How to hold a fundraiser in 2020: Bubbles and Beethoven

On October 24, symphony lovers can come to the gala in pyjamas or gowns as the orchestra holds its first virtual gala.

Trudy Schroeder
Random Notes

Like almost all other parts of our lives, the business of raising funds for charities has become much more complicated. It isn’t just that executing the plan is more difficult, there is also the added step of reimagining the fundraising events the charity normally holds to adapt the event to current health recommendations and standards.

The WSO holds an annual spring gala that attracts close to five hundred people each year. This event provides a net benefit to the orchestra of over $100,000 in most years. While planning and organizing a fundraising gala is a lot of work, it also is an enjoyable way to present a charitable organization’s work and mission to its community in a pleasurable and different way.

In the middle of March of 2020, the WSO had to halt all of its concerts and events because of the coronavirus. We had planned to hold our spring gala on April 21st, but it became clear that would not be possible. We had almost half of our tickets for the event sold at that point, and we told the purchasers of the tickets that we would re-schedule the event for some time in the early fall. Who could have imagined that the virus would still be paralyzing our lives to this extent six months later?

We have been working on redesigning the event for the last five months, and we have come up with a number of good ideas to hold a fundraising event in difficult times. Certainly, the need for the funds is more profound than ever, but the means to put together an event that people would purchase tickets for when gathering people is not very safe is harder to imagine. Our intrepid gala planning committee thought of holding an event in the late summer that would take the event outside for a picnic event. Our early feedback from ticket purchasers was largely positive until the infection rates in Manitoba started to go up in August. When we called gala ticket purchasers to see if they would attend the picnic event, only 23 of the 250 ticket holders felt comfortable attending. Back to the drawing board.

The event that the gala committee has come up with will be a virtual gala on October 24, 2020. There will be guest performances by international soloists, witty hosting by the WSO’s music director, Daniel Raiskin, the presentation of the Golden Baton award to two worthy recipients, Mrs. Tannis Richardson, and Mr. Michael Nozick, a three course gourmet dinner delivered to the door from 529 Wellington, and desserts baked by the WSO Baking Club. A bottle of champagne and wine pairings will be provided by event sponsor Manitoba Liquor Marts. This will all be connected by the beauty of technology, and we are encouraging attendees to invite friends and guests to their homes, so that they can enjoy the evening with at least a certain number of their friends and fellow orchestra supporters.

What are the advantages of this type of gala? Well, they help us remember to support important community institutions throughout this time of pandemic. They provide us with an excuse to gather people who are in our bubble or a small number of friends in our homes for a special event that can help us to rebuild connections within our friendship circles. Or, for those introverts who say they cannot bear attending crowded, noisy gala functions, this provides a perfect opportunity to support a good cause, dress for a gala with a tiara and jewels, and stay at home. For those who prefer, this can also be an opportunity to attend a black tie event while staying at home and wearing the finest of leisure attire or pajamas.

In honour of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, the event will be called Bubbles and Beethoven. It will be an important way for community members to help the WSO weather this very tumultuous time. Tickets are $300 a person or $2,750 for dinner for ten. For tickets or information, contact Theresa Huscroft at [email protected].

Trudy Schroeder is the Executive /director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.