Most experienced charity organizations have found an advantage when hosting a charity gala event — selling corporate tables and soliciting sponsors. These important tools can bring in extra revenue to underwrite the cost of your event, attract the right buyers to be a part of your audience, and bring exposure of your event and cause to the surrounding community. With pre-planning and several passionate volunteers, your charity organization can develop these techniques and reap more benefits from your charity gala event.

Offering corporate tables is a way of selling group ticket packages to individuals or companies who then plan to attend the event themselves or give the tickets away to others. If tables at your gala event seat 8-10 people, for example, a corporate table purchase would include admission for 8-10 people and would generally cost more than it would to purchase tickets separately. It is unusual for a corporate table purchase to cost less, but some organizations do discount group tickets if they are trying to increase attendance. One obvious benefit to the purchaser would be that all of the attendees would be seated together and their reserved table could be in a preferred location. Other perks that could be offered are a VIP party, advertisement in your event program, or other types of recognition. While some primitive charity auction events do not take advantage of selling corporate tables at all, the larger and more successful ones do. The highest dollar events do not sell individual tickets at all, only table packages because they have the support and ability to do so. For the average gala event, a reasonable expectation may be to sell about 50% corporate tables and 50% individual tickets. Keep in mind; if you are hoping for an audience of 250 people, it will be a lot more work to sell 250 individual tickets if no group packages are sold.

Sponsorships are different than selling corporate tables. Sponsors usually give straight donations of relatively large sums and do not receive equal benefits in exchange. Their contributions can be vital to helping your organization cover the cost of your gala event. Sponsorship levels can be set, based on your financial goals for the event and past history of support. A handful of levels could range from a bottom sponsorship level that encourages donations just above the normal ticket price (or table group price) to the highest level that is an amount above your expectations. There are many donors that surprise charity organizations with the amount of their donations and you are likely to come across them. The business that contributes the highest gift to your event can be given the recognition of “Presenting Sponsor” or “Title Sponsor” and their name can become a part of the event title. For example, “ABC Foundation’s Charity Auction, Presented by 123 Insurance Company” or “123 Insurance Company Presents the XYZ Charity Auction on behalf of ABC Foundation”. Low level sponsorship could offer perks such as a small ad, recognition in the program, or a plaque with their name. Different perks can be determined for the different levels of sponsorship depending on the abilities of your organization.

To make sponsorships and corporate tables effective for your gala event, you will need enthusiastic volunteers to solicit donors and practice good follow up. First, realize that you can benefit the companies that contribute to your cause. Public recognition is very desirable for businesses in your area and you have already gathered a valuable audience for them. Be professional, have forms or a promotional packet available, meet with potential donors in person, and follow up with decision makers. Look at the businesses that your organization already works with including vendors and service providers. Enlist board members to find outside supporters. Look to businesses in your area that do heavy marketing campaigns which obviously have high budgets for advertising. There are also charitable foundations that were set up primarily for donations that are often overlooked.

Finally, realize that corporate tables that are sold (or given as perks to sponsors) may not be filled on event night. Before the event, plan to confirm with the sponsors or purchasers that these reserved seat will be filled. If not, ask if the seats can be re-sold to raise more money, remove the empty table, or invite some guest of honor to fill them. Besides wasting the seats, empty tables will hurt the atmosphere of your sophisticated and elegant gala event.