Does my gala need a theme? Should the event theme be the same year after year? What if people don’t want to participate? 

These are all completely valid questions you’ve *probably* hadWe’d like to share a few answers: 

We recommend having a theme for your event because it gives you an opportunity to differentiate your fundraiser from other organizations’ (as well as from your past events!) However, some organizations find a particular theme is popular among donors, they may use that theme year after year. For example, some organizations will host a Mardi Gras Ball or a Casino Night each year because it’s an event that donors look forward to. If you really nail a theme, perhaps you can coin it as yours! 

When implementing a theme, you cannot, of course, force participation, nor do you want people to feel pressured. As you plan your event, consider your language when you send out invitations, using positive and inclusive phrasing such as “we encourage everyone to come dressed to impress!” 

Remember, incorporate a theme into your event can: 

  • Differentiate from other fundraisers 
  • Add fun and excitement 
  • Provide endless creative options for marketing and promotion 
  • Tie in additional fundraising based on the theme (I.e. pay to play games at casino night) 

Some themes to consider: 

  • Decades (I.e. the ‘80s, Roaring ‘20s) 
  • Holidays (I.e. Mardi Gras, Halloween) 
  • TV & film (I.e. Mad Men) 
  • Locations (I.e. Havana nights, Hawaiian luau, a night at the museum) 
  • Nostalgia (I.e. disco, prom) 
  • Activities (I.e. derby days, casinos, bowling, golf) 
  • Your organization itself (I.e. jazz fest, nautical, fur ball) 


For more on event themes, check out Jam Session: Episode 14

Kelsey Woodworth
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