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Virtual Galas: Frequently Asked Questions

What are virtual galas?

Virtual galas are digital reimaginings of the traditional nonprofit gala experience. Guests join the event virtually to watch and engage with a program put together by the nonprofit organization. Galas should be fun, exciting events that connect donors to your mission and show them why their support matters so much.

Nonprofits typically host galas, whether virtual or in-person, each year. Schools, advocacy organizations, community foundations, and other groups frequently host galas, as well.

What should be included in a virtual gala program?

If you’re planning a virtual gala, you’ve got a ton of flexibility when it comes to putting together a program! Livestreamed content is particularly important to help generate the energy you’ll need to succeed, but nonprofits have also seen great success using pre-recorded content. A mix of both live and recorded content will help you strike the right balance.

In terms of programming and activities, here are a few ideas:

  • Speeches from your nonprofit’s leaders, impactful donors/volunteers, constituents, and other partners
  • Prerecorded behind-the-scenes tours of your nonprofit’s work
  • Submitted videos from the community
  • Livestreamed entertainment and special guests
  • Live or recorded educational content
  • Trivia contests, social media contests, and drawings
  • Breakout chat rooms and Q&A sessions
  • Live appeals and donation challenges
  • Auctions and raffles

How do you make money with a virtual gala?

To make money during your virtual gala, you have a few options.

You might charge a registration fee for your virtual event (or create paid VIP registration options but leave general admission free). Add-ons like merchandise and food sent directly to guests are also a possibility. Generally, the biggest revenue-generators during a virtual gala will be auctions and live donation appeals. 

Auctions are another of our favorite fundraising ideas! Learn more with our auctions explainer.

How to Plan a Virtual Gala

To plan a virtual gala or any virtual fundraising event, there are a few core steps that experts recommend:

  1. Evaluate the pros and cons. If this will be your first virtual event, confirm that now’s the right time to get started. Virtual events require an upfront investment in technology and plenty of time to plan.
  2. Set a budget and goals. Create a budget for your event and set some specific goals. How much do you want to raise? How many guests do you want to join your gala? What kind of metrics can you use to measure their engagement with the event?
  3. Create your virtual gala toolkit. Invest in any necessary tech tools now, and give your team plenty of time to learn how they work before the event.
  4. Recruit a team. It’s rarely a good idea to try to handle an entire event by yourself! Recruit staff and volunteers to handle technology, promotions, event logistics, auction item procurement, and more.
  5. Start promoting your event. Use email, social media, and more to get the word out about your event. If you’re targeting a specific audience, like higher-value donors, tailor your communications to them.
  6. Send reminders and explainers. Create emails and web pages that show guests what to expect with your event and how to use your virtual event tools to join it.
  7. Build some excitement before the event. Get your audience excited by releasing teasers and recruiting peer-to-peer ambassadors to help promote it online. Try creating contests for ambassadors to see who can secure the most registrations or donations!

What You'll Need to Plan a Virtual Gala

To plan and host a virtual gala, you’ll benefit from having a robust toolkit consisting of:

  • Virtual fundraising software that includes donation, livestreaming, chat, and other interaction features
  • Mobile bidding tools to facilitate virtual auctions alongside your gala
  • Event planning software to handle logistics and registrations
  • Marketing tools to promote your event via email and social media
  • An underlying database or CRM platform to collect all the data your gala generates

However, even smaller nonprofits without these tools can still host a scaled-down virtual gala! Zoom and other video conferencing or livestreaming tools can be easy alternatives, but you’ll definitely need to invest in donation software in order to collect gifts during your program.

Additional Resources