In one of the roughest economies in memory, even long-standing fundraising galas are finding they must reinvent themselves in order to keep donations flowing in.

The event team behind the 11th annual Discovery Ball--held Saturday at the California Science Center in Los Angeles--managed to hit its goal of $1.1 million gross despite a 7 percent falloff from the 2008 guest count of 810 thanks to its cost-saving strategies.

Not only did the team purposely select a clear, simple theme--Las Vegas--that required little customization, "We did the decor design in-house," Christina Sion, vice president of food and event services, tells Special Events. "It was quite nerve-wracking as we wanted to make sure we delivered the same quality party that our guests have been accustomed to attending these past years."

One of the big challenges of do-it-yourself decor was rigging in the center's soaring atrium, site of the sit-down dinner. "Thankfully we have some great professionals in our Exhibits Department that we tapped for assistance who felt comfortable hanging the chandeliers and such from a 40-foot lift," Sion explains.

To cope with the loss of former supporters--notably banks and wealth-management companies--the center's event team "calculated our budget almost daily," Sion reports, "to keep tabs on exactly where we stood before adding additional items."

TWO IN ONE

Faced with the challenge of keep guest counts on track for the annual January fundraising drive by the San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco-based Ideas folded two events--fundraisers for the ballet's auxiliary and for its young professionals group--into one.

To stay within budget, the Ideas team didn't buy new props, turning instead to its own inventory. After painting and reupholstering some of its pieces, “We found that we liked them better,” says Riccardo Benavides, Ideas founder and creative director.

For more, see the April issue of Special Events.

RELATED ARTICLES

Galas: Ideas Puts San Francisco Ballet Gala Soles on Ice

Anne Dunsmore on Fundraising in Tough Times

Successful Fundraising in a Tight Economy