3 Big Mistakes to Avoid With Your First Charity Gala

A gala may well be one of the best ways to raise money for a good cause. It offers entertainment, networking opportunities, food and drink, and the ability to feel good about helping the world. Thing is, such an event isn’t as simple to pull off as you might expect. There are certain mistakes that a lot of first-timers make - here’s how you can avoid them.


Honestly, who doesn’t love a good charity gala? Good food, good company, and a good cause - pretty much everything you could possibly ask for. Plus, if you can pull one off successfully, a gala is an excellent way to raise money, attract leads, and network with volunteers and partners.

Of course, that’s the kicker - it’s not always easy to pull off a successful gala. Especially if it’s your first time running one, there are a lot of distinctive challenges and problems you might run into. Being aware of them is the first step towards addressing them.

Low Engagement, High Tedium

We’ve all had to sit through a presentation that seems as though it dragged on for hours (even if it only lasted a few minutes). Some people simply aren’t suited to public speaking. They drone on about irrelevant details, they repeatedly lose their train of thought, or they simply lack charisma.

Too many speakers like that can kill the mood, leaving your guests bored or frustrated.

While you cannot necessarily control whether or not your sponsors bring their A-game, to the stage, you can ensure that boring presentations don’t last longer than they have to, and that your own presentations are entertaining. Audio and video quality make a huge difference as well - so it’s definitely worth your while to invest in decent A/V tech.

Keep an eye out for any guests that seem disengaged, and consider speaking with them during networking breaks. More importantly, make sure you’re serving good food and drink - nothing spoils the mood faster than a poor dining experience, after all. Beyond that, consider how you might shake up your gala and distinguish it from what others are doing; attend a few other charity galas and see how they handle things.

Networking? What Networking?

Speaking of networking, that’s a huge part of why many people attend galas in the first place. I don’t doubt you’re excited about your cause - you’re stoked to have more people donating their time and effort to improving the world. But it’s important to understand that many of your guests are here as much for the meet and greet as for the event itself.

Provide speakers and sponsors with space for vendor booths somewhere in the gala. Schedule in frequent networking breaks, and make sure there’s some time both before and after your event for people to just relax and mingle.

Lack of Follow-Up

Last but certainly not least, don’t underestimate the power of a simple ‘thank you.’ Both at the event and afterwards, make sure to offer some form of tangible thanks to people who gave, whether that was through a direct donation or through their participation in an auction. Get creative, and get personal - you want them to warmly remember your event, after all.

Party On

A charity gala can be tons of fun if it’s done effectively, and incredibly rewarding besides. And while there are plenty of mistakes you might potentially make, there are also many more opportunities to do things right. Focus on your cause and on offering everyone a good time, and things should work out just fine.


If you have more questions about nonprofit strategy you can always reach out to the DipJar fundraising experts for help. It's what we love to do!


Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.