Thinking creatively about the role of sponsorships in your next gala
One important task for every executive director is to ask why they are doing something. Goodness knows, there is enough to do without adding extra work that is not critical to meeting budget and strategy goals. I recently had one of my free phone consultation sessions. The Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations set it up. A great opportunity to find out what concerns our nonprofits and to provide some guidance on how to think strategically.
One call came from an executive director who was overwhelmed by constantly finding sponsors for her main fundraising event. She was under enormous pressure to have sponsors yet each year it was like starting all over because multi-year agreements were not forthcoming.
Here was the aha moment for her. I asked what the revenues and expenses were for her gala and how much the sponsorship contributed. While her board felt the gala would be unsuccessful if there were no sponsors, it turns out that there were more than enough participants in the gala to make it a VERY profitable event regardless of whether there were any sponsors. So…remove one pressure point: sponsors were gravy for her, not essential for success in meeting her budget objectives. And when approaching sponsors, think about how they may feel about galas: see the chapter “More Than a Party”, pages 169-171 in More Than Just Money.
The other pressure point, obviously, is whether the gala will cover its expenses and contribute to operating revenues, since it is the primary fundraising event for this organization. Aha moment #2: use the extra proceeds from any sponsorships to fund a reserve for next year’s gala expenses. Then one can go into the next gala with some or all expenses already covered so the risk of falling short of the budgeted goal is reduced or eliminated. Any extra above the budgeted amount goes into a reserve for the next year’s gala expenses. So…remove another pressure point: worry that the operating budget will fall short due to gala returns.
Call me. Maybe I can reduce some of your pressure points!