Sold-out gala raises awareness, funds for Walk With Sally

Nonprofit Walk With Sally provides mentoring and support programs and services to children whose parents or siblings have cancer or have died of cancer.

Client: Walk With Sally (Los Angeles)
Agency: CRT/tanaka (Los Angeles)
Campaign: White Light White Night Annual Fundraising Gala
Duration: February to July 27
Budget: $10,000 to $15,000 (donated pro bono)

Nonprofit Walk With Sally (WWS) provides mentoring and support programs and services to children whose parents or siblings have cancer or have died of cancer. CRT/tanaka helped execute a campaign for the organization's sixth annual White Light White Night gala fundraiser, hosted on July 21. 

“PR gives us opportunity to grow, and having an LA-based PR firm put us in front of millions of people through media coverage,” explains WWS founder Nick Arquette. “Growth is the bottom line.”

Specific objectives included selling out the1,200-ticket event and raising $250,000.

Strategy
The gala, held at King Harbor in Redondo Beach, featured musical guest Smash Mouth and live and silent auctions. Sponsors providing food and drinks included 24 upscale restaurants and Patron Tequila.

Media and blogger relations, social media outreach, and the newly created website WhiteLightWhiteNight.org drove awareness.

“In the past messaging has focused on educating people about WWS,” explains Craig Rexroad, VP and GM of the agency's Los Angeles office. “This year messaging stressed the organization's success, the need for national expansion, and its growth plan.”

The agency also pitched multiple story angles to help drive broad coverage.

Tactics
Media and blogger outreach began in May. Local targets included outlets covering food, entertainment, and events. National general consumer outlets were also pitched. Top-tier media and select bloggers were invited to the event.

Philanthropic, celebrity, and foodie angles were pitched.

WhiteLightWhiteNight.org, which launched in March and is linked to WalkWithSally.org, provides a wealth of information about the event and the organization.

Arquette's in-house team promoted the gala and its sponsors on the organization's Facebook and Twitter properties. Sponsors also promoted the event on their social media channels. 

At the event, the agency team worked with media outlets to set up live feeds and interviews with Arquette and Smash Mouth. Rexroad's team also orchestrated entry into the event for VIPs, which included celebrities, local politicians, and pro athletes. 

Results
All 1,200 tickets sold out two weeks before the event, up from 800 tickets sold out one week prior to the 2011 event.

Arquette reports the event netted $250,000 ($450,000 gross), up from $150,000 net (and about $300,000 gross) in 2011.

Traditional media and online placements were up from 17 last year to 26 this year. Outlets covering the story included CNN, KTLA-TV, MomsLA, and SoCal Magazine.

Future
CRT/tanaka will continue to play an advisory role in helping WWS disseminate messaging. Arquette says he'll soon hire a development director and open a satellite office in LA. Preparations for next year's gala will begin this fall.

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