Have a ball: 4 great examples of gala fundraising events by nonprofits

Every year, many nonprofits wrap up their fundraising by throwing a ball (the party kind, not the sports kind). We thought we’d highlight a few successful – and admittedly extravagant – benefit galas that have taken place already in 2016 to give you some inspiration for your end-of-year giving event.

The Daffodil Ball


Cause: The Canadian Cancer Society

Amount Raised: $1.6 million net in 2016; over $30 million in 23 years

The Daffodil Ball is a large fundraising effort for cancer-related services in Canada. Every component to the event radiates luxury and style, and Canada’s social and corporate elite always make an appearance. The theme for 2016 was Mardi Gras and the invitations played on this idea by incorporating jazz music, bead necklaces and masquerade masks. Entertainment consisted of Dixieland Band, Mardi Gras Indians and Light Beings, among others.

Black & White Gala

Cause: Give Kids the World Village

This nonprofit host an annual gala, and has recently done a “big top” theme and a “Pirates & Princesses Ball.” During the circus themed gala, the dining room was the “big top,” with the perimeter set up with carnival games, a silent auction and entertainers. The games served as a means of procuring donations and also as decor.

Outside was designed to look like a circus tent with oversized stars, and gold and ivory drapery. Red and white filament bulbs punctuated the ceiling to create an illusion of a peaked tent. Gymnasts, illusionists and clowns were among the entertainers.


Cause: Thinkery’s Open Door Initiatives

Amount Raised: $1 million

Thinkery strives to help young people develop problem-solving skills through play. Its annual gala raises funds for its initiative to provide scholarships, program discounts, school field trip stipends and free admission for children throughout Texas. After the formal black-tie affair, the nonprofit hosts an after-party aptly called “After Glow.” It is built on the concept of letting adults play as children do for one evening, with dancing, food, cocktails and live music. Prior to the event, they are also have online bidding of items for people who won’t be attending the gala yet still want to contribute financially.

Perkins Possibilities Gala

Cause: Perkins School for the Blind

Amount Raised: $1.1 million

Perkins offers life-changing programs for children and youth. Its annual gala, this year hosted in a decorative tent, aimed to raise funds to make more technology and programs accessible for young people who are blind. This year, as participants anticipated dancing and music to accompany the fundraising activities, they were surprised by an announcement from Perkins Board Chair Corinne Grousbeck.

As part of an effective marketing maneuver to help raise more funds, she informed attendees of the launch of Blind New World, a social change movement intended to change the way sighted people perceive blind people. Accompanying her announcement were two short films that challenged people to reconsider their judgments.

For a more in-depth look at galas and other forms of year-end giving, join us Oct. 25 for a free online discussion about year-end fundraising.

Images from gala websites.



Chad Catacchio


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