Can a Fundraising Gala Go Virtual and Still Raise Money?

The answer is YES! In January 2020, I started planning a gala for my client’s celebration of 100 years! The gala was to take place in October 2020. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, by May 2020 we were asking ourselves some difficult questions.  Would things be better in October? Can we still safely host an in-person event? What would a successful virtual event look like?

Seeing as how this type of celebration only comes every 100 years, the team didn’t want to cancel, and we discovered there were plenty of ways to still make our vision come to life! By June, we had fully committed to a virtual celebration. We knew our longtime supporters would still celebrate with us and we hoped for a few new friends along the way.

We sold 200+ tickets and shipped gift baskets that included things like company swag and celebratory beverages. We used a production studio to host a telethon style event, in which we had two live hosts, guest speakers and fun entertainment. Some of my favorites were shout outs from Padres alumni and a family Mariachi band. The kids were too cute! This was viewed all while guests were watching it live-streamed out of the comfort of their own home. We partnered with a fundraising platform, Handbid, and were able to host a silent auction and also have a donate now feature available where guests could donate by selecting an amount or creating a custom amount. All of the bidding was done on either the platform site they were using to watch the live stream, or they could also use a browser or app on their phone. In the end, we had reached over 90% of our stretch goal of $125,000!

Not only did the event pay for itself, but we raised an additional 40%! In addition to the fundraising success, we also received tons of positive feedback from supporters and community partners. Of course, I wish we could do events in person again, but by being innovative, tech savvy, and speaking from the heart, we were still able to have a spectacular event and great turnout! Even the guests thought so too! They just might have been in their sweats, rather than a ball gown.