How to Plan a Fundraiser or Gala in 2020: A Step-by-Step Guide

by the PartySlate Team

Planning a fundraiser is no small feat. Representing your cause in engaging and memorable ways will lead to more funds raised and more momentum behind your charity. We know your gala or fundraiser needs to be flawless – ensure that the event is a complete success with our 8-step guide.

1. Hire an Event Planner

Event planners are the key to a successful fundraiser. Their expertise is invaluable, especially when it comes to a large-scale gala. They will ensure you have reliable and skilled event professionals for your fundraiser – think photographer, caterer, band, valet, and more. When hosting a highly publicized event for a cause that is near and dear to your heart, it’s critical that the affair runs smoothly. An event planner will solve any arising obstacles with solutions that come from their unmatched experience. They will help you devise a plan that will optimize your event’s timeline, design, theme, and fundraising efforts.

Photography: Scott Clark Photo | Venue: Petersen Automotive Museum | Planner: RG Live Events | Florist: CJ Matsumoto & Sons

2. Find a Venue

Selecting a venue should be your next decision. With the help of your planner, determine what type of space will meet your needs and support the size of your guest list. When throwing large events with multiple elements, a raw space with less restrictions may be your best option – think lofts and warehouses. Hotels often offer helpful event services and beautiful spaces, such as ballrooms, rooftops, and courtyards, for elegant sit-down dinners and silent auctions. Other things to consider are what amenities you need at your event space – WiFi, A/V equipment, breakout rooms, coat checks, and more are important to think about ahead of time. Use our helpful filters to sort by the amenities you need.

Photography: Ryan Stephens | Venue: Weylin | Planner: YSD Events | Décor: Hessney and Co. | A/V: Brooktech

3. Hire a Photographer

Photographers book up far in advance, so make sure you give yourself enough time to find and book the right one. Professional photos will allow you to promote your event’s success and continue spreading the word about your cause long after the gala is over. Plus, photos also serve as timeless keepsakes for your guests. Videography offers similar benefits — if you want to capture your event in a promotable video, ask your photographer if they offer videography services, or if they have recommendations for a reputable videography company. Photo booths are another fun element to consider. Guests love them, and most companies can print your logo on the printouts.

Photography: Visuals by Arpit | Venue: Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel | Planner: Mindy Weiss Party Consultants

4. Build a Design Around Your Cause

From themes and color schemes to florals and décor, the design of your gala or fundraiser plays a large role in its success. Your design can be directly related to your cause, or you can get creative with an inspired and out-of-the-box theme. Silent auction décor is a key component to consider — use both intriguing elements and clear signage to capture guests’ attention and ensure they can easily find items to bid on. Awe-inspiring gala décor gets attendees excited about the cause they are supporting, so don’t be afraid to be innovative and have fun with it. PartySlate’s curated selection of the top design and décor professionals can help bring your vision to life.

Photography: Billy Farrel Agency | Venue: Caribou Club Aspen | Design & Décor: Pink Monkey Solutions

5. Represent Your Brand

Promote your brand as much as possible – the time your guests spend at your event should be filled with your brand’s logo and informative signage. Your organization needs to be the star of the show. Put your brand’s name in lights or display a step and repeat at the entrance — photo ops are the perfect opportunity to promote your cause in an engaging and memorable way. At the center of the event, stages and backdrops are another sizable promotion space. We’ve curated thousands of branding photos to help inspire your planning process. Take advantage of this gala focal point with branded backdrops or projections of your mission statement. 

Photography: Rebecca Marie Photography | Venue: The Bomb Factory | Lighting & Visual Design: BEYOND

6. Select a Caterer

One of the most anticipated elements of a fundraiser is the food and drink. We recommend deciding what style catering you would like for your event and going from there — you can browse our curated food and drink photos to help inspire your decision. From cocktail hour-style – think exquisite hors d’oeuvres and custom craft cocktails – to a lavish sit-down dinner or decadent buffet, food and beverages will keep guests content and energized for the duration of your important event.

Photography: Erika Dufour | Catering: Limelight Catering | Décor: Revel Decor | Planner: Revel Global Events

7. Plan Your Fundraising Efforts

In order to host a successful gala, fundraising efforts must be prioritized. A large-scale event is one of the best opportunities to benefit your philanthropy and aid its cause. Silent auctions help ensure that your fundraiser raises sufficient funds for your charity. Ensure you have technology and signage that make the silent auction experience enjoyable for guests – they may end up bidding more money and getting even more invested in the prizes. Travel packages and experiences are often the most sought-after items, and combining multiple donated items into a larger prize package often motivates guests to get bidding.

Photography: Fig Media- Photography | Venue: Four Seasons Hotel Chicago | DJ: Fig Media- DJ

8. Hire Entertainment

Once guests are done bidding at the auction and learning about your cause, get them on the dance floor. Energetic DJs and captivating bands can make an event truly memorable. But guests won’t be on the dance floor the entire night – acrobats, magicians, casino games, and other mesmerizing performers can keep guests entertained while they sip on a cocktail or wander with friends. Interactive activities are another increasingly popular way to ensure guests are entertained throughout the event, and PartySlate features inspiration and event professionals you can contact.

Rentals, Design, Décor, Technical Productions & Photography: Chicago Casino Suppliers | Venue: The Palmer House Hilton | Planner: BERT KAULEN

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