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How to Host a Successful Virtual Gala Fundraiser

How to Host a Successful Virtual Gala Fundraiser

Is your organization thinking about hosting a virtual gala fundraiser this year? When COVID-19 shut down in-person events, many organizations wondered if they could create a virtual fundraising gala that would be easy to run, engaging for supporters, and effective at raising money. The good news is that running virtual events is easier than you might think. Hosting a successful virtual gala requires careful planning, creativity, and an understanding of how to harness the power of digital platforms.

Whether you’re a seasoned event planner or venturing into the world of virtual fundraising for the first time, this guide will provide you with essential strategies and tips to orchestrate an unforgettable virtual gala that exceeds your fundraising goals.

Let’s Start at the Beginning….What Is a Virtual Gala?

A virtual gala fundraiser is a way to host your fundraising gala online, using a live-streaming platform to engage your supporters right from the comfort of their homes. Virtual gala programs feature a layout similar to a live gala program, with speakers and inspirational videos educating and engaging your audience and a fundraising portion that includes clear calls to action. Donors are asked to support the organization via an online auction, raffle drawing, or fund-a-need donation requests. 

One of the most significant differences between a live gala and a virtual event is the length of the event. Virtual galas should not be longer than 60 – 90 minutes, 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 or live gala, though many logistics will be simplified. You’ll still want to start early and plan the event with clear goals. Virtual galas can even be run as part of a hybrid fundraising event, where some of your supporters are present in person, and others are online.

Let’s go over the basic steps to planning a virtual gala here, and we’ll detail each of them below:

virtual gala
  • Form Your Gala 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.

Virtual event fundraiser

Set Your Gala Fundraising Goals

If you’ve canceled your annual gala fundraiser, then you may already have a fundraising goal in mind for the virtual event, as it’s probably around the same amount. If not, consider what you want to raise after paying your gala expenses. 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

You’ll want to carefully plan the virtual gala presentation like a live gala. Virtual galas are generally about an hour in length. They can’t be too long, or you will lose your audience’s attention. 

Plan the Gala Programming w/ Virtual Gala Software

Start by selecting an MC or host for the gala. You need to find someone who can draw people’s attention on the livestream. This is not easy – 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 who can speak to your organization’s success, as well as performers to provide entertainment. 

Utilize a Fundraising Platform for the Virtual Gala

You’ll need to select a fundraising platform to take online registrations and donations and host your virtual gala.

DoJiggy‘s platform is a powerful choice for organizations looking to enhance online fundraising with advanced virtual fundraising software. Our event management software 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
Virtual event fundraiser with Dojiggy

Promote the Virtual Gala Fundraiser Widely

social media

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 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 your supporters see it and get excited about it.

Run a Dress Rehearsal to Test It All Out

Be sure to run a dress rehearsal or two 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 gala event.

How to Make a Fun and Interactive Virtual Gala

live performance

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 a 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 

gala theme

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 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 look forward to during these long days of social distancing.

Fun virtual gala theme ideas include:

  • 60s Hippie Galas
  • 70s Disco Balls
  • 80s Big Hair Balls
  • Black & White Galas
  • 1920s Themed Balls
  • Masquerade Balls
  • Denim and Diamonds Balls
  • Un-galas

Party Box for Virtual Gala FundraisersCreate a Virtual Party Box

Consider sending a party box by mail or asking supporters to pick up their box at your office before the event. Let guests know they should have the box ready and only open it 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

Like live gala events, you must find ways to engage supporters and raise money during the virtual gala. Online auctions, raffles, and Fund-a-Need campaigns are great ways to do this, and hosting these events virtually provides the opportunity to streamline management and raise even more.

online auction

Start your online auction a week or two 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 programming, your gala host should walk donors through entering bids online via mobile bidding. Add graphics to the live stream to help supporters navigate the bidding process if possible.

Our fundraising auction platform makes it easy and includes free Text to Bid functionality. 

Introduce Your Call to Action Early in the Gala Programming

call to action

To reach your fundraising goal, you must 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, 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

DoJiggy has all the features you want 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.

Lisa Bennett

About Lisa Bennett

Lisa is the Sales Director at DoJiggy. She joined DoJiggy in 2006 and loves her job. Prior to working with DoJiggy, she worked at several non-profits and managed special event fundraising.

See other posts from Lisa Bennett