When I meet people in Southwest Florida for the first time and they discover I work in philanthropy one of the first questions many of them ask is “when’s your gala?”
Although “when’s your gala?” might not be an appropriate inquiry for a first meeting in many parts of the country, in our Southwest Florida culture it is completely legit.
Long time residents know that when the calendar turns from September to October, the charity gala season is on with no slowdown until the waning days of May.
Southwest Floridians are gifted in throwing events that raise money for great causes all over the region. These parties with a purpose fuel organizations and inspire involvement in charitable giving.
So when folks ask enthusiastically about the date of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s gala I feel a bit like I forgot to send out invites to a long awaited party.
I really appreciate the question because it reminds me of how much support there is in our community for getting involved in making change. When people ask about an event they are usually just saying they would like to be a part of what we are doing and galas are a great way to connect with a non-profit.
If you are a newbie to the Southwest Florida charitable scene you might be conjuring up images of our team decked out in ball gowns and tuxedos. The reality is galas in our part of the world can include nights on the Sanibel Causeway under the stars in shorts and flip flops, a dinner of southern fare in the bays of an automotive shop, a night dining with firemen, running in a 5K or repelling down a building. I could actually fill an entire column with the variety of charitable events in our area.
Charitable organizations and their teams of supporters are always looking for creative ways to raise money for their cause. It is an enormous amount of work that should not be taken on by the meek of heart. Gala committees are manifesting the passion for the organization they work for or support and they realize the money raised is vital to the work of the cause they care about so deeply.
Although the Community Foundation does not throw a gala we do work with donors who want to keep the gala giving spirit going all year long through creating customized funds that allow them to donate to causes and non-profits they support. Donors can access the funds 24/7 online and recommend grants to their favorite non-profits in and out of gala season. Our staff even works with donors as concierges of philanthropy pointing them in the direction of organizations working on the donor’s cause or passion, and guiding donor families with tours of non-profits in the region to showcase the good work happening and illustrating the need for support.
Other Community Foundation donors establish endowed funds that provide funds to non-profits in perpetuity. This means that in addition to the money raised at the seasonal events, the organizations benefit from an annual check from the fund which is a welcome boost during the off season.
So whether you are a seasoned veteran of the gala scene or a rookie looking for a way to get involved, dust off your dancing or running shoes and attend an event this season and then check our website floridacommunity.com to learn more about creative ways to keep the giving going all year long. If you have a story about how you like to give, please send it to me at [email protected].