We’re proud to say that our hometown of Austin is a very philanthropic city. In fact just a few months ago Austin was named one of GoFundMe’s most generous cities. Texas as a whole ranked as the second most generous state in the country.
In other words, Austin is a great place to throw a gala fundraiser. Every year our casino party planning team helps local organizations maximize their fundraising capabilities with unique events that build awareness. Here are a few things we’ve learned about throwing a successful gala fundraiser in Austin.
Get a Venue Secured Before Anything Else. . . Especially If a Festival is in Town
Anyone who’s lived in Austin for more than a year can tell you planning an event during the weeks of ACL, SXSW or any of the other large festivals will severely limit your venue options. Locales in popular areas like downtown and Lake Travis also remain booked up year round. Without a venue, it’s difficult to make headway on everything else, which is why getting a space secured is the number one item on the agenda.
For example, our team wouldn’t be able to estimate how many black jack and poker tables to reserve because we wouldn’t know how much floor space is available. You also won’t know the maximum number of tickets that can be sold or what type of kitchen facilities will be accessible. Choosing a venue is a big decision to make because it affects everything else.
One final word of advice – if you want to reserve a specific venue, find ways to be more flexible with the date of your event.
Attract Guests With Entertainment
In a city like Austin people have a lot of entertainment options. If you’re going to get people through the door you have to promise them some sort of entertainment they can’t easily get anywhere else. That’s one reason why our casino parties are so popular. For 35 years we’ve been providing a Vegas experience without having to leave the Lone Star State. For some people it’s the closest they’ll ever get to the Strip.
The more experiential you can make the event the more memorable it will be. Having guests spread the word about the amazing time they had at your event is priceless in terms of community awareness.
Get Help From the Experts
We can’t tell you how many nonprofits try to take on everything when they plan a large-scale fundraiser only to find it’s not the most efficient solution. Planning a gala is no small feat, and if you’ve never done it before there are a lot of things you won’t be able to anticipate. Now is the time to tap into local experts.
The vendors you work with should be partners in making the fundraiser a success. Don’t be afraid to ask them a lot of questions – most are happy to share their insight. It’s just one more reason to lineup party planners, caterers, etc. as soon as you can.
Don’t Overlook the Importance of Wining and Dining
Austin is known for being a laidback city, but we do like the finer things in life. When you’re throwing a gala, guests expect a certain level of wining and dining, especially if they’re making a donation. One thing to keep in mind is your average donor level. The more people donate the better they expect the gala to be in terms of refreshments, food, entertainment and amenities.
Consider All of Your Fundraising Options
A gala is a great fundraising idea because it gives you a number of opportunities to raise donations, starting with the ticket sales. Some organizations are just happy to be in the black after expenses, but we urge you to look for other ways to increase your fundraising.
Take one of our casino fundraisers for instance. The guests aren’t gambling with real money, but other businesses can sponsor each poker table. We can either put up one of the business’ signs or make a custom felt with their logo. You can also hold auctions or raffles right beside the Casino.
Find creative ways to encourage your guests to donate to your cause while they’re at the gala. Hopefully, the party is so fabulous they consider it worth the ticket cost and will donate a little more.
Gala Planning Checklist
- Form a gala committee
- Decide on a theme and approximate date for the gala
- Estimate the minimum number of expected guests
- Tour possible venues for the event
- Secure a venue 6+ months in advance
- Delegate tasks to members of the fundraiser committee
- Look for other organizations to act as sponsors
- Begin drafting invitations and marketing materials for the event
- Hire party planners to help arrange entertainment, seating, etc.
- Find caterers if your event will incorporate food
- Find bar services if your event will offer beverages
- Line up a few guest speakers, local celebrities and/or entertainment
- Hire a florist and begin designing arrangements
- Make a list of essential rental items and get them reserved
- Hire a photographer for the event
- Organize volunteers to help out on the day of the gala
- Hire a wait staff for the gala if a dinner is served
- Send out invitations to your contact list and community members 1-2 months in advance
- Begin marketing the event at least a month in advance
- Review your RSVPs and ticket sales for a headcount
- Finalize the menu
- Print programs and place cards for the tables
- Secure all seating and décor
- Do a walk through of the venue noting details like the location of electrical outlets and bathrooms
- Make sure all audio-visual equipment is tested and set up at the venue
- Go over the schedule of events and headcount with the venue manager
- Begin prepping the venue at least 12 hours in advance of the event
Let Casino Knights Inc. help your organization throw a casino fundraiser that will raise awareness and donations. Our expert planners can handle all of the entertainment logistics and set up so you can focus on all the other items on your checklist!