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Gala Planning Checklist: Throwing a Fundraiser in Austin

We’re proud to say that our hometown of Austin is a very philanthropic city. In fact, Austin was recently named one of GoFundMe’s five most generous cities. Texas as a whole ranked as the second most generous state in the country.

Clearly, Austin is a great place to throw a gala fundraiser. Every year our casino party planning team helps local organizations maximize their fundraising capabilities with unique events that build awareness. Here are a few things we’ve learned about throwing a successful gala fundraiser in Austin.


Anyone who’s lived in Austin for more than a year can tell you planning an event during the weeks of ACL, SXSW or any of the other large festivals will severely limit your venue options. Some locales in popular areas like downtown and Lake Travis also remain booked up year round. Without a venue, it’s difficult to make headway on everything else, which is why getting a space secured should be the number one item on the agenda.

Here’s a quick example of why securing the venue is so important. Let’s say you’re planning a casino party fundraiser. Without knowing the venue specifics, our team wouldn’t be able to estimate how many black jack and poker tables to reserve because we wouldn’t know how much floor space is available. You also won’t know the maximum number of tickets that can be sold or what type of kitchen facilities will be accessible for refreshments. Choosing a venue is a big decision to make because it affects everything else.

One final word of advice – if you want to reserve a specific venue, find ways to be more flexible with the date of your event to increase your chances of getting it.


In a city like Austin, people have a lot of entertainment options. It’s a lot easier to get people through the door if you have some sort of entertainment they can’t easily experience anywhere else. That’s one reason why our casino parties are so popular. For 35 years we’ve been providing a Vegas experience without having to leave the Lone Star State. For some people it’s the closest they’ll ever get to the Strip.

The more experiential you can make the event the more memorable it will be. Leaving a lasting impression maximizes the value of your fundraiser in amazing ways. For starters, an experiential event will make a strong connection with attendees. These guests are more likely to spread the word about the amazing time they had at your event and share information about your charity, which is priceless in terms of community awareness.


We can’t tell you how many nonprofits try to take on everything when they plan a large-scale fundraiser only to find it’s not the most efficient solution. Planning a gala is no small feat, and if you’ve never done it before there are a lot of things you won’t be able to anticipate. Now is the time to tap into local experts.

The vendors you work with should be partners in making the fundraiser a success. Don’t be afraid to ask them a lot of questions – most are happy to share their insight. It’s just one more reason to lineup party planners, caterers, etc. as soon as you can.


Austin is known for being a laidback city, but we do like the finer things in life. When you’re throwing a gala, guests expect a certain level of wining and dining, especially if they’re making a sizeable donation. One thing to keep in mind is your average donor level. The more people donate the better they expect the gala to be in terms of refreshments, food, entertainment and amenities.


A gala is a great fundraising idea because it gives you a number of opportunities to raise donations, starting with the ticket sales. Some organizations are just happy to be in the black after expenses, but we urge you to look for other ways to increase your fundraising during the gala.

Take one of our casino fundraisers for instance. The guests aren’t gambling with real money, but other businesses can sponsor each poker table. We can either put up one of the business’ signs or make a custom felt with their logo. You can also hold auctions or raffles right alongside the casino games.

The goal is to find at least one or two creative ways to encourage your guests to donate to your cause while they’re at the gala. Hopefully, the party is so fabulous they consider it worth the ticket cost and will donate a little more.


If you’re planning a fundraising gala the checklist below will help you keep everything in order and make sure no key considerations are missed.

  • Form a gala committee and assign tasks.

  • Decide on a theme and approximate date for the gala.

  • Estimate the minimum number of expected guests.

  • Tour possible venues for the event.

  • Secure a venue 6+ months in advance.

  • Look for other organizations to act as sponsors.

  • Begin drafting invitations and marketing materials for the event.

  • Make announcements about the upcoming event on social media.

  • Hire party planners to help arrange entertainment, seating, etc.

  • Find caterers if your event will incorporate food.

  • Find bar services if your event will offer beverages.

  • Line up a few guest speakers, local celebrities and/or entertainment.

  • Hire a florist and begin designing arrangements.

  • Make a list of essential rental items and get them reserved.

  • Hire a photographer for the event.

  • Organize volunteers to help out on the day of the gala.

  • Hire a wait staff for the gala if a dinner is served.

  • Send out invitations to your contact list and community members 1-2 months in advance.

  • Begin marketing the event at least a month in advance across all online channels.

  • Review your RSVPs and ticket sales for a headcount.

  • Finalize the menu.

  • Print programs and place cards for the tables.

  • Secure all seating and décor.

  • Do a walk through of the venue noting details like the location of electrical outlets and bathrooms.

  • Make sure all audio-visual equipment is tested and set up at the venue.

  • Go over the schedule of events and final headcount with the venue manager.

  • Begin prepping the venue at least 12 hours in advance of the event.

Let Casino Knights Inc. help your organization throw a casino fundraiser in Texas that will raise awareness and donations. Our expert planners can handle all of the entertainment logistics and set up so you can focus on all the other items on your checklist!

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