Beyond Galas: How to Unleash the Power of Middle Donors

The $100K in 5 Months Case Study: 

when was the last time you had that kind of ROI with a gala?

Creative strategies for nonprofit organizations.

We are strategic advisors and partners to nonprofit organizations, working with our clients to identify opportunities and incubate the ideas and processes that lead to change, innovation, and growth.


From start-ups to established organizations, we offer nonprofit consulting services including fundraising assessment and planning; campaign design and management; branding and communications, and board development and governance. Our ultimate goal is to enable individuals or entities to effect positive change in the world.


Beware of sacred cows, fundraising event ideas that waste time.


For years, I’ve preached against one of the sacred cows of fundraising: the gala.


Whenever a client suggests that they want to start one, I talk them out of it. When a client has one, I demand to see the event financials. Often, they’re dismal. And more often than not, the organization hasn’t bothered to factor in the value of the staff time that goes into the production.


You ask why I am so adamantly opposed events like this? It’s about time. Frankly, ticketed events like galas are a major time suck.


I’ve seen development directors in small and moderate-size shops spend half their year working on a gala that nets little. Far less than what that development director could have brought in engaging some major prospects, and for far less cost.


I’m not alone in this thinking. Give any development director a cocktail and they’ll fess up.


Everyone involved in nonprofit management — executive directors, development directors and especially board members — should transform the way you approach fundraising today.


You’ll come away inspired…and hopefully ready to banish one of your organization’s sacred cows.


 “But what about the income from my gala?


How do I replace that?”


It’s a great question, one that I will answer with a story.



Instead of doing the same old gala, we empower fundraising by focusing on Middle Donors.


A few years ago, I presided over a merger of sorts, on behalf of a community college. These were two institutionally related foundations under one college district umbrella. Both foundations had galas: one barely broke even, while the other netted $40,000 in its final outing. That’s before staff time was calculate.


As we brought the two foundations together into the new entity, the chancellor of the college district agreed, at my urging, to put the gala out to pasture.


A couple of months after we recovered from the final gala, we embarked on a new venture: a “middle donor” program.


What are middle donors, you ask? These are individuals who are giving at the upper levels of your annual giving program – between $500 and $10,000 for most organizations. They need more cultivation and stewardship than your direct marketing donors, but not the high level of attention you give to major donors.


We launched our program in February, using 1:1 solicitations by board members and our development director, as well as small group cultivation events. The program was designed to attract donors between $1,200 and $10,000 a year.


One of our board members – a generous local business owner – immediately stepped up with $20,000 challenge pledge.


In just five months – FIVE MONTHS! – we welcomed 59 donors to our program and raised more than $100,000.


We upgraded many existing donors to all-time high levels of giving, and recruited many new supporters.

And what did it cost? The design and printing of a brochure – no more than $2,000.


When was the last time you had that kind of return on investment with a gala?

“When I joined the District, it was clear that we needed help making sense of our fundraising efforts. Glenn helped create a strategic path toward a robust advancement system and he stuck with us every step of the way to make sure we got there.”

Dr. Cindy L. Miles


non profit services

Our Values

Comprehensive Development Assessments

For many of our clients, philanthropic revenue it is the lifeblood of the organization. But many organizations typically rely on a handful of tried and true strategies: a gala, a year-end direct mail letter, grants, and maybe a handful of large gifts. And some have engaged in the periodic capital or endowment campaign.


We’ve developed a comprehensive assessment methodology that a data-centric approach to understanding the effectiveness of your past development strategies, and extensive interviewing to begin to uncover areas of growth. We then turn that into a comprehensive narrative that focuses not only on history, but presents concrete ideas for how to grow philanthropy in the future.

Development Planning & Program Management

Research shows that nonprofits that design and execute annual fundraising and donor stewardship plans are those that raise more money.


We love working with our clients to develop those plans. And if needed, we’ll stick with you to guide execution. We also offer a host of implementation services including copywriting, design, grant writing, and prospect research.

Campaign Design & Management

We have deep experience in designing and managing capital and endowment campaigns. Our range of services including creating a case for support; designing and executing feasibility studies; campaign structure and design, and ongoing moves management, prospect strategies, and coaching.

Board Development & Governance

The success of any organization starts with effective volunteer leadership. We offer our clients a range of services including strategic planning; facilitation of board retreats; coaching on board development, and review of governance and policy documents.

Brand Development

Say the word “brand” and people often think “logo.” It’s much more than that. Brand really refers to your organization’s DNA. What is your promise to your constituents? How do you deliver on that promise? How do your constituents experience your organization? How do you make sure those are aligned, and how do you best communicate that to the world?


Through our long-term strategic partnership with MOK2, we help you understand your organization’s DNA, and provide insight, strategy and creative solution design. We help clients to bring ideas or services to their constituents by providing them the tools needed to visualize their ideal future and to make it happen.


Nonprofit Consulting clients

nonprofit consulting clients of GKollaborative

  • Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (Miami)
  • ArtCenter of South Florida (Miami Beach)
  • Camp Harbor View (Boston)
  • Care Dimensions (Danvers, MA)
  • CharterCARE Health Partners (Providence)
  • Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (Boston)
  • City University of New York School of Law
  • Community Music Center of Boston
  • Contra Costa Community College District (Martinez, CA)
  • Denver Center for the Performing Arts
  • Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District (San Diego)
  • HopeHealth (Providence, RI)
  • Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami
  • MedShare (Decatur, GA)
  • Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership
  • Miami Dade College Foundation (Miami)
  • NYU Lutheran Medical Center (Brooklyn)
  • Open Door Health Center (Homestead, FL)
  • Planned Parenthood of South, East & North Florida
  • San Jose-Evergreen Community College District
  • SAVE-Dade (Miami)
  • Tigertail (Miami)
  • The Victory Center (Miami)

What can GKollaborative do to help your organization?

“Glenn is an insightful, talented development expert who was of invaluable help to Care Dimensions when we wanted to formulate a new strategic focus and grow our philanthropy program.”

Diane T. Stringer

President & CEO

Care Dimensions

Care Dimensions nonprofit stratetgy