Stop with the Gala Bashing Already

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin. I mean, who isn’t? The man creates content (amazing content) faster than we can read it. And when we do, we all nod our heads and think, ‘I’m with you, Seth. Excellent point.’ But this time? Not so much. His recent rant about galas drives event fundraisers like me over the edge. Because within seconds, he discredits a fundraising tool that is, when done right, incredibly effective in building community, strengthening donor relationships, and yes, raising money. A lot of it.

So what do I mean by done right? Simple. The event is:

  1. Mission-driven. It’s cause first, party second. It’s an evening program that highlights your programs in unexpected ways. Like serving a vegan dinner if you’re an animal-rights charity.
  2. Unique. No rubber chicken dinners here. The gala format is a framework, not a one size fits all approach. It means flipping the program on its head. Like dropping the live auction and giving the time back to your guests to chat, laugh, and reconnect with friends and your cause.
  3. Donor-centered. You celebrate the people in the room. Your advocates, your influencers. You think of ways to make them feel special about their giving. Like surprising them with a handwritten note at their place setting that says, ‘Thanks for being here. And forget the flowers, your generosity is our centerpiece is tonight.’

Galas are ‘corrupting?’ Really, Seth Godin? I disagree. When done right, galas are a celebration of the charitable community. And certainly worth the time and effort.



One thought on “Stop with the Gala Bashing Already

  1. Actually Gail, I think it’s a good thing Seth called out our industry regarding galas. What he’s done is point out the “dark side” of event fundraising. Your retort is good, however. And, you are absolutely correct, that if done right an event or gala can be a positive experience. But, let’s be honest, those galas and events that are actually done right are few and far between. They are expensive, take a ton of staff time and often fall flat. Many non-profits are just going through the motions and continue to do the same old thing every year…just because that is the way it’s done.So, I think it’s a good thing Seth called us out. It makes us better! Case in point…your response to it. You clarified what makes a good gala.

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