Galas and in-person fundraisers are moving to virtual and hybrid formats out of necessity. For nonprofit teams that are accustomed to in-person events this is a vary rapid and difficult change because the past organizational knowledge of what works, doesn’t apply.

This article provides guidance for changing an in-person Gala-style fundraiser to a virtual fundraiser.

The techniques and data presented are rooted in what worked and didn’t work for our clients and we will update the article at least through the end of 2020.

What Does A Virtual Gala or Dinner-Auction Fundraiser Look Like?

There are some great ways to convert a gala or in-person dinner and auction nonprofit fundraiser into a virtual event. The right mix of events and activities depends on the organization, it’s donors, and trends in online fundraising. Here are some ideas for converting common Gala components into online experiences:

  • Nonprofit Auction: Easily moved online through nonprofit auction platforms but moving to an EBay model should be avoided. Create an experience for bidders to enjoy through content, live streams, live bidder thank yous, and other enjoyment-building activities
  • Dessert Dash: Imagine a dessert dash where everyone can win if they bid enough and a dessert is delivered to their door in time for a live component of the fundraiser or on a future holiday or party for the winner. Charge an increased price to cover delivery and remember this is a fundraiser.
  • Dessert Dash: An alternative format is to literally make desserts an auction item. They can be a package of a monthly dessert or a one time delivery from a donor or sponsor that makes desserts.
  • Raise The Paddle: Easily executed during a live stream event where an auctioneer, emcee, or recognizable organization leader hosts some content and then makes a clear ask for donations. An online donation page or text-to-donate platform allows for on-the-spot donations.
  • Impact Story: Continue to tell the story of the nonprofit by creating and publishing videos and sharing them on social media, the fundraiser website, and as part of live streams.

Example Nonproft Clients

How To Increase Donations From Past Donors

The key to engaging past donors is to explain the story of need and make an ask. You are familiar with this technique. You see fundraising videos while watching YouTube. You receive letters from nonprofits asking for donations. This is what you’re looking to execute, focusing on past donors.

  1. Determine what you are “selling”, for example a donation, sponsorship, request to create a Facebook Fundraiser, donate an auction item, etc
  2. Determine which past donors to engage and create a tracking spreadsheet
  3. Write down the Story and Ask and do practice phone calls with a friend or colleague role-playing the donor
  4. Call every past donor and track the results

How To Find New Donors For Virtual Fundraisers

Virtual Galas and Fundraisers have a massive benefit over in-person fundraisers in that they have the ability to rasie funds from people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend the event.

Some awareness building ideas:

  • Ask everyone that participates in the Fundraiser to create a Facebook Fundraiser on their personal profile
  • Advertise the event via Facebook Events to people in other cities that share an interest with existing donors. You can even use a lookalike audience.

What Technology Is Needed For A Virtual Nonprofit Gala?

Typically the tools are simple:

  • A video conferencing platform like Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Google Meet
  • Video publishing via YouTube and Facebook
  • An online auction platform
  • An online donations platform
  • A peer to peer fundraising platform
  • Organization website
  • Organization social media

Who Do I Need On The Planning Team?

  • Hire an online fundraising strategist to help you with the overall event strategy, components, and to provide resources that you don’t have already in your organization (videographers, donation platforms, live stream hosts, etc)
  • Hire a videographer to create the video assets needed for the event
  • Hire an emcee or auctioneer to provide entertainment and clear asks and continuity through everything you do. They are also great at developing story and continuity of story through the event

Be bold and jump in to online fundraising to keep your organization moving and growing. Using the guidance of organizations around you that are making the switch and the help of a strategist you can make the transiton and maintain funding.

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