12 Charity Event Theme Ideas

Choosing just the right theme can be pivotal to your fundraising event’s success. Engaging potential donors and building anticipation for the big night is important not only for your current fundraising gala, but for future events as well – and selecting a theme can spark plenty of promotional ideas to generate buzz in your donor community.

Picking a cool theme isn’t just about promotion, either. The event theme is carried through to create atmosphere and ambiance, setting the tone and giving you direction for planning many of the event elements such as decor, food, venue and entertainment.

We will be sharing a list of 12 of the most popular charity event theme ideas we’ve seen used at the thousands of fundraising galas we work with each year with planning and promotional ideas, plus a few Winspire travel packages to generate buzz and bids among your donors.

For our first installment, we chose to cover three of the most common event themes we’ve seen from around the country…

Secret Garden - Charity Event Theme #11. Secret Garden

How about a garden party with a touch of beauty and wonderment? If you don’t have access to an actual garden, then create a setting decorated to make your guests feel as though they have been transported to an enchanted garden. Add flowering bushes and twinkling lights to provide a magical, garden touch.

A garden party, featuring elegant attire (depending on the venue and your guest list. you might consider casual attire, too) and live music, allowing this theme to fit well with almost any fundraising event. Add to the entertainment with a stage for theatrical performances. Think about capturing the enchanting themes characteristic of the well-known novel The Secret Garden… 

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.”
– The Secret Garden


Here are some live and silent auction ideas that complement this theme:

Healdsburg Elite Retreat - auction travel package

Healdsburg Elite Retreat

Jesse Katz Wine Tasting, Dinner at Valette, Private Tour, Tasting, Blending Seminar and Lunch at Comstock Wines, Comstock Residence 3-Night Stay for 4

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Why this is a good match: Surrender to the beauty of your own private garden party from the Comstock Residence, boasting 2 masters suites, culinary garden, orchard, wrap-around porch, large patio and firepit. Enjoy the surrounding vineyards, lavender fields and hillside views with a private wine tasting of highly acclaimed winemaker Jesse Katz’s new custom blend, The Setting, along with other handcrafted wines.


Journey to Machu Picchu

7-Night Adventure at Belmond (formerly Orient-Express) Hotels in Cuzco, Machu Picchu & Lima, Vistadome Train, with Airfare for 2

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Why this is a good match: Your train journey takes you through a magnificent landscape, passing lush, green fields and colorful villages in the foothills of the Andes. As a UNESCO Heritage site, this is one of the wonders of the world, situated in the heart of the valley of the ancient Incas.


The Masters

Final Rounds (Sat/Sun) Tour Package to the 2016 Masters (Augusta, GA), 3-Night Weekend Stay in a Private Home for 2 (4043-2n)

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Why this is a good match: Surrounded by lush greens and known for its unmatched exclusivity, the Augusta National Golf Course is a wonderful complement to the secret garden motif. Included with your reservation are free promotional images of the gorgeous grounds, which you can use in your social media and email campaigns.

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Masquarde - Charity Event Theme #2

A masquerade party is one of the most popular fundraising event themes in part because it fits in so well with a black tie evening. Snazzy masks, a red carpet, ballroom dancing and over-the-top stylish decor to support the masquerade atmosphere will all make for a fun evening. Whether you decide to make your event black tie or black tie optional, be sure your promotional efforts capture the heightened excitement and style of this special evening. Choose a bold color like purple or midnight blue, then highlight your decor with gold and silver. Carry the masquerade theme through your event promotion with invitations and mailings that build excitement with a touch of mystery.

For live or silent auction ideas that match particularly well with this charity event theme, try these:


New Orleans Jazz & Dining

Preservation Hall of Jazz VIP Admission, Commander’s Palace Jazz Brunch or Dinner with Wine Pairing, Hyatt French Quarter 3-Night Stay with Airfare for 2 (2050-2)

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Why this is a good match: Nothing says Masquerade quite like Mardi Gras! Visit New Orleans, home of the biggest party of them all and stay in the heart of the historic French Quarter. Enjoy a meal at Commander’s Palace Restaurant and get a front row seat at the Preservation Hall of Jazz.


Cult Winemakers VIP Access

Private VIP Tours & Tastings at 3 Winemakers’ Vineyards in Napa Valley, Signed Barrel Head by all 3 Winemakers, Chauffeur, Andaz Napa Hotel 3-Night Stay with Airfare for 2 (3380-2)

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Why this is a good match: Who could pass up a reserve tasting of King Richard’s Reserve Pinot Noir or an Estate Cabernet Sauvignon? Arrive in style in a chaueffeured luxury sedan and enjoy private tours and tastings at three of Napa Valley’s finest vineyards.


People’s Choice Awards

Red Carpet Viewing, Orchestra Level Tickets to the 2016 People’s Choice Awards in Los Angeles, GRAMMY Museum VIP Tour, 3-Night Stay with Airfare for 2 (5192-2)

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Why this is a good match: Experience the 2016 People’s Choice Award show in Los Angeles with red carpet viewing before the show and Mezzanine seats in the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live. No masks needed here, just your favorite actors and musicians hamming it up on stage.


Black & White Formal - Charity Event Theme #3

3. Black and White Formal

Few event themes are more simple than those based simply on colors. When those colors are black and white, you can set your event up as a formal affair, complete with black tie and formal dress attire. Be sure to carry through your black and white theme as you choose tablecloths, centerpieces and room decor. Dim white lighting can set the mood, while black tablecloths, centerpieces and can add just the right touch of elegance. Sprinkle the tables with black and white confetti or add a glimmer with metalics. Be sure your menu reflects the formal atmosphere of your event, and opt for plated dinners over buffet style.

For silent and live auction ideas that fit this theme, try:

The Plaza New York travel package

The Plaza New York

4-Night Stay at The Plaza Hotel with Airfare for 2

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Why this is a good match: The Plaza New York oozes with elegance and style that you can only find in the heart of New York City. Central Park, Fifth Avenue, spectacular art, thriving culture, endless shopping, unbelievable dining and lively nightlife – this is New York City. Amid the whirl of excitement you will find The Plaza, a timeless landmark New York hotel capturing memories since 1907.


Fairmont Banff Springs

4-Night Stay at Fairmont Banff Springs (Alberta) with Airfare for 2

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Why this is a good match: Few hotels in the world can rival the majesty, hospitality and scenery of The Fairmont Banff Springs. Its unique blend of opulence and seclusion has been a symbol of Rocky Mountain magnificence for more than a century.


Charleston Luxury Getaway

Private Historical Photo Tour of Charleston (South Carolina), Dinner & Wine Pairings at Charleston Grill, Belmond Charleston Place 3-Night Stay with Airfare for 2 (2555-2)

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Why this is a good match: A living postcard of Southern antebellum grandeur, Charleston enjoys a gentler way of life. This historic city, located on the southern coast of South Carolina, is a friendly destination, offering clean beaches and stately restored homes from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Next Part →

Part 1   |   Part 2   |   Part 3   |   Part 4

We would love to hear your feedback! If you have experienced any successes with these charity event themes or have other ideas that you would like to share, please leave a comment below.

Check back next week for three more popular charity event theme ideas with recommended packages:

  1. Moulin Rouge
  2. Oscars
  3. Under the Sea