How to Automate Fundraising Gala Invitations & Appeals

Fundraising galas are one of the biggest development activities for many nonprofits. They might range in size, but they are a lot of work no matter how many guests you are expecting. It’s important to have a communication strategy and plan mapped out for your gala invitations and appeals. You need to know who you’re sending invitations to, when to follow up for the initial appeal, and when you should shift toward an advocacy appeal vs. a gift appeal.

All of these trigger points can be accounted for and used to automate fundraising gala invitations and appeals. Creating a positive experience for your donors, saving you time, and improve the results of the gala for your cause!

Here’s a walk through of how to automate an easy communication strategy for fundraising galas that can be applied to nearly any event.

Segmentation & Invitation Sequence

Once you’ve come up with an event. You’ve secured the venue and have figured out the cost of each ticket and the number of folks you need to invite, you’re ready to build your invitation sequence and further segment your database to ensure invitations get to the right people.

Instead of just pulling it up and sending the invitations one by one, we can run a query and pull everyone that you want to attend the gala and put them into the sequence. Maybe you’re looking for people who have volunteered 10 hours or more with your organization and have donated $100 or more to your organization. This will be your query that you will use to kick off the invitation sequence. You can build your query based on any piece of information you have stored in your CRM. It could be anyone who’s on your newsletter list or everyone who’s given so far this year, and you’ll enroll all of them into a marketing automation sequence that will send three emails all geared toward convincing them to come to your gala.


Appeal Sequence

Now, let’s say somebody registered for the gala. You want them to automatically come out of the Invitation Sequence and move into an Appeal Sequence.

They have probably already given some sort of a donation by buying the ticket when they registered, but you’re probably trying to cultivate at least that first gift either at the event or after the event. In this example, we have three emails in a post event email series trying to cultivate any additional donations that didn’t happen with the ticket sale. Any appeal strategy can be implemented into these communications. Some nonprofits do auctions at the event or take pledges. Some are doing sponsorship packages at the event. There are multiple strategies, but the whole idea here is that once you actually have people registered, you want to do some sort of an appeal to them.

In this specific instance, we did three emails trying to get them to give their first-time gift and if that didn’t happen, the final task would be, “Hey, you came out to the gala. We loved having you guys out there. Is there any way that you guys would like to come back and do some volunteer work or make a gift to the organization?” That would be a task that I created for somebody on our development team to reach out and that’s if nothing happened in these three emails after the event.


Ambassador Sequence

The third sequence is for people who have given that first-time gift. If someone gave you a first time, one time gift, the whole idea with this third sequence would be to retain them as a donor and possibly turn them into a repeat giver.

This sequence is kicked off when the donor who registered for the gala makes a first time gift. This action is what moves them over to this third sequence. We’ll send an email saying, “Thanks for becoming one of our ambassadors.” Then we’ll wait 90-days and then send a forward thank you email. Also somebody from the development team, in this case, Aaron Boone is going to start following them. Anything that happens with a donor that’s in this sequence is going to be seen by Aaron. If they give a gift or they call in and they need something and there’s a note added to the account, all that’s going to populate on Aaron’s dashboard because he’s keeping an eye on these folks knowing that this could potentially be someone who turns into a major donor later on.

We’re going to give them a little bit different follow-up. They’re going to receive a major appeal. They’re going to get an invite to the executive breakfast and next it’s going to be a phone call. They’re going to get a special email from the board saying, “Hey. Thank you so much for what you guys are doing with our organization.”


There’s a bunch of different ways that we could use automation to help you save time and communicate more often with your supporters. Marketing automation might seem complex and technical, but it’s an invaluable tool for your nonprofit once you get the hang of things!

Fundraising insights you won’t delete.
Delivered to your inbox weekly.
How To Involve Your Board In Year-End Fundraising

How To Involve Your Board In Year-End Fundraising

How do you engage your board at year-end? Your board members can be important partners in your year-end fundraising campaign. But how do you inspire them to participate? What’s the…
Declutter Your Data

Declutter Your Data

Do you have messy data? When you’re a busy nonprofit, keeping up with delivering programs and communicating with donors, staying on top of your data often comes last on your…

Grow generosity with Virtuous.

Virtuous is the responsive fundraising software platform proven to help nonprofit organizations increase generosity by serving all donors personally, no matter their gift size.

“Virtuous truly understands nonprofits and the importance of our mission. And their open access to data and built-in custom reports gave us access to the data we need.”
Todd Shinabarger​
Chief Information Officer