Top 10 Tips for Planning Your Annual Nonprofit Gala
Are you getting ready to plan a nonprofit gala?
Let’s be honest, planning a gala can be incredibly time-consuming and stressful for the planning committee. Without the right planning and organizational efforts, your gala is all the more likely to experience setbacks.
To help prevent this from happening, it’s best to plan well in advance. It’s also important to have an experienced venue partner like the Midlothian Conference Center to help walk you through each step of the process.
Here’s ten items to begin thinking about when planning your next fundraising gala.
1. Create a Detailed Guest List
First things first, you need to start by preparing a detailed guest list.
This guest list will outline how many attendees will be invited. Once you have your guest list arranged, you will then be able to move forward with selecting a venue that can accommodate this number.
We have ballrooms that can accommodate up to 800 guests with theater seating or 500 guests with reception seating. So even if you’re planning a large event with hundreds of guests, we can help make it a success.
2. Pre-Book Any Speakers
Do you plan to have any guest speakers or special guests for your gala?
If so, you’ll need to book these speakers well in advance. Remember, these types of guests typically carry busy schedules that may require several months’ notice before the actual event.
Once your speaker is officially booked, you will have to take care of any special needs that your speaker may have for the event. For example, they may need a projector or an internet connection to accommodate their speaking plan. Our facility should be able to provide any and all necessary AVL equipment your speaker(s) might require.
3. Decide on a Theme and a Dress Code
Of course, any fabulous gala is accompanied by a fabulous theme and dress code.
You can begin by deciding on a theme for your event. Once you have determined a theme, you can then easily decide on a dress code. Remember, your guests will need a clear idea on what to wear to your gala so that they fit in with the rest of the crowd.
Decorating your event is no small task as well. You may need to rent a scissor lift or other heavy machinery to decorate up high. Our Bluebonnet ballrooms have ceiling heights of 25 feet so plan your decorating needs in advance!
4. Find a Suitable Venue
Finding a venue is arguably one of the most important aspects of planning your nonprofit gala. In fact, 36 percent of event planners spent most of their budget on the venue itself.
In your search for the perfect venue, it’s important to take into consideration a number of factors, such as:
- Does the venue have a wifi connection?
- Does the venue accept outside catering and entertainment?
- How many people can the venue accommodate?
- Is the venue wheelchair accessible?
- Does the venue have enough bathrooms for your guests?
- Does the venue have parking and nearby overnight accommodations?
You’ll find that the Midlothian Conference Center checks all the boxes above as we have ample parking, wheelchair accessibility, plenty of bathroom space and even an onsite hotel if your guests are arriving from out of town.
5. Create a Website or Event Page
Any well-administered gala is going to have an official website or event page.
This is where your guests can RSVP for the event, learn about the event and purchase tickets for the event. Considering that 71 percent of all ticket buying occurs online, make sure your event website loads fast and is mobile friendly.
This could also be a great way to communicate with your guests and answer any questions that they might have.
6. Book Your Entertainment
Do you plan to have entertainment at your nonprofit gala?
Whether you’re opting for a musical performance and dancing, a live auction or anything in between, it’s essential to have this booked well in advance. Our facility does allow outside entertainment and has the means necessary to accommodate their needs.
We even have dance floors and other party equipment you can include as a part of the venue rental, or you’re welcome to bring in outside equipment as well.
7. Determine Food and Drink
The food and drink served at your gala are going to be a significant highlight for many guests.
That being said, it’s essential to pre-determine which foods and drinks are going to be served at your event. We do allow for you to use outside caterers and we can even refer you to some of our favorite local caterers. Some other venues require you to use their in-house services.
Remember that you may need to accommodate certain dietary restrictions for your guests. This may include having non-meat, non-dairy and low-fat meal options for certain guests.
8. Highlight Your Achievements
As with any successful gala, you will want to take a moment to highlight your achievements, such as sharing how much money has been raised or any milestones that have been met.
These are “feel-good” moments that help to capture the attention of your guests and contribute to the overall enjoyment of the night. Whether you choose to highlight individual or company efforts, your guests will appreciate hearing about your success.
9. Determine Parking Options
In terms of arrivals, you need to determine how your guests will arrive at your gala and where they will park.
With approximately 570 parking spaces available at the Midlothian Conference Center, parking should not be a problem for your gala. Please contact us in advance if you plan on hosting your own valet service or if you plan to contract with a third party valet service.
10. Determine Possible Accommodations
For any gala taking place in the evening, it’s beneficial to have nearby or even on-site hotel arranged for your guests.
While this doesn’t mean covering the cost of the overnight accommodations, it does mean that you should contact a nearby hotel to pre-arrange a number of rooms. If there are many guests coming from out of town, you may need to arrange a bus or transfer service from the venue to the nearest hotel.
Luckily, the Courtyard by Marriott is located just steps away from the Midlothian Conference Center. This new hotel offers 102 guest rooms along with extra meeting space, a restaurant and even a Starbucks®!
A Recent Gala Success
One of our favorite nonprofit galas we host every year is the Veterans Tribute Dinner. It’s held every year around Veteran’s Day right here at the conference center.
It’s a dinner where these veterans can get together, at least once a year, and fellowship with each other. It is also to honor the families of these veterans, who were at home while their loved ones were out doing their service.
We love how the community comes together to honor our local heroes and we look forward to honoring them for many years to come.
How to Plan the Best Nonprofit Gala
Planning a nonprofit gala isn’t exactly something that can be planned in one afternoon.
In fact, some of the best nonprofit galas take months of planning and even require a planning committee. After all, everything needs to be perfectly curated from the guest list and the venue to the entertainment and guest speakers.
To ensure that your gala runs as smoothly as possible, consider partnering with the Midlothian Conference Center. Get started by scheduling a tour through our facility to see if it could be the right fit for your gala!
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