Gala Season Is All About Building Community

Michael Grimaldi

It’s gala season. Mailboxes overflow with “save the date” cards and elegant invitations to celebrations, parties, balls, charity walks, silent auctions or other festivities being held solely to benefit worthy community causes in Kansas City.

It’s a celebratory time and good fun, to be sure. But for many companies that are both conscious of the bottom line and sensitive to community needs, there is just too much. How many events can any company possibly support? And which ones?

For Kansas City’s more than 3,000 arts, education, health, human services and other non-profit groups that raise tens of millions of dollars annually, the questions are different, but just as challenging: Should we have a dinner-dance? A charity walk? Something else? How do we stand out?

The answers for both lie in the same place: Community and branding.

For companies, the community means customers, employees, partners and vendors. For charities, community means people who are so passionate about the cause that they are willing to part with their own time, talent and/or treasure to help.

In PR parlance, the term is “target audience.” In marketing language, we call it “brand positioning.” The common denominator, in general terms, is “community.”

A charity event is simply a powerful way to build a community. Sharing a unique event is emotional, visceral and very powerful. Newcomers become part of a community when they have dined, danced, walked, played or worked with others. Those who already feel part of that community have their ties deepened and strengthened by the experience.

Companies that are approached for sponsorships or asked to buy tables should prioritize by connecting with charities that, in some way, reflect what the company is about.  Trozzolo Communications Group, for example, supports the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the American Red Cross because we have a similar approach to doing what we do.

The Red Cross responds to a wide variety of community needs and serves all across the entire metropolitan area – urban, suburban and rural – regardless of income or status. The Red Cross inspires confidence because it has a long track record of providing responsible, reliable services based on expert knowledge and thorough preparation.

Like the Red Cross, Trozzolo serves clients of all sizes and with various needs through careful preparation, responsive execution and sustained service for the long term. We each do different things, but we approach our communities in the same way.

Charities should ensure that any event resonates with the purpose or the cause. Attendees are more likely to take your side, support your purpose, defend your cause, talk you up, send you money and be your friend when they’ve shared a special experience related to what the charity does.

A good example: Alphapointe Association for the Blind on Nov. 12 will present an evening of entertainment headlined by the Blind Boys of Alabama, a Grammy-award-winning group originally formed at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind. The connection is totally in sync with Alphapointe, its community and its brand.

Companies should not agonize over the many gala invitations. Pick relevant events held by similar organizations, and be grateful that others will attend other events you cannot. Charities should look inward and hold events that speak to their causes.

Everyone should celebrate this: Kansas City is enriched by strong compassion for diverse interests. That is what a strong community is all about.

— Michael Grimaldi, Senior Communications Consultant 

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