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How to organise a charity dinner dance


Organising a large-scale charity event is a fantastic way to promote awareness, raise money and have fun. However, the undertaking can be a lot of hard work, and pulling off a successful large-scale event requires a great amount of planning, organisation and creativity. To help with the planning process, we've pulled together some of the main things you should consider when arranging a large-scale, high-end charity event.  

A wedding in MacMillan Hall, Senate House, University of London

What type of high-end event should you organise?

Making your event work for you

Organising a high-end charity event is a great way to generate a big audience, as the glamour associated with it is often enough to encourage people to buy a ticket. How you describe your event makes a big first impression, so consider throwing one of the following types of high-end events to provoke excitement:

  • Dinner dance - an event focused on wonderful food with dancing afterwards.
  • Gala An event where entertainment is focal, with multiple performances of any kind (music, drama comedy, etc.) 
  • Ball - An event centred on music, potentially set to an era or theme.
  • Festival An event that promotes a summer feeling, serving outside food such as a BBQ, with multiple live acts.
  • Banquet - An event focused on great food and drink, merriment and general gorging! 
  • Jamboree - A lavish party with props, installations and an electric atmosphere that goes on late into the evening.

Once you’ve decided what type of event you will throw, start to think about your budget and how much money you want to raise.

What's your budget & profit projection?

Balance the books

The principal reason for the event is to raise funds for a charity, so projecting how much you want to to raise before the planning begins will help you stay focused throughout the rest of the planning process.

Set a profit target for the event, and decide how much you can afford to invest in the event upfront.

Pound coin for event budgets

Outgoing costs

Think about how much each aspect will cost, including the:

  • Cost of the venue
  • Cost of the food
  • Cost of the entertainment
  • Cost of the drink
  • Cost of the marketing

After you've figured out your total costs, calculate the cost of tickets needed to generate your target profit amount. 

What venue will you choose?

Matching venues to vendors

Your venue choice determines many of the factors you'll need to consider when organising a high-end event. It defines:

  • How many people you can invite
  • The aesthetics of the event
  • The bulk of the upfront costs of the event
  • How easily accessible the event is for guests

Good things to remember when booking your venue:

  • Booking your venue on a weeknight will cost less than on a weekend
  • Most venues will negotiate costs for charitable events
  • Does the venue have enough guest capacity to generate your desired profit at your total cost? 

Calculate how many people you’d need at the event to cover the cost of the venue. Ensure that the cost of the venue leaves room for the amount of profit you projected to make from the event as a whole, bearing in mind further costs you might incur with entertainment and refreshments.

Who Will You Invite To Your Event?

Getting to guest lists

The aim is to invite as many people as possible, but it’s equally important to define who your audience are so that they enjoy the type of event you arrange. You could chose to cater for:

  • Families - Consider adding entertainment for children or having the event during the day
  • Adults only - No children allowed, with alcohol, food and a late night!
  • Teenagers (young adults) - Include entertainment appropriate for a younger audience.
  • Corporate sector only - Invite local businesses as a combined work social and invite them to get involved in sponsorship activities.
  • Couples - Make the evening perfect for a ‘date night’ and have a more romantic theme.

Deciding this early on will help you plan appropriate entertainment for the event and ensures that your audience will enjoy the event. 

How much will You charge for a ticket?

Know your worth

What's the right amount to charge?

You've already calculated how much profit you want to make, and once all the costs have been added up, you can have a better idea of how much you'll charge.

Remember: It's high end

Remember, this is a high-end event, so don't be tempted to undersell it to secure attendance. 

Golden tickets for event admission

How will you market the event?

Reaching your audience

For a high-end event, marketing is an extremely useful tool that can generate some great results, so it’s worth setting aside some budget for it.

Marketing Avenues:

  • Posters – Put these up where your target audience spend a lot of time
  • Email – Depending on your audience, contact them via email (for example - send emails out to local businesses and invite them all)
  • Social media – Target your audience on platforms such as Facebook and promote the event.
  • Letters (invitations) – Send out letters to your target audience, (for example attractive invitations to local businesses)
  • Exclusive invitations  - Send out invitations on a personal basis to individual attendees. Try and seem as sincere as possible and include all details of upfront costs and what they will receive for that price.

What games & entertainment will you provide?

Making & maintaining energy

It's important to make the event as interactive and fun as possible, and playing games is a great way to break the ice, encourage further donations and keep everyone entertained throughout the evening.

Ideas for fundraising games

  • Raffle - Ask local businesses to donate gifts or vouchers and conduct a raffle throughout the evening. Ask guests to buy tickets and announce winners sporadically throughout the evening.
  • Heads & tales - A great icebreaker
  • Auctions - Auctions are great fun, and depending on what you’ve managed to secure as prizes, they can be really exciting. Make sure you hire a professional auctioneer and that they’re aware of the value of the objects they’re auctioning off, and also who to thank for the donation.  
  • Date auction - One for the adult audiences, date auctions are a fun, flirty way to raise money.
  • Bingo - Charge for a bingo sheet and offer donated prizes for the winners.
Event games and entertainment

Ideas for entertainment

  • Live Bands - Get a well-known local (or not local!) band to perform at the event. This will give an event far more worth, and many bands are likely to perform at discounted rates – or even for nothing at all!   
  • Comedians - Comedians make an atmosphere more relaxed and less formal. Think about having a comedian as your master of ceremonies to guide people through the evening.
  • Magicians - Magicians are great for audiences of all ages and types, and having them approach tables for intimate performances can be a real highlight for guests.
  • Local Celebrities - if you have someone in the local community who can make an appearance, get them involved! 
  • Dance performers - Dance performance is an alternative to music performance but is equally engaging and impressive.
  • Circus performers - A unique way to entertain your guests with trapeze and other circus acts
  • Aerial performance - To add some real wow factor, an aerial performance doesn't even need to be a standalone performance. Incorporate the dancers whilst guests dine and drink below – the atmosphere will be incredible.
  • DJs - As the night draws in, most people are more comfortable on the dance floor. Make sure the DJ is responsive and friendly to keep the party going.
Aerial performer at event

How will you staff your event?

The cast and crew

Depending on your venue, you may find that the cost includes some hospitality staff. If this is the case, ensure they are briefed on the nature of the event, and are able to run to a logistical plan to ensure smooth running.


If you don’t have staff included with your venue, it’s a good idea to enrol some volunteers to help with the different areas of running the event. Doing this during the early stages of the planning process ensures that each volunteer will have their own section and responsibility to work on, aiding logistical planning.

Where to recruit volunteers:

Approach local colleges or universities - Events planning is an area many people are interested in getting into, so finding local young people to help out shouldn’t be too hard
Advertise on volunteer boards, such as Do itTime Banking, and Reach Volunteering (ideal for finding volunteers with particular skills)

What food & drink will you provide?

Eating, drinking & being merry

It’s important that the food and drink is of good quality if you decide to have a meal as the focal point of your event. Giving your guests a choice is important too, but it’s worth getting their decision beforehand for logistical purposes. This will save time on the day, but still give them freedom and choice. 

Decide if you will include food and drink in the price of the ticket. It’s a good idea to have as much included as possible, as it will promote good value to your guests. It will also mean they’re more likely to donate further money to other activities during the evening.

Food for event catering

Who will make a speech?

Providing a strong central hook

It’s really important that the charitable purpose of the event is reinforced throughout, so organise a master of ceremonies to commentate throughout the event. They can introduce guest speakers, games and other entertainment throughout the evening.

Good points to include in a speech:

  • Thank everyone for attending
  • Encourage guests to donate and get involved in other games/entertainment
  • Reinforce the good the charity does
  • Thank sponsors
  • Thank donators
  • Thank volunteers
Microphone for event speeches

Sourcing your sponsorships

Who can sponsor the event?

Offering sponsorship is brilliant for securing extra funds or saving money for an event, and can give the event a real community feel.

Sponsorship ideas:

  • Ask local businesses if they’d like to be affiliated with the event via sponsorship.
  • Ask local chefs/catering companies to provide the food for the event.
  • Ask local breweries/pubs/bars to provide alcohol for event.
  • Ask local celebrities/entertainers/bands to provide entertainment for the event.
  • Ask local businesses to donate gifts to the raffle and/or auction. 

In return for sponsorship, you can offer to:

  • Display sponsor’s logos on banners around the event venue
  • Dedicate a page in the event brochure
  • Provide an elite table for free
  • Provide a number of tickets for free
  • Thank them during the speech 

Other details

Particulars & miscellany

Ensure you have a photographer booked – this will be an event to remember!
Follow up the event with details of how much was raised and further thanks to those who made it possible.

Charity events at University of London Venues

Senate House at University of London Venues offers a perfect central London venue for high-end charity events. Take a look at our range of rooms and get in contact with us today.