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Run a successful ball

The profit potential of running a grand ball is HUGE. Think posh frocks, black ties, delicious food and a boogie. It does take some planning though, so give yourself as much time as possible.

Stefanie Vincent, PTA Member, Russell Lower School, Bedfordshire told us: 'We hold the ball in late September, booking the date 18 months in advance. We hire a marquee, and the company provides catering and staff. Tickets cost £45 each and include a glass of Champagne, three-course meal, disco and live band, and we offer supporters the option of paying in instalments. Fundraising games during the evening include 'heads and tails' and 'rock, paper, scissors'. On arrival and during the dinner courses we have a local close-up magician. A parent who is a DJ compères the night and conducts an auction of promises. At the most recent ball we hired a retro photo booth, which included dressing-up props! Our main cost was the hire of the marquee and catering. While this includes everything from toilets to salt and pepper pots, it is still daunting, as we only make approximately £5 profit per ticket. We ask local businesses to sponsor parts of the evening, and sell advertising in our programme. At the last ball we raised over £9,000, which included £4,000 from drinks sales, £2,500 from an auction of promises and £1,100 from a raffle - even a simple game of heads and tails raised £230! The only licence we needed was a TEN. My advice? Keep your organising committee small and friendly, and play to your strengths. If you feel really ambitious, run a fundraising pamper evening the night before!'

1. Gauge interest from your supporters. Getting a feel for the number of people interested will help define how big your event is and how much you can charge for tickets. Allow about six months' planning time and avoid major sporting fixtures, other local events and busy periods.

2. Set up a sub-committee with specific responsibility for organising the ball. Give everyone clear roles such as sponsorship, publicity, prizes, entertainment, etc, in order to have a well-planned event.

3. Choose a venue. The choice of venue is vital to the success of your ball. It could be held in a local golf club or hotel where the food, drinks, music and service is included in the package price. Important things to consider are: dance floor, maximum capacity, cloakrooms, space for the band and whether you can bring alcohol to the venue. If food is not included in the package, call upon local chefs to offer their services, and buy food at cost price.

4. Decide what entertainment you will have on the night. Music is a key component of the evening, so source a band, DJ or string quartet that will add sparkle to your event. For that extra 'wow' factor, book a guest speaker, magician or comedian.

5. Publicise your event well ahead of time. Reach out to the local community and media for support, whether for sponsored prizes or free publicity. If the ball is to raise money for a specific project mention this on the ticket. Designing and printing tickets, menus, programmes and posters is a cheap and effective way of creating a buzz. Offer a discount for tables of eight or 10 to encourage bulk sales.

Tips and advice

Theme: Fancy a formal black-tie affair with a sit-down meal? Or a more relaxed, informal evening? Maybe a masked ball, fancy dress or colour theme? Bear in mind your target audience and budget.
Sponsorship: Securing sponsorship from local businesses will increase your profit margin considerably. If you're producing a programme, give them decent coverage as a 'thank you'.
Budget: Agree your budget early on. Once you know what your costs are likely to be you can decide on your ticket price. Additional fundraising activities such as an auction or raffle will boost profits.
Boosting profits: Increase your profits on the night by running additional acitivites such as head and tails, a dinner draw raffle, 100-square grid or even a table quiz. Running a silent auction is also a great way to boost funds, but be sure to source prizes with plenty of time to go before the event.


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