With everything happening in our world with this global pandemic, uncertainty is sky high. Everyone is wondering how long this is going to last, what the impact on the economy is going to be, and what the impact on charities is going to be. Nonprofits have plenty to consider, but let’s start with taking a few deep breaths, then think through how can we pivot. We need to start doing things in a different way to reflect the new reality.
For many nonprofits, one area in need of immediate attention is the spring fundraising gala. To curb the COVID-19 outbreak, people are sheltering in place and group gatherings are restricted. That means nonprofits that had an event scheduled in spring 2020 are wrestling with canceling, postponing, or trying to shift to a digital space. Reggie Rivers from The Gala Team says that most organizations they work with are choosing to postpone:
“I think in a lot of ways, [postponement is] the wisest. You take your problem, and you kick [it] a few months down the road. And a lot can change in a few months, and your problem might resolve itself, and you have your event in August instead of May. So, I would say that out of our clients, that’s probably 60% to 65% have made that decision. Maybe 20% has decided to simply cancel their 2020 event and they’ll do an event in 2021.”
But Reggie also believes the growth in virtual galas isn’t just a stopgap for 2020, but a new way of fundraising that’s here to stay:
“When we think of a virtual gala, [don’t] overthink what that has to be…. You’ve already written a script for this event. You already have some live auction items for this event. You already have silent auction items. You already have a paddle raiser planned or a Fund-a-Need planned. So all of those elements are still going to be in your event, you’re just going to shrink it down and make it shorter—and by shorter, I mean 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or an hour.”
Of course, a virtual gala with a live auction will require special platforms. The Gala Team has used GiveSmart, Greater Giving, and OneCause. These platforms run on the back end with silent auctions placed through mobile bidding. Finding an experienced group to assist in this process will make all the difference, allowing your auction to function similarly to the kind you’d host at an in-person event.
Whatever platform you choose, you’ll want to make it as personal and interactive as possible so your donors know their presence matters. Remember your mission and the good that is possible when donors fuel it. To keep that in mind in the midst of all these changes, Reggie shares:
“It doesn’t matter how good your plan is, life happens…. Know that if you’re hosting a virtual event, you are talking to a sympathetic audience. The people who are attending your virtual event, they know what you’re going through. They know about the Coronavirus. A lot of these people are sitting at home wishing that they could do something to help, … and your organization is doing something that they care about deeply. They were planning to go to your gala. They were planning to support you. Now they don’t have that opportunity and they’re counting on you to give them a venue and an opportunity where they can support the people that you serve.”