A society dance held to raise funds for charity. Often an important part of the social season, as wealthy folk feel better about their wasteful extravagance if some of the money is going to the deserving impoverished or suffering people. If it's less formal, it may be combined with a Bachelor Auction, and often there will be a "theme" such as "Casino Night" (less dancing and more gambling, with all the house profits going to the charity).
A very common twist in fiction is for criminals to attempt to steal the proceeds; this was almost the entire use for charity balls in Pulp Magazines and Golden Age Comic Books. In aid of this, the Charity Ball may also be a Masquerade Ball to make it easier for the crooks to infiltrate.
In romance plotlines, it's a chance for the heroine to see some important personality traits of her prospective love interests.
- Repeatedly in the Batman comic books, since Bruce Wayne is a wealthy playboy, and the series started at the tail end of the Great Depression.
- The Casino Night variation appeared in Tim Burton's Batman.
- Batman and Robin had one too.
- Shallow Grave: Cameron is mocked at one of these.
- The Mask with Jim Carrey, also had Casino Night.
- Gone with the Wind has Scarlett O'Hara scandalously go to one (despite being a recent widow) raising money for the Southern cause. There is where she reconnects with Rhett Butler.
- Mark Twain once wrote a spoof newspaper article about the proceeds of a charity ball being diverted from wounded Union soldiers to a pro-miscegenation society. It was very poorly received.
- There was one of these on The Mentalist to raise funds for the CBI.
- There was an episode of Castle where the main cast went to a charity ball in order to track down the murderer of the week.
- Frasier features them semi-regularly, usually because Niles, Maris or both are involved.
- The characters on Gossip Girl frequently attend these.
- Jedi in The Gungan Council that end up hosting the Yule or Masquerade ball usually turn the dance into this.
- In volume 4 of RWBY Weiss Schnee's father Jacques throws one for the benefit of a victims of the fall of Beacon Academy. Jacques being who he is, the ball is more about his public image than the charity, and Weiss finds that she is disgusted by all the attendees who don't really care about what happened, but want to be 'seen as caring.