How to Host a Virtual Gala
WRITTEN BY LINDSEY HIMPHILL
With many states still practicing social distancing, many nonprofit organizations continue to pivot their in-person events to virtual events. With the Fall fundraising season fast approaching, you and your organization may be considering switching your annual fundraising gala into a fully virtual event. Although you may not be able to meet in person, your organization can still have a fun and successful virtual gala and connect with your supporters. Here are some steps to transitioning your gala from in-person to virtual.
Plan Your Program
Just as you would do with an in-person event, you will need to plan your program. If you’ve already created a program from a previously scheduled in-person event or from a past gala, you can use this as a starting point and simply modify it for your virtual gala program.
First, think about who will be speaking at your event. You will likely need a host to help guide the event, but you also may have guests to join the event as well. For example, think about any presenters, leaders within your organization, honorees, beneficiaries with testimonials, special guests, performances, auctioneers, etc., who will be joining, and make sure to decide the order in which they’ll be presenting.
With virtual events, it’s important to introduce your donation call to action early and make the ask often. Because attendees may join at any time and leave at any time, you will want to introduce a donation ask early in the program for those who are already watching, and continue to ask throughout the entire program, in case anyone new has joined in. Be sure to also keep sharing your organization’s progress towards any goals you have.
It’s also important to keep things concise within your virtual program with quick transitions between segments. During an in-person event, between presenters there are many things to keep guests preoccupied. However, during a virtual event, you will want to try and keep your viewers attention the entire time by having these quick transitions and keeping them engaged throughout the length of the program.
Gather Your Materials
Now that you have an idea of what your program will look like, you need to determine the technical resources required to share your virtual gala with your audience. Here are a couple of questions to help your research and decision making process:
- Does your virtual event include multiple elements such as slides, videos, more than one presenter and/or multiple screens? If yes, then you will need a screen sharing service such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Demio, etc.
- Do you plan to stream your virtual event on more than one platform? If yes, then you will need a streaming software such as StreamYard, BeLive, Restream, etc.
- Are you going to livestream your event? If yes, you will need a live streaming platform such as Vimeo Live, Facebook Live, or YouTube Live.
- Do you only need to stream a prerecorded video that you will create ahead of time? If yes, then you will simply need a video hosting platform, such as Vimeo, Facebook, or Youtube.
You will also want to make sure you have all your donation tools set up. You will need a branded, mobile responsive, easy-to-complete donation form that donors can fill out. Another extremely helpful item to have is a text to donate keyword that you can share throughout your program. That way, while someone is watching your virtual gala on their computer, laptop, or tablet, they can easily make a gift via text-to-donate.
One last thing to consider for your virtual event is an Event Page where you can bring all of these elements together. It is ideal to make everything as easy as possible for your donors to access your virtual gala as well as providing them a way for them to donate. An Event Page can help bring this all together with one single website to host your video, have multiple donation buttons for someone to click on, have a progress circle that shows fundraising progress towards a goal, as well as highlight the other important information about your event such as time, date, and sponsors.
Interested in using an Event Page for your virtual gala or event?
Learn more about MobileCause’s easy-to-use event pages, text-to-donate, live streaming, and more here:
Promote Your Event
With your program put together and your virtual event video underway, now it is time to begin promoting your event and gathering attendees! You can decide whether your event is an exclusive paid event with paid ticketing or a free event that anyone can attend. Either way, you can create an RSVP or ticketing form for interested attendees to complete so you can begin to collect their information and get an idea of how many people will be tuning in.
As you promote your event, don’t forget to use a multi-channel communication plan to promote. Share your event through all the channels you normally communicate through, including email, social media, text, and even direct mail. By sharing through multiple channels, you ensure that your supporters will see the invite.
If you haven’t used text messaging yet, your virtual gala is a great place to start! Not only can you promote your virtual gala to all your supporters and encourage them to RSVP but you can also keep in touch with those who have already RSVPd with important updates, highlights, and teaser videos to get them excited about the event. You can even send a text message to guests 15 to 30 minutes ahead of your event, reminding them to tune in.
Do a Dress Rehearsal
As with any fundraising campaign, it’s always important to test everything before your launch. Before your event, you will want to test the following:
- View your video – Make sure everything is working with your video. If it is prerecorded, put the link temporarily on your Event Page and make sure everything plays correctly. If you are live streaming, consider a 5 minute “test” livestream and perhaps share a quick update to guests about how excited you are for the event.
- Make a donation – Make a test donation to make sure the donation process is easy from start to finish and that the confirmation page and tax-receipt has everything that it needs.
- Try out the entire donor experience – Test anything else that the donor may experience. If you use an event page, visit the event page, click all of the links, and make sure that everything is as user-friendly as possible so your donor can enjoy the event with ease.
Have fun at your event!
Last but not least, remember to have fun at your event! A virtual gala is a unique opportunity to connect with your supporters when you can’t connect with them in-person. However, a virtual gala may even give your organization the opportunity to connect with a larger audience, so seize the opportunity by using the event to celebrate not only your organization’s impact, but the generous support of your donors who are tuning in.
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