Remember when in-person events were the norm and virtual events felt so distant and far away? Us neither!
Though it’s only been almost two years of virtual events and their uptake, it feels like they’ve been around forever. And for good reason too!
They offer plenty of benefits whether you’re looking to increase your fundraising efforts. Or even ensure that nonprofit organizations continue to garner visibility whilst in-person events take a back seat.
But if you’re worried about hosting a virtual gala, just rub those frown and worry lines away. Because we’ve got you covered!
Virtual galas provide many more opportunities than they do hindrances. So before you mourn that one in-person gala event that went down in history as the craziest night of your life, give virtual galas a chance.
They might surprise you. And your special guests who were invited to the program.
What is a virtual gala?
Okay, okay, we got the ball rolling pretty quickly there. Let’s step it back a little.
Before those worry lines start to creep back in, a live gala is set up just as an in-person event would be. With speakers, videos, auction items, a fundraising campaign, the works.
So you don’t have to say goodbye to tradition altogether with your annual gala. Instead, you just get to explore a virtual format and live stream that is user-friendly and makes the most sense for your organization.
Getting ready for your virtual gala
Yes, it seems like there are multiple channels of communication to have to keep track of. But how is that any different from a live event anyway?
#1. Form a committee for your virtual event
What do virtual galas and in-person galas have in common? A whole bunch of people ready to take care of the logistics.
Forming your virtual fundraiser committee is an important step in making sure your online auction goes off without a hitch. Not to mention it’s simply easier to plan online events with lots of hands on deck.
#2. Set your virtual fundraising goals
Normally, you’d have to set your fundraising goals after all of your gala expenses have been paid. But a virtual gala actually allows you more leeway in the budget department since it costs less money to put on.
Even still, every fundraising event needs a goal. So figure out that number and get that virtual paddle raise ready to hit the mark or even go above it!
#3. Plan out the entire program for the night
Yes, we mean the silent auction, the peer to peer campaign, the pre-recorded video, the chat feature, everything! It’s easy to think that a virtual gala will take care of itself.
But that could not be further from the truth. So make sure you develop your plan of action early and make for a successful event that simply can’t be topped.
#4. Figure out your virtual gala technology
Remember how we said that virtual galas can provide you lots of fun opportunities? Well, technology is a great place to start!
Maybe you want to use YouTube Live or maybe you want to raise money through a toll-free number or virtual platform. The options are endless when it comes to your online event!
#5. Promote your virtual gala far and wide
No fundraising event would be complete (or happen) without a large net of support. So make sure you extend your audience as far and as wide as possible.
Use social media to your advantage. Get supporters to spread the word online. Even make a special appeal for a specific guest speaker – anything that will give your virtual gala a leg up on the competition!
#6. Run a dress rehearsal to test it all out
You’d think that running a virtual auction is easy. But you don’t want to start freaking out about an hour before the live auction is about to start.
So test out all of the elements of your program. The fundraising bit, the silent auction, the golf tournament…
Who knows what you’re going to include in your virtual event! Who are we to say?
Virtual fundraising ideas
Many nonprofits have to deal with handling all of the logistics as well as coming up with all of the fun ideas. So we thought we’d help in the creativity department.
Create a theme for your virtual event
Would a virtual gala even be complete without a theme? You could opt for different decades of fashion, a masquerade ball, a denim and diamonds set up, or even an un-gala-like theme.
Either way, this will get supporters engaged in the virtual event as a whole. Even if they’re social distancing from computers.
Host an online auction at your virtual gala
If you’re hosting a virtual fundraiser, then a live auction really is a no-brainer. In fact, when you go virtual with your gala, sometimes you can even get more money from more donors considering the greater pool of audience members.
So don’t shy away hosting an auction during your live stream fundraising. Besides, you want to give donors the opportunity to support all of these amazing organizations, right?
(Isn’t that a great way to spin it? Just think of it this way the next time you want to reinvigorate your fundraising efforts.)
Create a virtual party box
Let’s say you’ve got some folks that you want to make this fundraising event extra special for. Then why not try to create a virtual party box and partner up with even direct mail?
All you have to do is send a box full of swag for your donors, confetti, and maybe even a bottle of wine before the event. Then, get ready to party along with donors as the fundraising commences!
Bring in some corporate entertainment
Sure, a virtual gala is all good and fun. But only if you know how to hire out the right kind of corporate entertainment for your event.
So opt for a virtual clean comedian or even a virtual event host who knows how to make your organization shine. And hey, they might even inspire donors to be a little bit more generous with their support after all.
Incorporate a social media share
Of course, you’ll still want the success of your virtual gala to live on in infamy. So why not get everyone to partake in a social media share to promote the event?
That way, your organization will get to raise awareness through multiple channels. And your fundraising support may even benefit from such broad awareness!
Additional tips for your virtual gala
Okay, we brought you the fundraising tips. Now, it’s time to bring you the logistical tips for your virtual gala event.
Keep it a hybrid event for accessibility
You might be tempted to go fully virtual. But when you keep it a hybrid event, you actually open up accessibility even more.
Some folks prefer going to a gala in-person because it changes the experience for them. While others prefer to do their fundraising from the comfort of their own homes. So why not appease both parties?
Be concise with your time
That being said, when you’re doing a virtual or hybrid event, it’s important to take into account Zoom fatigue. Yes, it is real and we’re sure you have suffered through it.
So if you want people to show up with an appropriate amount of enthusiasm before getting exhausted, be concise with your time. Even the smallest hitch like taking too long to get through the program can dampen your support from some folks.
Why partner up for your virtual gala?
You might be thinking that all of this information is quite a lot. And you’re absolutely right, it is!
But that’s where we come in to help you out. Because your virtual gala shouldn’t be something scary for you to have to endure alone.
You run the risk of losing donors
Partnering with a virtual emcee comes with its own list of benefits. But perhaps most importantly, an entertaining MC will know how to keep the show going while engaging donors consistently throughout.
If this is your first rodeo, there are likely to be bumps in the road. But you don’t want that to affect your donor support – especially when you’ve spent so much time and effort putting this virtual gala together!
You expand your relationships and assets
If you’re in the business world, “networking” is probably the second most commonly used phrase aside from “let’s circle back” or “can we table this?” Then it goes without saying that partnering up with a professional agency expands your assets and network.
Really, there’s no harm in asking a professional to come in and spice things up. In fact, it will probably make your virtual gala all the more impressive.
You increase donor engagement and audience engagement
When things go virtual, it can be hard to keep engagement up. But that is literally the job of a virtual event host: to keep engagement up.
So let that host do their thing and make your organization shine in the process. Trust us, you won’t regret it!
You don’t leave technology up to chance
Everybody’s live streaming nowadays. But that doesn’t mean it’s something effortlessly easy to do.
Technology will have its hiccups but when you partner with another organization, there are more people to troubleshoot. Not to mention, an entertainment agency will likely have their own tricks that they can pull out at the last minute!
You could have danced all night!
Yes, you can still dance at a virtual gala. But no.
We cannot guarantee that the dancing will not feel more awkward when done in your living room rather than on a dance floor. (Sorry not sorry.)
But when your virtual gala goes as successfully as we promise it will, you won’t even care that you’ve bumped into the couch however many times! (Ouch!)
Because all of your planning paid off. (And all you suffered was a stubbed toe, get yourself together!)
So whether this is your first virtual gala or your second, or third, use these tips to reinvigorate the evening. And don’t forget to give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for a job well done!
(But not too hard now. Because you also bumped into the wall, remember?)
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Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular corporate entertainer, magician, and virtual speaker.