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Top Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Fundraising Gala Script

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Published: Apr 8, 2022

82% of all nonprofits host fundraising events, with 21% of small charitable organizations hosting as many as 25 per year. These numbers are telling of the success that fundraising events such as galas bring to them.

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The number of nonprofits conducting events indicates how successful this fundraising strategy is.  

One telling sign of the success of your event is the attendance. If people have shown up, they are motivated enough to support your cause. However, they also typically need a final nudge to donate at such events. That nudge is an explicit ask to contribute. 

A good fundraising gala script ensures that that ask is:

  1. Well drafted
  2. Complete with all necessary facts 
  3. Compelling
  4. Concluding with a clear call to action.

This article explores the dos and don’ts of writing a fundraising gala script and samples that you can use for your next event.

Let’s get started.

The best time to make a fundraising speech for charity

Like a fundraising gala, any event starts slow with the arrival of guests, ice breaking, and momentum generating space (like refreshments) and then reaches its peak right before performances. That’s when you should schedule your fundraising speech. This is mainly because guests tend to relax during performances and focus on the entertainment rather than taking action.

This event schedule “wave” by Swaim Strategies shows the best time for your fundraising appeal:

fundraising-gala-script-event-arc-short-auction

While making your request at the right time is step 1 of getting satisfactory donations, step 2 is asking the right way. That is our cue to note the dos and don’ts for your speech.

Dos and don’ts to write a compelling fundraising gala script

Keep your speech between 5-9 minutes

A monologue or speech that is too long can make your audience impatient, chipping away at your chance of getting a donation. Experts recommend keeping your fundraising gala script between 5 to 9 minutes:

  • 5-7 minutes if your audience is standing.
  • 7-9 minutes if they are sitting.

Weave in a story—the more personal, the better

Anyone working in the nonprofit sector will be familiar with the best practice of adding stories to fundraising speeches and donation appeals. What ground does this tip stand on?

A short experiment by a Stanford marketing professor showed that 5% of people could remember stats after a minute-long speech. 63% remembered the story.

Here are ways to weave in a story in your fundraising gala script:

  • Mention your involvement in that cause.
  • Mention your involvement in the organization at large.
  • Tell beneficiary stories.
  • Share impact stories.

Read next: The perfect nonprofit storytelling approach to create effective messaging that drives action.

Make a clear, specific ask

You must make a clear ask and highlight what steps you want your audience to take in your speech. 

  • Mention the amount you would like them to donate.
  • How you would like them to donate (e.g., text-to-donate, donation box, etc.)
  • When you want them to donate (e.g., NOW, before month-end) 

Give an example of how a donation by one person can solve the problem you are trying to solve. For instance, “A $100 donation from you today will keep four girls in school for another year.”

Keep the speech interactive

A monotonous speech risks losing attention at intervals, and you don’t want them to zone out at the most critical parts. One way of ensuring that doesn’t happen is to keep the speech interactive. You could:

  • Ask questions to the entire audience (Do you think car parking has become a nuisance in the city?)
  • Ask questions to individuals (Ma’am, how did you come to this event today?)
  • Get someone on the stage for brief parts of the speech.
  • Ask the audience to do a small task (If you’re carrying a pen, hold it up).

Make sure that no more than 5-10% of your speech involves audience responses. You could spend time building up to the question but don’t make them talk or act for too long.

Elaborate on how donations raised in this fundraising gala will be used

Follow your ask immediately by explaining how your nonprofit will use the collected funds. This demonstrates the impact of their contributions.

Your audience is more likely to give when they know you have a clear plan with a definite timeline for utilizing their donations. Transparency can be a great motivator when making a fundraising speech for charity. 

Avoid doing the following when making a fundraising gala speech

Write a speech over 10 minutes long

You have some wiggle room if your speech goes beyond 7 minutes for a standing audience or slightly over 9 minutes if they are sitting. But make sure you don’t cross the 10-minute limit. A long speech risks losing audience attention and, in turn, their donations.

At 9 minutes, your fundraising gala script should be about 750 words long. However, don’t assume the length. Practice the speech multiple times, giving attention to:

  • Pauses 
  • Your speed
  • Audience responses 

Time yourself when you’ve mastered these elements and check that you don’t cross 10 minutes even under the worst-case scenario (speech-wise).

Make up a story

Nonprofits have the advantage of having several authentic, high-impact stories. Don’t exaggerate or add untrue elements in your fundraising speech to “make it better or bigger.” Your audience will catch on to it and lose interest.

Use filler phrases like “In closing” or “I will keep it short”

Many speakers start by almost apologizing for making the speech (I won’t take much of your time) or end it that way (Now, on to the program you came here for).

Filler phrases like these or “In closing” show nervousness and lack of confidence, which reflects the audience. 

As a speaker, you must know that your audience has come specifically for a fundraising gala. So your speech is expected and welcome. You are not an unfortunate diversion; you are the main event.

Use a generic story or script

Don’t go with one high-impact story that you repeat at every occasion and event.

Study your audience before drafting your fundraising gala script. Understand what ticks them, moves them, and compels them to support you. Use these pointers to weave a story in your fundraising speech.

This study can also help you address things keeping them from donating more or more frequently.

Use redundant slides

As a speaker at a nonprofit fundraising event, you will have visual aids like a slideshow or video. Make sure they are not redundant.

For instance, don’t put a slide with bullet points that you read from. Your slides, videos, or images must build upon or elevate your speech, not be a crutch for you. 

fundraising-gala-script-visual-aid-description

How do you write a fundraising script?

Now, let’s explore the elements of a good script and fundraising speeches samples. 

fundraising-gala-speech-division

I have provided samples for four scenarios:

  1. A small donation ask
  2. A medium donation ask
  3. Items donation
  4. A major gift ask.

Let’s go.

Introduction

The introduction typically includes your name and role at the organization. Spare a sentence to thank the audience for joining the event.

Ideal time: 10-15 seconds.

Fundraising gala script sample

Scenario: Common for all

Good evening everyone; I am {name}, a proud board member of the {nonprofit name} charitable organization. It’s so nice to see you all here on this awfully rainy evening. Thank you for braving the traffic to be here. I’ve been a board member here for the past 7 years, but it’s moments like these that really show how tight-knit we are to fight/serve {problem/cause}.

The hook

Some speakers prefer diving right into a cold open before they introduce themselves. This, too, is a great way to start your speech, so the hook becomes interchangeable with the speaker’s introduction.

Ideal time: 10-15 seconds.

Fundraising gala script sample

Scenario: Common for all

I got a letter last week from a 67-year-old grandmother in Ethiopia. Remember, Ethiopia has one of the lowest adult literacy rates. And this “Āyatē”, or grandma, could not even write her name last year. Now, she sent a full-page letter across continents. Without {nonprofit}, that was impossible.

Speech body

Once you’ve caught your audience’s attention with the hook (and maybe followed by an introduction), you elaborate on the initial pitch. The speech body should act like a context setter and explanation for your hook. Here are some pointers to draft the body of a fundraising gala script:

  • Impact of your existing programs.
  • Status and progress of the program for which the event is planned.
  • Plans and timeline for the said program.
  • Ways to get involved.
  • Testimonials or stories of beneficiaries, volunteers, or others working on the program.
  • Your nonprofit’s USP and how it is filling in a void.

Visual aids like images, videos, or slides will be most effective during this part of your speech.

Ideal time: 3-5 minutes for a standing audience. 5-7 minutes for a sitting audience.

Fundraising gala script sample

Scenario: Common for all

{nonprofit name} has helped over 500 such women pursue a dream that was left at just that—a dream. The team has established a strong presence in the Amhara region of Ethiopia for 23 years, building night schools and getting children and adults to enroll. Our brightest feather on the cap is a 57-year-old erstwhile illiterate woman pursuing her Master’s here at the University of Maryland on full scholarship. In fact, she is sitting here with us right now! {name}, could you please stand up? Let’s give her a round of applause.

[after the applause dies down]

{name} got involved with us in the Amhara Women’s Education Program in 2007. Our goal then was to get 200 adult women to resume their education and get a bachelor’s degree. We concluded that program last year. And now it’s time to get more ambitious with the next. Today, we introduce the “Young Mother’s Health and Hygiene Education Program.” We aim to go village to village in Amhara, educating young mothers or young brides about sexual health, child care, family planning, and more. We aim to get 500 more women under this program.

Recap

Before you conclude or make the ask, talk about the impact or progress made so far. This will help your audience build trust in the cause and know exactly where you stand. Use this opportunity to explain how you expect the fundraising gala to help the cause. This will establish context for the ask that will follow.

Ideal time: 15-30 seconds.

Fundraising gala script sample

Scenario: Common for all

We’ve launched the program in January this year and, in the last 4 months, collected $75,000—about 23% of our total goal. With this amount, we could start weekly sessions in two villages, with a total of 57 enrollments. Our next step is to team up with beneficiaries from previous programs, like our very own {Maryland scholar} and conduct talks and sessions in villages. We are confident that these sessions will drive at least 100 more women to enroll next month.

Call to action and conclusion

Now, make the clear ask, tell them how to donate, and encourage them to do so at the earliest. If you have immediate donation options like Paypal or text-to-donate, display the QR codes or shortcodes+keywords on the screen, getting them to take note immediately. 

Ideal Time: 30-60 seconds

Fundraising gala script sample

Small askMedium askItems askBig ask
Dear audience, we need your help in this next fundraising round. Please consider donating $50-200 to help us enroll young mothers, mothers-to-be, and newlyweds into this program. Text DONATE to our shortcode or scan our QR code (display both on the screen) now and help us achieve the goal.Dear audience, we need your help in this next fundraising round. Please consider donating $200-500 to help us enroll young mothers, mothers-to-be, and newlyweds into this program. Text DONATE to our shortcode or scan our QR code (display both on the screen) now and help us achieve the goal. Or, you can also drop checks in our donation box at the door.Dear audience, we need your help with this program. Apart from schools and classes, access to stationary is a major obstacle for these women. Please consider donating books, pens, bags, and other items so we can bridge the gap. The process is simple. Just text ITEMS to 39999, and we will send you a link to our wishlist. I would request you to do this now, even if you donate the items later.Dear audience, we need your help in this next fundraising round. Please consider becoming stewards for the program. That way, you sponsor one adult student for the year at just $75 per month. This amount gets them basic necessities, stationary as well as covers their school fees. Of course, if you can also sponsor multiple women, we would be thrilled! Text SPONSOR to 39999, and you’ll get complete details of the program.

Add a concluding sentence/s of no longer than 30 seconds after the ask. Ideally, the conclusion should end when they have made an online payment or sent you the opt-in text.

Ideal Time: 15-30 Seconds

Fundraising gala script sample

Scenario: Common for all

I can see so many of you on your phones already and that gives me immense hope. This program has been a life-changer for so many people and now you have the power to change the lives of hundreds more. 

Thank you for supporting us. It’s amazing folks like you that keep up the spirits of {nonprofit name}. Have a great rest of the evening, everyone!

Tip: Displaying a fundraising thermometer after the ask can boost morale and motivation to donate immensely. Here’s how to build one: How Fundraising Thermometers Complete your Online Donation Page (With Template)

The way forward

Text-to-donate is an effective way to get immediate results at your fundraising gala. The speaker can ask people to send a keyword like “DONATE” to your shortcode and get them to donate even before the event concludes.

On the backend, your manager would have set an automated flow to send a donation link to people sending the keyword; so it is only a matter of minutes before your call-to-action results in actual action.

This blog walked you through the best practices and samples of a fundraising gala script. Now, check out text fundraising as your next step for a successful event. Text Fundraising: How To Raise Money Over A Channel That Your Donors Prefer.

Feature image source: Al Elmes/Unsplash.

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