Fundraising via black-tie events?

My girlfriend and I were are our local museum for the holiday market this weekend. The entire space was beautiful and apparently is frequently rented out for black-tie events. I am curious if anyone has fundraised via black-tie events like Gala’s and how successful they were?

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The sort of people that go to conventional “Black Tie” events expect them to be swanky which means paying for a fairly high overhead before getting a return. For example I expect the museum rental is not cheap. I would be impressed if the a team was able to swing something like that.


Also, black tie is just a dress code. You need some activity to go with it. In the past our team has had a silent auction of baskets our sponsors made. Another year we had a trivia night. Both were pretty successful but we had the space and items donated.


Our school has a fundraiser Gala every spring. The team has volunteered to work the coat check room for the event, which came along with an area right out front to demo the robot.

I wouldn’t look to run your own Gala, but you certainly could tack onto an existing event like that and get some benefit, both as an outreach event and a fundraiser!


Not quite the same, but 3512 has been hosting some form of a Dinner Auction for 4 years now. We partner with our local Elks Club who buys and prepares the food (typically either a BBQ Chicken or Tri-Tip plate), and then we are on the hook to sell the tickets (we ask each student to sell 10), secure the auction items, and bus the tables.

As a form of entertainment before the live auction, each subteam prepares a poster board detailing what they do on the team, and we bring all of our assembled past robots so dinner guests can learn about the team and it’s history.

We found that local businesses are often more agreeable to donate auction items then give straight monetary donations in a lot of cases, so the dinner auction is great for that purpose.

Events like this are understandably logistically challenging to organize, so we elect a Dinner Auction Committee from amongst the students, anyone is free to volunteer for this. These committee members meet once a week for around an hour in the months before the fundraiser to plan the whole event. I heavily recommend trying to partner with a club like Elks, Rotary, Lions, ect for something like this since generally they host these kinds of events on the regular.

We just hosted this event for our 2023 fundraising effort last month and sold ~350 tickets at a price of $35 each, of which the Elks Cub takes ~$22. All said with the live auction we netted $16,560 this year.


FIRST runs a gala for part of their fund raising: Inspire Gala | FIRST . These raise money for the central organization, though, and not a particular team.

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We used to do something like this back in the day as well, we would rent out a restaurant/catering hall and do a Chinese Auction, 50/50, raffles and the like, it would bring in like $15-$20K but was a huge time commitment from parents and families so we stopped doing them around 2010. Plus the rules about the students going around soliciting for donations have changed since them making it much harder as well.

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My sister works in non-profit fundraising, and has said that it’s tough to come out in the black for a black-tie gala event if you’re charging less than $200-300 a head. As FrankJ says, marketing an event as a black-tie gala creates an expectation of a certain level of fanciness.

Obviously renting out a restaurant for a private party and doing a raffle, silent auction, etc can be done much cheaper. Just set appropriate expectations about what kind of event it is (i.e., not the kind you go out and buy an expensive evening gown for).


you could do it, but you would be spending quite a bit of money to make a little money. not worth it in my personal opinion.

my old team did a telethon every year: the students would put together videos and set up a call center. we would livestream the videos on youtube with our phone number constantly on screen, setting up a call center to request and receive donations. it worked pretty well.

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