32 Tips & Ideas for Planning a Fundraising Gala Dinner Event

Raising money for a non-profit requires a great deal of support, and relies heavily on fundraisers. Creating awareness and highlighting the importance of your organization takes careful planning, consideration, and oftentimes a strict budget. The fact that most of the money for a non-profit comes from donations and other forms of outside support means that every gala dinner must be engineered with every detail in mind. Here are some ways to streamline the planning process and create a welcoming environment for your supporters.

Designate committees – One of the keys to planning a gala fundraiser is making sure each element is carefully examined. Splitting up each individual task into smaller planning committees allows each aspect to be properly managed and offers a more focused approach. Each committee will have their own agenda, but it is important to establish communication between each group throughout the entire planning process. Organize a committee for the following areas and maximize the success of your fundraiser.

Invitations – A clear statement of the purpose of your gala fundraiser is the best way to find support for your cause. Each invitation should possess a sense of personalization and clearly outline the purpose of the event. Writing invitations for a gala dinner is an art that is important to familiarize yourself with. Information should include: date, time, venue, price of the event, and RSVP address. When writing and wording the invitations, here are 7 things to keep in mind:

  1. learly state the purpose of your fundraiser and who will benefit from it.
  2. Include specifics regarding food and drink such as what time dinner will be served, whether or not drinks will be served, and whether it will include an open or cash bar.
  3. Let guests know the formality of the event. If the gala fundraiser is black tie be sure to include that information.
  4. If the event is being held at a venue that guests may not be familiar with, be sure to include directions.
  5. Highlight the theme of the fundraiser gala if you’ve chosen one.
  6. List any unique attractions that might help attract supporters.
  7. A response card should be included and space should be left for their name and form of payment if applicable.

Entertainment – Gala fundraiser events are designed with business in mind, but also offer fun and relaxation. Live music, stage shows, and other events create a unique and comfortable environment for your guests. Whether it is something as simple as a live band or as extravagant as a themed production, the addition of live entertainment will keep your guests engaged during your fundraiser. If you’ve chosen a theme, be sure to book acts or choose forms of entertainment that complement it.

Activities – Fundraising is all about generating capital for a good cause. It may be difficult at times to raise money, but some events allow for fun and rewarding ways to generate income. Auctions, raffles, and other activities can be planned and are able to offer an engaging way to collect donations and provide guests something to commemorate the event. Some ideas for a fundraiser gala event include:

  • Raffle
  • Bake Sale
  • Car Wash
  • Casino Night
  • Charity Golf Tournament
  • Bingo Night

PR/Marketing – The success of any gala event relies on spreading the word about your cause. A successful public relations and marketing team can generate sponsors as well as support for your cause. Help your gala fundraiser reach its full potential by reaching those who are interested and have the ability to help further your cause. Here are some effective ways to reach out to potential supporters:

  • Use free social media sites to spread the word about your organization and communicate with those who support it.
  • Contact your local paper and have them add your event to their calendar of events.
  • Highlight the event on your blog. If you don’t already have a blog for your organization, start one to keep individuals informed on what your company aims to accomplish.
  • Contact other blogs and organizations that support your cause or have similar goals and ask if they will link to or promote your event.
  • Create visually stunning fliers and distribute them to local businesses.
  • Send press releases to local newspapers and magazines highlighting your organization and your gala fundraiser.

Decorations – Creating a unique environment for your gala fundraiser is a must. Whether it is a commonly used fundraising theme or your own creation, stylish decorations provide an enjoyable environment for everyone involved. Each gala fundraiser is a unique experience and each decoration should reflect a sense of intimacy and help build a memorable environment.

An example of a themed fundraiser may be a Las Vegas or casino night. Your decorations could include a Las Vegas entranceway, parlor game centerpieces, card tables, and a color scheme that one might find in a casino. Activities would include games of chance and prizes that lucky guests have a chance to win. Creating a unique environment supplies guests with entertainment and beautiful ambiance while raising money for your organization.

Sponsorship – Planning a high-end gala event requires a great deal of capital. In order to plan each event perfectly, your event will likely require sponsorship. Drumming up support for your cause will take a great deal of networking and building strong business relationships, and having a committee dedicated to this task is absolutely essential in order to produce the ultimate gala dinner. Here are some tips for gaining sponsorship for your event:

  • Build a strong network – Partners, employees, board members and other individuals closely connected to your organization may be able to introduce you to possible sponsors and help further expand your network.
  • Conduct research – There are countless areas where sponsorship can be gained, and there are a wide variety of interested companies. Find out which companies are recruiting sponsorship and see if they fit with your organization.
  • Contact local media – Local newspapers and radio stations are eager to engage in their community and can offer free advertising and may also be willing to donate to your event.
  • Provide sponsor benefits – Provide your sponsors with rewards to show your appreciation for their support. VIP passes, advertising of their company, links to their site, and other perks provide sponsors with an incentive to support your organization and ways to build a long-term business relationship.
  • Build lasting relationships – Working with sponsors and creating a mutually beneficial relationship is a great way to ensure that they continue to support your organization. Continue to communicate with representatives from your sponsors and be sure that their needs are met as well as yours.

Thank Yous - A great way to keep your company fresh in the minds of guests and show your gratitude is to send thank you notes to each participant and guest at your gala fundraiser. This sign of appreciation shows guests that you are interested in a lasting relationship and that their contribution did not go unnoticed.

Raising money for a non-profit relies heavily on building trust and convincing guests that your cause is worth donating to. Fundraiser gala dinners are the perfect way to expand your network and drum up support for your organization. Carefully focusing on each aspect of the planning process ensures that no detail is forgotten. A comfortable and entertaining fundraiser gala dinner will put donors at ease and open their minds (and wallets) to your cause.

Further Reading...

Successful Fundraising Ideas: Collected by Kathy La Plante - A list of 35 solid ideas for a fundraising gala event.

Tips for Creating a Fund-Raising Gala for the First Time - From The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Books to Help Plan a Fund-Raising Event - A few helpful books for organizations to use when planning their fund-raising events.

10 Habits of Highly Successful Fundraisers - Of the many ways to raise money for an organization, one thing Jen Johnson (Otis Fundraising) has found that they all have in common is that they should include these ten habits of highly successful fundraisers.

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Comments 4 comments

missali profile image

missali 3 years ago

You hit every detail! Planning a fundraiser/gala can be quite the demanding task, geesh!

OhMe profile image

OhMe 2 years ago from Pendleton, SC

I am involved in a lot of fundraising efforts so this will be very helpful. Thanks.

Megan Austin 4 months ago

Useful tips for planning gala dinner event. These ideas are really helpful for those who are planning for gala dinner event. Thank you for your information.

Jon D 3 months ago

What happens if you have one hour before the fundraising dinner and the caterer still hasn't arrived or answering their phone?

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