February 28, 2015
Updated May 19, 2015

How to Plan and Put On a Fundraising Gala

As long ago as the American Civil War, people enjoyed dressing up in formal wear for an evening of dining and dancing in the name of philanthropy. No matter the cause, the classic fundraising gala has changed little in the past 150 years.

Galas are evening events, formal occasions that typically includes a large guest list, a multi-course sit-down dinner, and entertainment. One of the few changes to the formula: In the past decade, “formal dress” has expanded from black-tie-only to include business wear as acceptable attire for many events.

Organizing such elaborate events requires significant effort and expense. Yet experts say that charities that plan carefully can reap substantial benefits from hosting their own gala.

Raising significant amounts of money -- from sponsorships, ticket sales, and in-event revenue-generating activities such as auctions -- is one obvious benefit. Harder to measure but equally important is the opportunity to deepen your organization’s relationships with supporters through crucial in-person contact.

Below are links to resources from The Chronicle that will help you put on a successful fundraising event.


Raise More Money from Events

Join The Chronicle of Philanthropy and fundraising experts for fresh and creative approaches to raise more from your fundraising events. 

February 27, 2015

Where to Start if Your Organization is New to Galas

Experts weigh in on the questions nonprofits need to answer up front: Is a gala right for you? Do you need event-planning help? How do you recruit volunteers?

February 27, 2015

Planning a Gala: Key Terms and Concepts

The lingo you need to know to pull off a formal fundraising event.

March 01, 2015

A Budget Template for a Fundraising Event

New York Cares shared this blank budget spreadsheet for a gala event.


Organize Cost-Effective Special Events

Whether you’re new to fundraising events or a veteran planner, staying within budget while keeping your affair engaging can be a challenge. Whether you’re planning a walkathon, gala, or other creative fundraising event, join us for one-hour session that will help you attract more dollars without spending more.

March 01, 2015

A Timeline for Organizing a Black-Tie Fundraising Gala

A checklist of major decisions and tasks for planning formal events, starting a year in advance.

April 21, 2015

What to Consider Before Holding a Celebrity Fundraising Event

Bringing a star to your event could attract attention and money — but it could also become a disaster without careful planning. Here’s what to think about.

February 27, 2015

Trends in Gala Fundraising and Tips for Putting Them to Use

Technology, sneakers, social media, and storytelling are changing—and improving—the decades-old gala formula.

July 16, 2015

After the Ball: How to Evaluate the Success of Your Fundraising Event

After a gala or other event, get your staff together to review how it went and collect feedback and ideas.

June 28, 2016

A Museum Reboots Its Gala, Connects to Its Mission, and Raises $1 Million

With acrobats and cocktail-themed science experiments, Exploratorium aims to make its annual fundraiser a can’t-miss event on San Francisco’s social calendar.

March 02, 2015

“Blue Jeans and Bling” Event Helps Food Bank Connect Supporters With Mission

Lessons learned from a popular gala held in a Baltimore nonprofit’s warehouse lead to new, less formal events.

February 09, 2005

Tips for Creating a Fundraising Gala for the 1st Time

Preparing a successful event can be difficult for small groups that with few staff members or volunteers. These tips from people who run special events can help.

February 25, 2015

How a Change in Format Led a Flagging Gala to 17 Years of Success

Converting a black-tie soiree to an awards event recognizing clients, volunteers, and donors paid off for New York Cares.

February 26, 2015

Launching a New Gala in an Old Theater

How a historic nonprofit concert venue is growing fundraising with an annual event aimed at its rock-and-roll supporters.

March 01, 2015

A Nonprofit New to Galas Finds Its Way—With Help From Man’s Best Friend

The Morris Animal Foundation has seen its dog-friendly event in Knoxville, Tenn., more than double in size in four years.