Virtual Gala Best Practices
When Covid-19 struck, fundraisers had 3 choices: transition their upcoming LIVE event into a VIRTUAL one, postpone the event until the experts tell us it’s safe to gather again in large numbers, or cancel altogether and raise zero dollars.
The good news...Donors WANT to give to your worthy organizations, and we couldn’t be happier that Virtual Galas are getting such fantastic results. Some events met their goals and others absolutely CRUSHED them.
“We net $130,000 last year, and this year the net was higher - $142,000.”
Kemp Shuey, Executive Director
So, what does it actually take to put on a VIRTUAL FUNDRAISER?
First: Communication Is Critical.
It’s important to stay in front of your donors and show them that you are going to be here on the other side of this crisis. They WANT to give to you, so show them what you are doing during this time. Relationships drive giving, and that still remains true, even during a pandemic.
Now for your virtual gala, you will need to provide lots of information to your attendees. This info can be delivered via Email, Text, or some combination of the two.
Virtual Gala Announcement: Save the Date
Virtual Gala Invitation with online bidding information
A letter from the Executive Director prepping folks to “Get Ready!”
We are going live at TIME
We are LIVE!
Thanks for joining us on our Livestream!
Last Chance to Bid
Thanks for joining us and Receipt for Purchases
Announcement of Raffle Winner
After your event, mail donors a letter of gratitude from your Executive Director along with a paper receipt for tax purposes.
“We pivoted to a virtual event one month before the big day. Part of what made that decision easy was knowing that Kelly Russell was our fundraising host. She brings an authentic energy and enthusiasm to every event, and that’s even more critical in a virtual platform. With the help from Artisan Auctions our event was a huge success, raising over $187,000!”
Kemp Shuey, Executive Director
Second: Hire A Solid VIRTUAL TEAM
Virtual events have lots of moving parts, and these key partners will help you make sure everything moves forward smoothly.
Virtual Production Team (A/V) - The Virtual Production Team is in charge of your live video feed making sure you have all the appropriate content to stream as well as all the tools to run your powerpoint with overlays. They will bring creative solutions to showcase your sponsors and make sure you have a space for donors to engage.
Pre-Event Appeal Video Production Team - The Video Production team is there to build powerful videos to showcase your organization for your special appeal and can help you with all your speaker videos. It is possible they are the same folks who help with the Virtual Production when you Livestream.
Fundraising Host - Your professional benefit auctioneer knows how to promote lots of content is a small amount of time. Your host MUST be engaging and know how to motivate an audience to give. They should be fast-on-their-feet and have a strong background in fundraising.
Communication Team - Get all your pre and post event content out to your sponsors, donors, and attendees. Well-crafted emails are a must to capture the attention of your supporters. And if you need additional support, your communication team can help with social media content so you can market to a broader audience.
Content Team - For a virtual event, you have to shrink what might have been a 4-5 hour live event into a powerful 30-45 minute broadcast. Every minute counts, and a good content team will help you adapt your event for maximum impact.
Data Team - You need people who are very familiar with your auction software of choice to serve as your Data Team. They will help you get all of your items into your mobile bidding platform and find photos for each package up for bid. On event night, these folks should track data and registration.
There are a few more KEY PLAYERS you need on event night - and some of these folks may be available through your PRODUCTION TEAM, so be sure you ask.
Chat Room Cheerleaders - Keep people engaged in the chat room and help to answer any questions that may arise.
Tech Support - Not all of your donors will be equally tech savvy, so having a couple people to field questions is an absolute must.
"When COVID-19 happened, we quickly made the decision to go virtual. We weren't worried because we knew we could count on Artisan Auctions to help us meet our goals. Kelly's jovial personality and enthusiasm was evident throughout the evening; our guests gave rave reviews! Thanks to Kelly and the team, we were able to put on an engaging and inspiring virtual event during a crisis. AND we even exceeded our special appeal goals! We cannot thank Artisan Auctions enough for helping us continue to fulfill our mission, and bring more guests into our virtual ballroom - we had attendees from Oregon to Texas to New York - all over the country!"
Taylor Gibson, Director of Development
Children's Book Bank
Last, But Not Least: The PROFITABLE Tips You Need To Succeed
If you want viewers to bid on individual auction items in real time during your livestream, the tech is available to make that happen. HOWEVER, any kind of lag or delay in your livestream will make live bidding a nightmare. We’ve seen some live streams that have a lag of up to 60 seconds, so if bidding on individual items in real time is important to you, be sure to ask any potential A/V vendors if they are able to host lag-free bidding.
If you aren’t able to do real time bidding because of an inherent delay in your stream, you can use the QVC model. Viewers will have a window of time when they can bid on items within a group of live packages. When the window for bidding on that group closes, the items in that group will each be sold to their highest bidders accordingly.
Online auctions can remain open for up to 5 days. You can start your online auction a couple days before your live stream to get folks excited. Then keep the auction open afterwards and let the bidding keep going up until the final close. Time your online auction to close mid-day in your timezone. If you have folks bidding all over the country, try to find the best time to accommodate everyone.
Online auctions are a little different than a silent auction. Rather than the traditional 30% pricing we use for a silent auction, we recommend starting the prices for your online auction at 60% or even 70%.
REMEMBER, virtual events will live online FOREVER. Choose the right ambassador to amplify your mission. Make sure they are polished and have the skills to inspire viewers to give in support of your great work.
"I’m overjoyed by the success of the Young Audiences first ever virtual gala. Our guests loved the opportunity to connect with each other virtually. Plus, Alix was an enthusiastic Fundraising Host, and I’ve heard over and over again how much people enjoyed her during the live broadcast of the event. She helped us to raise over $117,000 exceeding our goal, virtually! Amazing!"
Catherine Hayes, Development Director
Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington
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