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Fundraising Pop Culture: Spock at a Gala

By Peter Heller

Many nonprofits have annual fundraising galas. Maybe your organization is one of them. These events can serve to honor the inspiring leaders in your community and raise important operating dollars. Yet they can also be a huge drain on staff and volunteer time, create giving that is not deeply connected to your mission, and be attended by many guests who don’t care too much (“Please, come to the gala to help me fill the table I bought.”).

I think of most galas as a necessary evil.

On the other hand, I love Star Trek.

What? Let me explain…

Star Trek, Spock, and Galas

Helping nonprofits maximize gala effectiveness always reminds me of Star Trek. Specifically the movies, The Wrath of Kahn and The Search for Spock.

Hang on, just a minute more…

Schlocky acting and plot lines aside, there is an important truth about galas in these movies.

At the end of The Wrath of Kahn, Spock is dying after heroically saving everyone else. He turns to Kirk and says: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or of the one.”

At the end of The Search for Spock, however, Kirk has found Spock (big surprise) and he tells Spock: “The needs of few, or the one, outweigh the needs of the many.”

It Depends

Well, it certainly seems like it depends, doesn’t it?

And that’s my point about galas. Depending on your vision, a gala can serve to engage hundreds of people and raise lots of money. Or, a gala can be the chance to cultivate one or two VIPs in attendance so that they will be ready to make gifts that far surpass the total you raise at the event. Often a successful gala serves both purposes and it’s important to remember both motivations as you plan your gala strategy.

Hear it from Kirk and Spock directly, and let me know what you think:

Spock gives the ultimate sacrifice for his friends.

Needs of the one, outweigh the needs of the many.

Peter Heller is the Founder of Heller Fundraising Group, a New York City-based fundraising consulting firm that works with local, national and international nonprofits on capital campaigns.

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