How to Run a Virtual Gala: Definitive Guide
So you’re looking to host a virtual gala? That’s what we love to hear!
Now, an in-person gala has always been an event to look forward to over the years. Whether you’re fundraising, raising awareness or even just celebrating an individual, there’s glamor, food and often incredible entertainment to enjoy.
But what happens when the budget doesn’t quite stretch to a big hall? Or perhaps a storm has canceled the travel plans of your guests? Whether you need a back up idea fast or not, a virtual gala is a great substitute. At the same time, after this guide, you may decide that a virtual gala is in fact your first choice. After all, it’s less money, less organization, less time and so much easier to coordinate.
In more recent years, people have been actively seeking to host a virtual gala instead of a physical one and there are plenty of good reasons to do so. In this article, we’ll take you through why you should, and how, you can host a virtual gala with the same class that they’ve always had.
Here we go, here is our step by step virtual gala guide.
Why would you host a virtual gala?
It’s true that hosting large events in big spaces has been difficult in recent years thanks to a certain pandemic. This has meant there are quite a few reasons to host virtual galas online, but what reasons should you need for hosting a virtual gala? The truth is, running a virtual gala is much easier than hosting one in real life – plus the guest list and funding can increase exponentially.
If you’re deciding between a virtual event and an in-person event, all you need to do is decide what your priorities are. Is it money? A larger audience will help gain more donations and no venue will save a lot of the budget. Consider how much of a priority a social event is.
While a gala in person can be more of a social event, it’s more organization, potentially more time and certainly more money.. So, here’s our definitive guide on how to run a virtual gala.
How to set up your virtual gala
- Assembling your team
The team you have around you in any fundraising event is essential. Whether it’s delegating tasks or a last-minute step-in for a particular action. Being able to trust and rely on your team will relieve a lot of stress in hosting your virtual gala.
Now, your team might consist of a number of individuals but there’s also opportunity for it to be a company. There are organizations out there who can do the heavy lifting for you. From hosting the event to providing secure transactions and sending out guest invitations.
There’s so much to do, and often it can be daunting, especially if this is the first virtual gala you have hosted. It’s important to know that running these types of events don’t have to be so draining on your resources, so if it’s possible, bring in the experts. The award-winning Givergy Virtual platform is a perfect option for this, it can help with:
- Full design customisation
- Data and insights
- Full technical support
- Guest engagement
- Event communication
Whoever you choose to be on your team, make sure you feel comfortable relying on them to produce your vision for a virtual gala.
- Deciding your date and time
Deciding a date might not be a difficult decision. It might be dictated by who you’re raising money for, for example if it involves raising money for a school to go to State Finals, you’re going to need to raise the funds in plenty of time to book transport for the event. In some cases, fundraising might be ongoing and your date just needs to be the most convenient day of the week.
Something which may need a little more consideration is the time of your virtual gala. Being virtual means that people can join your event from across the country – even the globe. So time zones play a big factor in your gala.
Choosing a time should be a well-thought out process and something that works for the majority of your audience. There’s no point in choosing a 7pm start for Eastern Standard time if half of your attendees are stuck in LA traffic, especially on a Friday! Also try to make sure you avoid dinner and children’s bedtimes/school pick-up times. Think about all the busy moments during the day when your audience will be busy and fit your virtual gala around that.
- How long should your virtual gala be?
While your host is important to keeping your audience engaged, don’t go thinking that a virtual gala needs to be as long as an in-person one! Nobody wants to sit at their laptop for 4 to 5 hours. For efficient and well run campaigns, less than an hour is plenty of time for virtual galas.
- Decide how you will collect funds
You’ve got your team around you and decided on a time and date. The next thing to do is to decide how you will collect funds. If you’ve opted to have a mobile fundraising platform as part of your team then you might already have this figured out. However, if you haven’t, then collecting funds may be your sticking point.
Will you create a separate fundraising account where people can donate via direct transfer? Will you create a venmo account so you can request money as well as receive donations? There are a variety of options. What you need to do is make sure that the people donating feel safe sending over their money. And make it very easy! No matter what you decide, make sure your connection is safe and secure for all those donating.
What to include in your virtual gala
Unlike an in-person gala, your virtual gala cannot rely on a great three-course dinner as the single form of entertainment. Dinner is not something you can provide virtually, unless you plan on sending a gourmet dinner out ready for your guests to heat at home when it’s received! Unlikely for most. So, fill your gala with other events that persuade your guests to donate, such as information on the organization and goal, but also entertainment such as music or a reading.
Incorporating a theme into your virtual gala
It may seem a little unorthodox, but we love to suggest incorporating a theme into virtual galas. It lightens the mood and makes it more fun when you suggest a cool 80s disco vibe – it can also help with choosing your interval music. Galas in person are typically black tie events, virtual galas break the rules entirely. It’s not about eating with a silver spoon, it’s about rocking out with an air guitar solo midway through your favorite Bon Jovi track. Adding a theme reduces any initial awkward feelings about being at a virtual gala.
Choosing the perfect host for your virtual gala
One thing you will want is a host. Your host will be what ties the event together, bringing excitement to all the little bits of fundraising. We recommend getting someone with stage presence and style. Your host will need to introduce the event, any smaller fundraising activities like a raffle, announce the winner and funding total. All the while having a voice that keeps people listening. If your audience switches off because of someone with a dull voice, then they might miss the chance to donate. Let us know if we can help with your fundraising host.
You could also look to include a comedian. There’s a reason comedians host all the good Hollywood award shows – they’re entertaining. Your comedic host can give funny anecdotes for introducing activities, deliver your sponsorship notes with class and crack a few jokes here and there.
Now you know what and who you need to host a virtual gala, it’s time to decide what your event will include. Consider how long your event is and decide how you will fill that time. You could fill it with one idea, or you have lots of little options to raise funds. It’s completely up to you.
Here are some of our favorite suggestions:
- Donation drive
- Silent auction
- Raffle and prize draws
- A quiz
- Murder mystery
Getting an audience for your virtual gala
If you’re used to hosting galas then you may already have a list of people in mind for who you want to attend your virtual gala. It’s worth noting that not all of your regular black-tie-loving and three-course-dinner fans may want to attend something online. For them it’s about the dinners and the clothing, and online doesn’t quite tick the box, and that’s fine.
The great thing about having a virtual gala is that your guest list grows exponentially. You can invite as many people as you want and you can spread the word as far and wide as possible thanks to social media.
Of course, if your fundraising efforts are for a local beneficiary then it might be difficult to get people from out of State involved but at the same time, who doesn’t love helping a good cause? We see it every day. People generously giving from all over the world to people they will never meet.
Send your invitations out via email, social media, direct mail (a letter through the door), posters, flyers, you can even call people up to invite them. It all depends on how much budget you have as to how many people see your details. Just make sure you attach a sign-up link for them to everything so they can easily register their interest. Saying who you are and when you’re having a virtual gala is no use to people if you don’t tell them how to purchase a ticket and log on. This can all be done through one registration and fundraising platform.
There you have it. Your definitive guide on how to run a virtual gala. You have reasons to host it online – even if it’s simply down to difficult circumstances. Steps to take in order to set it up by building a team, selecting a suitable date, time and duration and then organizing how you will collect funds. The rest is up to you, for what your virtual gala will or won’t involve. Then lastly, getting an audience – new or old. Will you take the plunge and host your first virtual gala?
For more information, take a look at our Virtual Gala fundraising solution, or simply get in touch.
Chief Operating Officer
Ben is at the forefront of every project in Givergy, listing and actioning constant improvements across the business. With over a decade of experience in the charity and events sector he brings a deep understanding of what the fundraising industry needs to operate effectively and efficiently.
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