Art of the Gala will offer attendees a variety of experts in legal best practices, fundraising, marketing and digital engagement, event planning, donor engagement strategies and how to incorporate events into the overall success of an organization. You'll learn how to leave donors feeling excited to be involved in their organization and ready to return again and again.

The day will consist of keynote presentations, panel discussions, intimate learning table topic networking, and much more. Registrants will receive a link to customize their schedule selecting the panel topics most relevant to you. All panel topics are available on a first-come, first served basis. Hurry - the event is expected to sell out!

Full participation in Art of the Gala is applicable for 6 points in Category 1.B – Education of the CFRE International application for initial certification and/or recertification. *Note that round table discussions are not eligible for continuing education credit.

7:00 am: Registration Opens

7:45 am – 8:00 am: Welcome and First Giveaway ↓

8:00 am – 8:50 am: Continental Breakfast/ Opening Plenary – Is It Legal: TABC Compliance ↓

TABC rules and regulations have increasing implications on successful fundraising events, most notably on the donation and use of alcohol and spirits and the inclusion of alcohol in auctions. Learn the do’s and don’ts under TABC rules and state law.


o General Adrian Bentley Nettles: Executive Director, TABC

o Joshua Alexander: Regional Supervisor of Audit and Investigations, TABC

9:00 am – 10:00 am: Breakout 1 ↓

The WOW Factor: Concepts for Event Creation

Impressionable events are fast becoming the primary source to promote brands and recruit support for your mission. Sponsors want to be engaged, entertained, and left wanting more! Learn how to bring a creative approach to designing unforgettable and powerful experiences.


o Autumn Rich: CEO, Panacea Collective

o Brian Worley: Creative Director/Owner, B. Worley Productions

o Kim Hanks: CEO and Founder, WHIM Hospitality, MODERATOR

9:00 am – 10:00 am Breakout 2 ↓

How to Curate a Successful Live Auction

Live auction fundraising is a staple at many charity events. Serious planning and attention to details is needed to maximize the outcome of your auction. Come create your checklist so you are sure to consider all the details: building a bidding audience, duration of a live auction, underselling packages, the order of packages, and program management, etc.


o Susan Hewlitt: Executive Director, Dell Children’s Foundation

o Mike Jones: Broker and Auctioneer

o Karen Shultz: Charity Fundraising Director, Getaway2Give, MODERATOR

9:00 am – 10:00 am: Breakout 3 ↓

Events are Marketing – Capturing and Engaging Customers, Media and Sponsors

Audiences want more than just marketing messaging – they want engagement and personal connection. Events are a driving force today; hear about what you need to know about audience engagement, building the right invite list, creating FOMO, and driving action as an event outcome. From corporate and nonprofit collaborations, to social media moments designed to make you feel like you were there, events are investments. Listen as industry leaders share the importance of using an event to capture your target audience.


o Jennifer Carnes: Public Relations Manager, Neiman Marcus

o Michaelyne Escobar Long: Director of Private Events, ACL Live

o Jennifer Stevens: President and CEO, JHL

10:00 am – 10:15 am: BREAK

10:15 am – 11:15 am: Breakout 1 ↓

Launching & Managing Your Event

MJ&M, Fashion Week, Dancing With the Stars…Major events are a leap of faith to create and hard to sustain. Come learn best practices from those who have been there – what does it take, from concept to execution to reach success.


o Kim Hanks: CEO and Founder, WHIM Hospitality

o Matt Swinney: CEO, Fashion for Good

o Jennifer Stevens: President and CEO, JHL Company, MODERATOR

10:15 am – 11:15 am: Breakout 2 ↓

Bring Your Brand to Life

Team members understand your mission and your message, they are engaged from the board and executive level all the way through to the intern program. Having a team that is invested and connected to an organization is critical to success. Learn how executive leaders create teams that promote their mission through culture in the work environment and devote time to the development of brand ambassadors to carry their brand into the community.


o Holly Priestner: Director of Talent Acquisition and Engagement, Keller Williams

o Meagan Longley: Vice President Community Impact, Austin Community Foundation

o Lauren Petrowski: TV Host-Public Speaker-Media Expert, MODERATOR

10:15am – 11:15 am: Breakout 3 ↓

Social Media 101: Digital Engagement Back to Mission

Expect a lively discussion on the best marketing strategies and tactical steps to recruiting engagement with each promotion reinforcing the last. Social media is an essential piece of any marketing strategy and allows connection with an audience, increases brand/ mission awareness, elevates visibility for sponsor relationships and strategic partnerships. Let’s dive into how to establish and maintain relevance with buzz.


o Shannon Contreras Hartigan: Senior Communications Officer, St. David’s Foundation

o Zoe Cordes Selbin: Communications Manager, Notley

o Grace Gittinger: Senior Director of Marketing, SOCi inc., MODERATOR

11:15 am – 11:30 am: BREAK

11:30 am – 12:50 pm: Lunch KeynoteSponsorship is a Business Deal: Making a Successful Corporate Ask ↓

This is a business deal, not just a donation. Come learn what corporate leaders look for in a sponsorship agreement, how to attract and retain corporate support, how to remain relevant when corporate leaders must divert resources in a crisis, and how to prevent a long-term partnership from growing stale.


o Anne Fertitta: Senior Manager – Global Community Affairs, AMD

o Lisa Huddleson: Director of Philanthropy, Tito’s Handmade Vodka

o Malini Rajput: Market President, Capital One

o Keri Bellacosa Walling: Former Local TV Personality & Community Volunteer, MODERATOR

12:50 pm – 1:00 pm: BREAK

1:00 pm – 1:50 pm: Breakout 1 ↓

Crisis Management 101

It’s a given, something will go wrong. Crises happen. Sometimes it is very public, shake-you-to-your-core big and sometimes it’s as simple as adding a guest to a table. Sometimes it’s within your control to prevent and sometimes it’s not. How do you handle challenges when they arise, do you need a public response and if so what is the message and how will you communicate it. In an era where all complaints hit Twitter before you can blink… Learn how to minimize damage, change the conversation and move forward.


o Elizabeth Christian: CEO, Elizabeth Christian Public Relations

o Rob Golding: CEO, Rodeo Austin

o Jeff Hunt: Founding Partner, Legend Labs

1:00 pm – 1:50 pm: Breakout 2 ↓

Curating Content

FOMO! Making an impression with social media for your organization and during an event is critical to amplify the reach of your organization. Sponsors and partner organizations love it. So what’s the plan? Photos? Video? These “impromptu” posts need to be well planned. And using video to tell your story can be powerful or painful – so how do you create content relevant and engaging to your audience and what are creative ways to use that content well beyond the event.


o Madi Finley: Marketing Production Manager, Notley

o Erik Horn: Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Fair Worlds

o Craig Parks: Executive Producer and Communication Consultant

o Amanda Tatom: TV Personality, Media Expert & Influencer, MODERATOR

1:00 pm – 1:50 pm: Breakout 3 ↓

Legal 101

This session will provide an overview of federal and state law governing nonprofits with a focus on legal and tax issues arising from fundraising events and donations. Listen to the experts, Katy Avenson, Raegan Koesler, and Tara Potts share best practices for navigating legal processes.


o Katy Avenson: Partner, Avenson Hamann CPAs

o Raegan Koesler: Commercial Real Estate Attorney, Cook Brooks Johnson, PLLC

o Tara Potts: Attorney, Cook Brooks Johnson, PLLC

1:50 pm – 2:00 pm: BREAK

2:00 pm – 2:40 pm: Breakout: Round Table Discussions (Session 1)

2:40 pm – 2:50 pm: BREAK

2:50 pm – 3:30 pm: Breakout: Round Table Discussions (Session 2)

3:30 pm – 3:40 pm: BREAK

3:40 pm – 4:30 pm: Closing Plenary – Event Engagement to Amplify Your Brand ↓

Join us for this casual dialog as we conclude our day of learning by listening to members of the University of Texas Athletic Department discuss how they build brand awareness and event engagement. This discussion will center around how to launch events like Bevo Boulevard Experience and Longhorn City Limits.


o Drew Martin: Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs, University of Texas Athletics

o Charles Branch: Senior Marketing Coordinator, Fan Engagement, University of Texas Athletics

o Jennifer Stevens: President and CEO, JHL, MODERATOR

4:30 pm: Networking Reception and Idea Exchanges Happy Hour ↓

Traffic is a mess by now anyway so stick around for music, bites and drinks, a swag bar, social media engagement, giveaways and more!

Round Table Discussion Sessions

  • 1st Impressions – Registration 101
  • Day of Event – Simple and Seamless
  • Donor Relations and Fundraising 101
  • Event Graphics & Website Design 101
  • Events as a Lead Source
  • Free Isn't Free
  • How and When to Engage Local Influencers to Help Build Your Brand
  • How Great Swag Can Expand Your Brand
  • How to Connect with Company Executives
  • How to Get Your Organization in Front of Local Media Opportunities
  • Insider’s Guide to ACE Special Event Approval
  • Legal 101 and Accounting
  • Mission Storytelling – Connecting with the Hearts of Your Audience
  • Never Too Late to Make the Right Decision
  • One Size DOES NOT Fit All
  • Podcasts and Nontraditional Marketing – Cost Effective Ways to Build Your Brand
  • Qualities of a Successful Event Chair
  • Red Carpet Success – What's Your Pitch
  • Selecting the Ideal Venue – Questions to Ask & Avoiding Surprises
  • Social Impact and Community Affairs
  • Social Media Video Content
  • Talent Engagement at Charity Events
  • Unique & Beautiful Events
  • Video and Virtual Reality
  • Who Am I? Brand – Branding – Identity