you with only the cost of transportation and a hotel stay.
New Talent on the Scene
Every year, there are thousands of new artists vying for a chance to get in front of an audience. Give them that chance with an invitation to perform at your fundraiser for either a discounted or waived fee. Keep abreast of the latest talent to hit the scene, then reach out to them either personally or through their talent agency.
Developing strong relationships with up and coming artists can also pay off in the future. As their popularity grows they will want to share their passion with the followers who’ve been with them on their journey from the start. Likewise, it’s also beneficial to cultivate relationships with local talent agents. Their industry knowledge can help steer you toward local musicians, comedians, artists and more talented people who can inspire your plans for future events and keep you up-to-date on the latest trends.
Many organizations are filled with people who have a compelling personal story to share or who can testify to the great affect the work of your organization is having to its larger community. Let them demonstrate to your guests how your group’s mission is making a lasting impact on its beneficiaries and your guests will be reassured their donations are being used to affect positive change.
Look to the research department for a presentation about their latest findings or someone who works “in the field” to highlight a specific pressing need or a general update on what they are seeing.
Another option is to go one or two steps beyond your community and approach a specialist who can provide a first-hand account of the benefits of your non-profit’s work. Doctors, veterinarians, therapists and social workers can oftentimes testify passionately about the great service your organization provides. A powerful performer or speaker may come from an employee who only needed prompting to ask.