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Raising Funds Under the Stars

June 22, 2016
Take a look around – everyone is outside. Coworkers are taking their lunch breaks at that park across the street. Evenings are spent at baseball games. Vacations involve beaches, camping or long hikes. This is the season for al fresco everything.

So why keep your gala indoors?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. loves helping non-profits raise money with our fundraising auction travel packages – they’re the perfect addition of “wow!” to any gala program. But we *really* love it when we get to help charities pair the perfect auction destination with an amazing outdoor event. And while pulling off a successful outdoor fundraising gala is not easy, a bit of foresight and planning can create memories for your supporters that will make sure they always think of you and your cause fondly.

Where does your event committee need to focus its energy when planning an outdoor event? Start with these three areas:

Theme: If you’re going to go through the trouble of moving an event outside, make it count! Whether centered around a menu item (barbecues, crawfish boils, etc.) or a larger, atmosphere-based idea (with a title like “Enchanted Forest” or “Beach Bonfire”), this is the chance to create a night to remember by piggybacking on the beauty of nature. Have fun with it, and don’t be afraid to push a little past your normal boundaries; it’s likely that your supporters will be a little more forgiving about small problems if you’re trying something daring and fun.

Logistics: Everything from picking the right location to having enough flat surfaces and tables becomes magnified at an outdoor gala. As an example when inside, you can just look for an extra power outlet, but if you haven’t run adequate juice to run both the DJ equipment and the temporary lighting, for instance, there’s little that can be done on the fly. It might be a good idea to run something approximating a “dry run” of the event a week prior with as much of the equipment as possible (no need to add rental days for anything gear coming from outside of the organization, however). And before locking into a space for the event, make sure you visit it during the time of day which you’ll be holding the gala, to check for things like bug population.

Food: The cuisine you serve outdoors is often a function of the seating you have available. If you’ve got formal tables set up, it may still be easy to present delicate meals requiring all utensils. But if your outdoor space is a little less formal – standing pub tables, for instance – finger food might be the way to go. Just stock up on wat napkins, in order to avoid long lines at whatever running water is available. It’s also important in an outdoor space to think about the distance from the kitchen to the gathering. Is food going to be prepared off site? Will it stay warm as it’s being brought to the party? And who’s going to bring it all? The meal is the most tangible item for which a guest is paying with their ticket – get it right, and few are going home unhappy.

Got any other suggestions for pulling off an outdoor gala? Let us know on social media: Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more tips and travel inspiration.


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