Beltway of Giving: Going Gaga for Galas


Gala season is upon us. Time to break out our checkbooks, dust off the gowns and take in (or out) that tux at the tailor. Year after year, organizations across the District scurry to prepare their signature events for the masses. Months of planning lead up to the big day as patrons anticipate historic events like the Lombardi Ball, Fight for Children’s Fight Night, its sister event Knock Out Abuse, and more. Hosting organizations look forward not only to increasing awareness about their causes and attracting potential donors but also to raising large amounts of money in only a few hours, which can sustain an organization for months.

Fashion for Paws is a true powerhouse among Washington galas, which is held in the spring each year. The gala raised $70,000 when it was first held in 2007. Fast forward five years and more than $720,000 was raised at its 2012 event, for which more than 1,700 tickets were sold. Created to support the Washington Humane Society, Fashion for Paws began as fun way to engage Washington’s animal lovers and increase awareness about animal cruelty and welfare. Today, the event is one of the nation’s leading gala events supporting an animal welfare organization. “We are re-engineering to better serve our mission and growth,” says Tara de Nicolas, executive director of Fashion for Paws. “We are thrilled with how far we’ve come in such a short time, but we also realize we have to continue to tweak and innovate if we want to keep this momentum.”

Yet with glitzy events left and right, organizations often fail to capitalize on partnerships, acquire sponsorships to cover costs and secure high-profile donors to make their events thrive. Many organizations see small returns once overhead costs, such as catering, entertainment and alcohol, are paid for. The 2012 Fashion for Paws event garnered more than $417,000 in-kind for event production, catering, alcohol, lighting, entertainment, sound and staging. “As a small non-profit, we would never be able to host an event like Fashion for Paws without the support of our in-kind sponsors like Syzygy Events, Design Cuisine, Digital Lighting, Edge Floral Event Designers and more,” says de Nicolas.
D.C.-based Fair Chance, an organization that offers free services to community-based organizations who positively impacting the lives of children and families in Washington will host its fourth annual butterfly this October. Money raised enables Fair Chance to support 10 new small-to-medium sized youth-serving non-profits each year, investing 350 hours of support for each organization – a $50,000 combined value. Working along alongside each organization, they embark on an intensive one-year partnership that strengthens the entire organization.

“We cover the costs of our partnership program giving each neighborhood nonprofit their own fair chance to reach their potential,” said Brett Norton, Director of Development. “In turn, a stronger organization, built to last, is able to open their doors a little wider for D.C. children and youth and keep the lights on for those that need them most.”

The Butterfly Bash is a celebration of ten years of service by Fair Chance with 35 corporate sponsors and a 163 member host committee who together work to make the gala event its most profitable fundraising event of the year. “In one night, you have the chance to drive multiple goals – to educate and inspire a large group of people, engage a sizable group of volunteers working together on the event, and it raise essential resources from individuals and corporations,” says Brett Norton.


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