5 Alternatives to a Fundraising Gala

Catherine Cooke
Catherine Cooke

When planning a fundraising event, it’s natural that a gala will come to mind. It’s a tried-and-true staple event for many nonprofits to celebrate their donors while bringing in new donations.

But before you jump to organizing a gala, stop and ask yourself whether a gala is truly on brand for your nonprofit.

Does your organization have a more approachable, casual brand, work with low-income populations, and/or attract a younger generation of donors?

These are just a few reasons why a fundraising gala might not be the most appropriate event for showing off your work and attracting the types of donors and community your nonprofit seeks. 

Additionally, they may not be financially responsible.

Fundraising Galas: Are They Worth It?

When deciding whether galas are worth the cost, pay attention to the net revenue over the gross revenue.

Before celebrating hitting a $100,000 fundraising goal at your gala, calculate the total costs of putting on the event.

Flowers, event space, catering, and entertainment are all part of your direct costs, but you must also calculate your indirect costs of staff members’ time planning and marketing your gala (the hourly rate of their salary and benefits package).

Once you factor in these costs, it may turn out your organization hasn’t raised as much money as you originally thought.

Not to fear. There are many other more financially responsible alternatives to a gala that may even prove to be more fun!

1.  A Community Marketplace


Does your nonprofit work with populations who cook or make products? Show off the work of the individuals your nonprofit helps serve and give them the opportunity to flex their business skills.

Host a public event that anyone can attend rather than an exclusive invite-only affair. Set up booths and allow those you work with to sell their food and goods to the community. 

Instead of serving attendees food in a sit-down format and auctioning off products, have them interact with those who made the food and products to make your nonprofit’s work more personal.

Individuals your nonprofit helps can share the stories of how your nonprofit benefited them and explain why what they are selling is special to them.

Attendees will leave with at least one person’s face in mind who they could actually help through a donation, while those you work with feel empowered by being able to sell their goods.

Make sure to capture donations right there at the event when the stories are most top-of-mind.

Set up fundraising booths throughout the space with tablets that are set to your online crowdfunding page.

Set a goal for the event so that attendees can see in real-time how close you are to reaching the goal. 

2. Go Live On Social Media


These days, you can host a fundraiser entirely online, without any need for an in-person event.

Host a live fundraising event on Facebook or Instagram, and make sure to link to an online crowdfunding page in all of your communications and captions.

Spread the word ahead of time via email and social media, and have people save the date for your live event.

Just as you may have speeches at a fundraising gala by your Director, a benefactor of your nonprofit, and a special headline guest, host speakers on Facebook or Instagram Live instead.

The Motherhood Collective

Lauren Barnes, the Executive Director of The Motherhood Collective shared how they used Facebook Live to raise funds for their #GivingTuesday campaign

Setting up a merchandise stand at a local chocolate shop, the organization encouraged donors to come by and purchase Christmas gifts.

They live-streamed the entire day, putting peoples’ names on a visible on-screen wreath as they donated to their cause, and had on-camera interviews throughout the day. 

“It became a celebration of our community, and it was a ton of fun,” Lauren shared.

Going live on social media makes your event more inclusive by allowing those who could not attend an in-person event to tune in from around the world.

Increase the audience even more by saving the live event and posting it to your Facebook page or Instagram profile. This allows people to tune in after the event is over and share it with others.

3. At-Home Fundraising Dinners


Instead of having people buy a table and host their friends at a fundraising gala, flip the narrative, and ask donors to host their own table at home, eliminating the high costs and time needed to organize such a grand event.

Set a certain night for supporters to host their own fundraising dinners. Even better, if most of your donors are in the same region, set a timeframe for the dinner.

This way, you can livestream a speech at the event and even have tables tune into a group video call to see the collective effort across a city.

If dinners will have to be hosted at different times, pre-record speeches and/or create a video that hosts can share at their dinner party that tells guests more about your organization.

Set an overall fundraising goal for the night and have tables compete against one another by having hosts set up their own online peer-to-peer fundraising pages where their guests can donate.

You can give out prizes such as a catered dinner for everyone at the table who raised the most or had the most number of people donate.

4. Host A Game Night


Host a game night with a grand prize for the winners, but in order to participate, each team must commit to fundraising a certain amount of money in the lead up to the event. 

Oak Hill School, a school for children with autism and developmental differences, hosted a trivia night as their major fundraiser for the year. 

Interested parents and supporters formed their own trivia teams and committed to raising at least $6,000 to participate in the trivia night.

Oak Hill School’s Director of Finance Reilly used CauseVox to make fundraising simple for participants. He created templates for teams that could be personalized if they wanted to, but nobody had to create content to start fundraising. 

Unlike a gala, where you might not know how much you’ll raise until the end of the night, the money was already in the bank by the time the trivia night started. How much? More than $60,000 their first year!

5. Try An UnGala

An UnGala (sometimes referred to as “Gone with the Gala)” is run through an online fundraising campaign where you invite your top supporters to join and fundraise for you (aka peer-to-peer fundraising).

Rather than purchase tables or tickets, your supporters can donate the amount they would have otherwise spent directly to your cause. Your fundraisers can then invite their friends and families to give on their personal fundraising page.

You can even solicit sponsors and offer perks based on the sponsorship level.


If you consider all of the expenses (and headaches) you would incur with a live event, UnGalas are the way to go.

Raise More With Less Effort

There are many alternatives to a fundraising gala that could help you raise more money with less effort, and the right fundraising tools and techniques will help you maximize your efforts to get you to your goal.

Let CauseVox streamline your fundraising efforts and help you raise more. 

Learn more about running your fundraising event on CauseVox.

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