How the ANZA Community in Manila raised over $20,000 through a cancelled gala ball.

16 Oct 2020 2:28 PM | Anonymous

If you have ever been involved in organising a large-scale event, you will know that it takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to give your attendees everything you have promised. Our committee who were tasked with organising this year’s Australia & New Zealand Association (ANZA) Charity Ball were no exception.

Through our networks and beyond, we claimed that our ball would be the event of the year and we were hellbent on making sure that those words were an understatement. Every detail was planned with thoughtfulness, resourcefulness and with the goal of making sure every attendee had their expectations shattered and thousands of dollars would be raised for our charity.

But that is not what happened...

Cancelling the Ball

I can vividly remember seeing the group whatsapp message suggesting we have to seriously consider cancelling the ball and my heart sinking. When we came face to face to discuss the next day, we had to make that hard decision to respect the views of our partners and to safeguard our members and friends. It would have been irresponsible if we had pushed through.

It was like running 41km in a marathon and not being able to enjoy crossing the line.

We decided that all of our hard work would not go in vein and to postpone rather than cancel, hoping to pick up the final stages later in the year once ‘this covid thing’ had passed.

As the months of isolation dragged on, we soon realised this was an unrealistic goal and decided to officially cancel the event and plan how to unwind everything.

So it not only felt like almost finishing the marathon, but like we were having to run all the way back to the start again.

Money Issues

Being a not-for-profit organization means we are not sitting on an abundance of cash to pay our ticket holders refunds and accept a loss on all the deposits we had made. We actually had staged targets [of ticket sales] to achieve our deposits, ability to run the event and then to make money for our charity on top.

Soon began the struggle of chasing up all of our paid deposits and begging on hands and knees for refunds. Of course, we weren’t the only organisation struggling and so this was not an easy task. After some thorough following up, we eventually managed to get some of those deposits back. Certainly not all of the deposits but thankfully our largest. The deposit paid for the venue hire was fully refunded. That venue was New World Hotel Makati and they deserve a lot of respect for the way things were handled.

Based on the amount of successful refunds we had received,  we calculated our maximum refund that we could give our ticket holders. It was a 70% partial refund. When we announced this and began the great ordeal of administering these refunds, we discovered a spectrum of attitudes. They ranged from demanding the full refund to can’t believing we managed as much as 70%. We of course were disheartened by the former and elated by the latter. Deep down, we knew we tried our best for our community.  

Raising Charitable Funds

Just before announcing the refund, we had decided we would still attempt to raise money for our charity despite not running the event. After all, the overall focus of the ball was raising much needed cash for Roots of Health. We had to try something. We had two ideas:

The first was setting up a system for people to request their refund and then giving the option to donate their refund instead. We weren’t sure if many would take this option but were delighted when almost 30% of our attendees agreed and some even gave a bit extra. Pure kindness.

We also had many prizes donated from local businesses for our auction at the ball. We had made contact with these businesses and requested to auction them off using an online platform instead of live at the ball. Again, to our surprise our community all got involved and made a variety of bids making sure all the prizes went to a good home and more funds were raised.

Overall, through ticket refunds, the online auction and some kind souls adding in some extras, we managed to raise 712,000PHP for Roots of Health which is being transferred this week.

Read their update on how the funds are being used. 

I don’t wish this experience upon anyone. We certainly gained a few wrinkles and lost a few nights sleep. But experiencing people’s compassion and seeing the final figure that we are transferring has made it all worth it.

Mark Blackwell

Communications - ANZA Manila

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