10 Things That Will Make a Fundraiser Worth the Price of Admission

Last week’s sold out Massive Party at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) got us thinking about what makes an event worth the price of admission – a fundraiser in particular.

These days, there seems to be a different young professional (YP)-oriented fundraiser every week in our cities. And at a minimum of $125 a ticket (and often higher) – most of us can’t afford to attend them all.

Here’s the thing: when it comes to the ones we do attend, as much as it feels good to know you’re supporting an important cause, many people also want the experience to be worth the hefty price tag, too. 

With that in mind, here are 10 things that make for a truly memorable charity event.

1. A Pre-Party VIP Portion
A VIP pre-party is always a good idea – both for the ability to raise more funds (as they come with a higher price tag) and to offer the party guests a more intimate experience. An exclusive VIP portion allows guests to take in the event nuances before the crowds roll in and things get rowdier.

2. Social Media-Worthy Material
A social media post is pretty much inevitable at a charity function. That’s why it’s so much better when there’s no shortage of visual stimulation and Instagram-worthy material to choose from. AGO’s Massive was full of eye-catching social media material – from the gallery art itself, to installations like the very massive, tuxedo-clad dancing puppet-like praying mantis a la Tim Burton, and the equally as massive dancing skeleton. Both were life-of-the-party performance pieces by the party’s artistic director, Talwst.

3. Food Stations
Though passed food is always welcomed, it’s easy for the caterers to pass you by if you’re not in the right place at the right time – and standing at the door to the kitchen, ready to pounce the moment the waiter steps out with a tray just isn’t a good look. After dishing out the cash for a ticket, guests are going to expect food. Perhaps the best part of this year’s PROM at the ROM (sadly, the 10th and last) were the fully loaded food stations – which dished up nostalgic favourites and served as a popular centrepiece in the main party room. An added bonus at this year’s Massive Party was the late-night grilled cheese station complete with gourmet gooey goodness to soak up the booze.

4. Minimal Wait Times
Nobody wants to waste a charity event standing in line for things like entrance, coat check, and drinks. Doing so can really kill a party’s a vibe. If you’re in the process of planning a fundraiser, remember that it’s better to be over in the volunteer and staff department than under (even if you have to raise the cost of the ticket to do so).

5. A Sense of Discovery
The best fundraisers offer a sense of discovery, especially if they’re held at venues with multiple, sprawling rooms, like galleries and museums. Walking into each room should be an experience in itself. At last year’s Power Ball, for example, each room offered a completely different type of vibe – from playful to eerie – with no shortage of stimulation pretty much everywhere you looked.

6. Art Installations
Not only do art installations make for “like-worthy” Instagram material, they offer a conversation starter when you find yourself beside that key business contact or sexy stranger. At Massive, things like Virgil Baruchel’s colourful Youcantseeusbutweseeyou installation inspired no shortage of banter and social media snaps. The installation allowed you to be both a spectator and a performer yourself. Of course, it was just one of the many that could be found throughout the space. Another example could be found at Vancouver’s 2014 Face of Today Gala with its circus-esque acts as art installations.

7. Interactive Elements
Especially after a few trips to the bar, everyone loves to tap into their inner child with interactive elements. At Massive, guests were invited to try to find twenty miniature red figurines that were scattered around the venue. If you found one, you were supposed to live tweet or post an Instagram picture of it in order to score a special edition print by Talwst. At Face of Today 2014, perks included a black jack table and a “balloon buy,” where guests were given a balloon that contained confetti and a possible winning prize.

8. Ample Amounts of White Wine
Sadly, running out of white wine before the event is even halfway over is a common occurrence at YP fundraisers. But it shouldn’t be. The irony is that if there’s ever a time to drink white wine, it’s at a charity event. It looks good against your suit or dress, and poses minimal risk to your outfit (or that of someone else’s) in the event of a spill.

9. Live Entertainment
Memorable live music makes for truly memorable nights. Motionball Gala and Pink Party founder, Paul Etherington, is known to offer some pretty big name entertainment at his YP-filled charity events, including The Sheepdogs and Sam Roberts. At last year’s Joe Carter Classic After-Party at the Shangri-La, the crowd was treated to a performance by Pepa from 90s hip-hop goup Salt-n-Pepa, which included favourites like Whatta Man, Push It, Shoop, and Let’s Talk About Sex.

10. A Good DJ
When it comes down to it, it’s the music that’s going to keep the guests there until the end. That’s why a good DJ is absolutely essential – because the best nights always end on the dance floor.

If you want your fundraiser to become an annual thing, you need to keep the crowd coming back. Keeping these 10 things in mind is a way to do just that. 


All images by: George Pimentel, taken at AGO Massive 2015. 

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