We know what you are thinking: virtual galas cannot possibly work. They are too complicated, not a fit for your donors, or too costly and unprofitable.
Let us share a story of a school in California who also thought they could not execute a virtual gala, let alone a highly successful one.
On March 10th, the fundraising committee met to discuss the recent news of COVID-19. They were concerned with how quickly things were changing and questioned what more could transpire by the March 28th event date. And for good reason. Later that day, the governor of California restricted all social gatherings for groups of ten or more.
They knew they had only a few options: cancel the event, postpone the event to the fall, or try a virtual fundraiserfor the first time.
The fundraising committee openly discussed the pros and cons of all options. They eliminated the option to postpone the event due to overlapping fall fundraiser efforts. The team then ran numbers to compare the cost of canceling the event entirely vs. hosting a virtual auction.
After speaking with the venue and vendors, they were able to extend deposits under the current circumstances and recover other overhead costs of hosting a live event. The team then researched software platforms feasible for hosting a virtual event. Ultimately, the switching costs from the originally planned physical gala to the virtual auction were low and the funds to be raised at this spring event were essential to the school.
The committee calculated the number of silent and live auction items to cover the costs of the software platforms for the livestream and online bidding platform, the auctioneer, and the DJ Host. The decision was then clear to take a chance on a virtual fundraiser.
With a lot of communication to parents and donors, several test runs of the software platforms and positive attitudes, the committee executed a 1.5-hour virtual event for nearly 150 “attendees.”
After a few words from the PTO President and Principal, the live auction took off in a hilarious fashion with the first auction item being a roll of toilet paper and a bottle of hand sanitizer. The auctioneer created excitement, competition, and a sense of community, even when the community was spread across town.
The silent auction portion of the event opened the week of the virtual event and the live auction highlighted several highly desirable items (other than the toilet paper). A “Fund-a-Need” appeal was also added to the virtual event. The PTO members were amazed by the positive engagement of the “attendees” and their eagerness to support the school while participating in this new form of fundraising. And after the event, the PTO was even more astonished to realize the virtual gala raised well above the amount from the prior year physical event.
2019 Physical Event – Results (for comparison)
Net Profit: $75,000
2020 Virtual Event – Results
Net Profit: $100,000+ (and still counting)
The virtual gala was inclusive, entertaining, concise, and most importantly, successful. Leveraging the power of online fundraising, while adding some creative social media and technology options such as live streaming, can bring the excitement of your event to your donors’ homes. You have a captive audience ready to engage like never before!