People will attend your fundraising gala because they want to support your organization. But, let’s face it — a fun or intriguing theme won’t hurt. After all, you want to maximize attendance from people who are willing to invest in your cause! This is where fundraising gala themes come into play.
You've probably heard of the Met Gala, an annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute that draws every top celebrity in the country to one venue. Each year, the gala follows a certain theme:
- Rock Style, Cubism, and Fashion
- Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy
- Punk: Chaos to Couture
While the Met Gala is one of the most extreme examples of gala themes, you can pick a theme that intrigues invitees and sets the tone for your entire event. But, what are some good fundraising gala themes you might consider? Here are 14 of our favorites. You can adapt them for your event or use them to kick-start your own imagination.
14 Fundraising Gala Themes
Get creative! These themes can be a great launching point for your annual gala. Think about different ways that you can tie these themes into your organization's vision and mission.
- Masquerade (complete with period costumes or something contemporary, mask required)
- Vintage circus (or Cirque du Soleil)
- Local art scene
- Street art
- Fairy tale or book characters
- Selfie museum
- Roaring 20s
- Black and white
- Fire and ice
- Angels and demons
- Pet gala
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You Have an Amazing Theme... Now What?
The key to an irresistible and profitable event is continuity. That means weaving your theme into every aspect of your event to really bring it to life.
- Lighting, sound, and visuals make it an event to remember
AV can replace standard decorations with impressive, immersive elements that will wow your attendees and save your volunteers countless hours of setup. Your AV team can create a full-on, 360-degree video production, use LED searchlights to attract attention outside your entrance or announce performers inside, and use projection mapping to produce trompe l’oeil that’ll get attendees talking, snapping selfies, and posting long after the event is over.
And, if your event calls for a spectacular stage or circus performance, your AV team can handle that, too.
- Food that fits
Whether you serve finger foods or a gourmet sit-down dinner, make sure the menu and presentation are theme-appropriate.
- Music is a must
You could stream something, but live music is more “gala.” Be it a big band or a soloist, be sure their playlist is on-theme.
- Paint their faces
Carrying around a mask on a stick prevents people from snacking, drinking, and signing bid sheets, all things you want them to do! And where are they supposed to park that thing during dinner, the program and the live auction? Instead, hire a team of talented face painters and “dress” guests as they arrive. Jungle theme? Transform attendees into lions, tigers, bears, and chimps. Oh, my! Angels and demons theme? You can already picture it, can’t you?
- Scale matters
Like the Met, you may be planning a spectacle for hundreds (or more) guests in a majestic setting, but then again, maybe your venue and fundraising goals are a bit less lofty. No matter. Instead of a Cirque du Soleil-size performance, consider a cabaret setting with entertainers mingling with attendees during the reception and silent auction. You can orchestrate fundraising gala themes to fit any budget.
Beware, though. Over-spending on spectacular costumes, props, or entertainment can taint your event instead of engaging attendees in good ways. People want to trust that their contributions will directly support your mission, not pay undue event expenses. If you secure a “theme sponsor” to pay for performers/production elements, flaunt that!
- Send hold-the-date cards that hint at your theme
Mail them early so prospective attendees have plenty of notice to lock in your date. Then, follow with unique invitations that elaborate on your theme.
Fundraising Done Flawlessly
Choose an appealing theme and let it permeate every aspect of your event, and you’ll not only wow attendees into spending freely, but you’ll also have them begging to get on your invitation list for next year.