Blake Lively (photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

If you were anywhere near the Internet on Monday evening, you probably saw tons of celebrities in elaborate, over-the-top costumes on the red carpet of the Met Gala. While it may have just seemed like another night for stargazing, the Met Gala (or the Met Ball) is actually a major annual fundraising event!

The gala benefits the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City, and it’s by far the biggest source of funding for the Institute, raising millions of dollars the first Monday of every May. Since 1948, the Met Gala has been the official opening ceremony for the Costume Institute – though it wasn’t always a huge blowout bash.

Up until 1972, the Met Gala was a simple dinner party held in fancy hotels in NYC without an exposition component. Afterward, then-editor of Vogue Diana Vreeland decided to have more “ambitious” costume pieces added to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which necessitated more exhibitions, which then turned the Galas from small gatherings to big social events. Tickets now cost tens of thousands of dollars if you’re not on the guest list (and the guest list is only 650-700 people!).

While a fundraiser on the scale of the Met Gala may be out of reach for most charities and nonprofits, you can still take inspiration from the Gala’s humble roots. Start small with a modest fundraising event or a Giving Day and see how your efforts can grow year over year!

Here’s a few ideas that spin off the Gala-as-fundraiser:

Pet Gala: Who needs celebrities when you have peoples’ adorable pets? Make it into a fashion show where supporters can dress up their furry friends and parade them on a “catwalk” (get it?). Charge an admission fee as well as for participation, and you could easily make this an annual fundraiser.

Themed dinner party: Put together a dinner party with a fun theme and sell tickets to attend. Don’t forget to lean heavily on the exclusivity of the event and spread the word across social media – perhaps an all-white clothing theme would look good for photos? (And may we suggest adding a charity auction component as well?)

Oscars-watching party: The Met Gala isn’t televised anywhere, but the Oscars definitely are – and they’re in the same spirit! Encourage people to dress up in fancy clothes, sell raffle tickets for related items, bet on the probable winners, and broadcast all the glitz & glamour for your attendees.

It just goes to show that sometimes the biggest fundraisers start small, and also put focus on providing their guests with an incredible experience that they’ll remember for months to come. Check out our list of fundraising ideas and see where inspiration takes you!

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