With summer fast becoming a distant memory, I’m talking with clients about their 2021 fundraising galas.
One topic frequently entering the conversation sounds something like this:
“What will happen to virtual galas?”
- “Even if we can meet in-person, should we make a decision to host a virtual gala instead?”
- “What will change with virtual galas post COVID-19?”
- “We cancelled our spring 2020 event because we didn’t want to go virtual. But now, as we start to plan our calendar, what are the 2021 trends we should consider as it relates to virtual?”
My take is that virtual events are here to stay in some form or fashion, but they will evolve once COVID-19 has passed.
As we work to integrate our knowledge of this new approach into our tried-and-true onsite events, I think that we — at first — will do a poor job of integrating virtual galas and in-person galas.
I explain my thoughts in today’s video.
What’s your read on the industry?
Post your opinion below.
Doug Sorrell says
I agree with your assessment. I just conducted my first virtual event for a non profit. Lots of viewers, very few eligible bidders due to credit card requirement to bid. Sold 10 of 11 items. Art work. Each had minimum opening bid, though all was locally created & donated. Realized 85% of values, no buyer bought more than one item. I only had 39 eligible bidders…so I consider this as positive.
Going forward I see virtual events vs Live Galas as separate entities that can be employed by the same non profit.
Think of this like a Baseball organization. Your Live Gala is the Big League…dress up, smooze, bid on fabulous Live items, participate in the Funding Plea. The virtual event is held months away from Live event & pretty much a minor league “feeder”, growing your supporter base & hoping some of these donor, participant, supporters graduate to your future Galas to replace existing Gala attendees who exit from your event for a variety of reasons.
This is the mindset I’m sharing with my committees. Be well
Sherry Truhlar says
Yes, Doug, this is where I think it will land, too. Though I also think many groups will add a basic livestream to the main event, but not really do anything to ENGAGE the at-home guests. “Let’s just do it and maybe we’ll get some donations” will be the idea.
Pre-COVID19, I had two galas that regularly did that. I was only ever told that one $50 donation came in from that stream. (But of course, I was hardly engaging it either, outside of some general remarks at the beginning or end of the appeal.)
I think if we’re going to do that, it has to take the approach of Saturday Night Live or other live TV shows. The people on stage (the auctioneer, speakers, etc.) must focus on the CAMERA — not the live audience — and trust that the live audience is entertained by simply being in the space. I’m not sure that will fly for our style of events.
Rick Gallo says
Spot on as always. I just had this conversation with one of my clients the other day. The challenges that NFPs face, especially over the next year, are many and they are going to have to evolve. Would I like to see us all doing just live gatherings for our galas? Absolutely.
Is that the way it’s going to be in 2021? Absolutely not.
Thanks Sherry for sharing your thoughts.
Sherry Truhlar says
In general, I think we’re doing good virtual events now and (of course) we know how to do good in-person events. I don’t think we’ll do them well simultaneously.
But for nonprofits with a budget, there might be something to the idea of having two hosts — one whose sole job is to engage the livestream and the other who is working the room. Or, building out the technology to such an extent (read: $$$), that the “away” experience is just as compelling.
Thanks for your input, Rick.