Trading Filet Mignon for Chicken Pot Pie
“It’s somehow considered kind of gauche now to be too aggressive about the décor, and the price, of galas,” he said. “Rather than a seven-piece combo, what about a D.J.? Rather than filet mignon, country food: shepherd’s pie. Rather than have the extravagance, what’s better than chicken pot pie?” Wilderstein’s big fund-raiser this year will be a tea dance with light fare, as opposed to a full, costly dinner.
Mr. Dobkin said Wilderstein would try to persuade tea companies and porcelain manufacturers to sponsor the dance — that is, to give big money. The silent auction will be beefed up to include high tea parties given by homeowners at neighboring historic houses. The result? Almost no money will be laid out by the charity, with almost 100 percent profit.
So with those examples in mind, here are ways to tone down the benefit, without losing the benefits:
LOWER TICKET PRICES (WITHOUT LOSING MONEY)
This is tough, because to make a noticeable difference, ticket prices have to be toned way down — like by half, so the charity makes half the money. Another less drastic solution is for the board president to write a letter explaining that the prices have been lowered slightly — perhaps 15 percent — with encouragement to give more as an additional donation. That way, donors will think the charity is being responsible, and they may be willing to further reward that restraint.
FEWER FLOWER ARRANGEMENTS, LESS CAVIAR
“Use balloons instead of flowers,” said Cuppy Kraft, a real estate agent who spends half the year in Delray Beach, Fla., and the other in Pittsburgh and is active in many charities. “Even when speaking to the caterers, one might say, I don’t know that we need truffles.” Mr. Duchin advises still working with the best caterer and the best florist, but negotiating with them to reduce costs. One huge flower display in a prominent spot might be better than 20 or 30 scattered through the hall, on every table.
NO MORE BUSTLING WAITERS
“There’s not as many seated dinners now,” said Ms. Riven, of St. Louis’s art museum. “There are more and more food stations, which are neat. You kind of graze around, sampling different foods.” Some dinners are served from a buffet table, with only dessert and coffee served at the table by waiters.