Let’s Start at the Beginning….What Is a Virtual Gala?
A virtual gala fundraiser is a way to host what would normally be your fundraising gala, using a live streaming platform like Facebook Live to engage your supporters right from the comfort of their own homes. Virtual gala programs feature a similar layout to that of a live gala program with speakers or inspirational videos educating and engaging your audience, a fundraising portion which should include clear calls to action to support the organization via an online auction, raffle drawing, or fund-a-need donation requests.
Keep the virtual gala short and sweet. This is one of the biggest differences between a live gala and a virtual event. Virtual galas should not be longer than 60 – 90 minutes in length or you will lose your audience’s attention.
Hosting a Virtual Gala Fundraiser
Planning a virtual gala is not that different from planning an in-person gala, though many logistics have been simplified. You’ll still want to start early and plan the event with clear goals in mind. Let’s go over the basic steps to planning a virtual gala here, and we’ll detail each of them below:
- Form Your Committee
- Set Your Fundraising Goals
- Plan the Gala Programming
- Launch Your Virtual Gala Website
- Promote the Virtual Gala Fundraiser Widely
- Run a Dress Rehearsal to Test It All Out
Form Your Virtual Gala Committee
Just like planning a live gala, there are a lot of logistics involved when planning your virtual gala. That’s why it’s important to get your team together and delegate important tasks. Team members can include staff, volunteers, Board members, and your organization’s beneficiaries.
Set Your Fundraising Goals
If you’ve canceled your annual gala fundraiser, then you may already have a fundraising goal in mind as it’s probably around the same amount. If not, think about what you want to raise, after all of your gala expenses have been paid. Obviously, the expenses will be much less when you’re not planning a catered event, so the good news is that you can have a successful event, even while raising less money.
Plan the Gala Programming
Just like a live gala, you’ll want to carefully plan the virtual gala presentation. Virtual galas are generally about an hour in length. They can’t be too long, or you will lose your audiences’ attention.
Start by selecting an MC or host for the gala. You need to find someone that can really draw people’s attention on the live stream. This is not easy – in fact, it’s likely more difficult than with a live audience. You’ll also want to consider getting some people together with the MC for the presentation. These could be your organization’s honorees or other special guests, your organization’s beneficiaries that can speak to your organization’s success, as well as performers to provide entertainment.
Utilize Virtual Gala Software
Of course, you’ll need to select a fundraising platform to take online registrations and donations and host your virtual gala.
The new DoJiggy platform is a powerful choice for organizations looking to enhance online fundraising with advanced virtual fundraising software. Our platform for event management is full of virtual fundraising tools and online event features for high-impact fundraising campaigns, including:
- Live streaming integrations
- Text to donate and text to bid
- Mobile giving features, including support for digital wallets
- Easy Social media share
- Fundraising thermometers and more
Promote the Virtual Gala Fundraiser Widely
Once all of the details are in place, it’s time to promote your virtual auction and gala. You can promote the virtual gala across all of your marketing channels, including email, social media, text fundraising, and even direct mail if you have the budget. By sharing the virtual gala invite through multiple channels, you’ll ensure that your supporters will see the invite and get excited about it.
Run a Dress Rehearsal to Test It All Out
Be sure to run a dress rehearsal where you go over the entire program and test your live streaming technology before the big night. How does it sound? Do you have enough bandwidth or do you need a new microphone? Also, test lighting before the big event.
How to Make a Fun and Interactive Virtual Gala
Here’s the fun part – finding ways to make your virtual gala fun and interactive.
Why not surprise your supporters with a special guest or surprise live performance? You can even announce the surprise on social media before the event, to build buzz.
To make your virtual fundraiser seem more like an in-person event, provide opportunities for the audience to participate. Ask questions they can answer, have them bid on auction items, conduct a live poll during the live stream, and more.
Create a Theme for the Virtual Gala
Start with a theme for your virtual gala. Themes for virtual galas will likely be more relaxed than for live galas, as no one wants to rent a tux or buy a dress just to wear at home. Still, getting in costume will allow your supporters to engage and feel like they are stepping out for an event, which is something most of us can really look forward to during these long days of social distancing.
Fun virtual gala themes include:
- 60s Hippie Galas
- 70s Disco Balls
- 80s Big Hair Balls
- Black & White Galas
- 1920s Themed Balls
- Masquerade Balls
- Denim and Diamonds Balls
Create a Virtual Party Box
Consider sending a party box by mail or asking supporters to pick up their box at your office in advance of the event. Let guests know that they should have the box ready, and only open the box during the virtual event. Surprise! Include a bottle of wine, sponsor swag, a toy or game to occupy kids, confetti, party hats or colorful wigs, and balloons. Bring on the party!
Host an Online Auction as Part of the Virtual Gala
Just like with live gala events, you need to find ways to engage supports and raise money during the virtual gala. Online auctions and raffles are a great way to do this, and hosting these events virtually provides the opportunity to streamline management and raise even more.
Start your online auction a week or even two weeks before your virtual gala. This way, supporters should already have seen the items and staked out what they want to win.
As part of the gala programming, your gala host should walk donors through the process of entering bids online via mobile bidding. If possible, add graphics to the live stream to help supporters navigate the bidding process.
Our fundraising auction platform makes it easy and includes free Text to Bid functionality.
Introduce Your Call to Action Early in the Gala Programming
To reach your fundraising goal, you will need to remind your guests why they are attending your fundraising gala. What is the problem that your organization is working to solve? Who or what is the face of that problem?
The formal ask should begin within the first ten minutes of the virtual gala programming, coming after an inspirational story. The storytelling could be from a video, a short but impactful speaker, or a testimonial from a beneficiary of your organization’s work. As you continue through the program, your MC will tactfully remind people several times how they can give – right on your fundraising website.
Try Our Fundraising Platform for Virtual Galas
We have all of the features you’re looking for in a virtual gala software platform. Live streaming integrations, Text to Bid, mobile giving and digital wallet support, easy Social media integration, and more. Best of all we offer a free software option where your donors can support the platform through optional tips.