Part of our Virtual Fundraising Event and Gala series, view more articles here – Virtual Fundraising Events
Your annual gala event is one of your most important fundraisers of the year.
It’s what you, your staff and volunteers have been working on for months on end— a fundraiser that helps support the programs and good work your organization provides.
What do you do when an unexpected situation happens that affects the ability to host a live event? Whether it’s weather-related or a public health concern, it’s a major conundrum.
The good news is you have options. You can choose to reschedule your event or move to a virtual one. Either way, you don’t have to lose the fundraising momentum you and your team have been working so hard for.
#1 Determine Your Options
The first thing to do is to determine what your options are by reaching out to your vendors and service providers. If you reschedule or move online, will you get refunds or credit on the venue, decor, AV and catering? Do you currently have Online Bidding, and if you don’t, can you add it to your existing software package? Will your supporters still engage from home if you go online? There are so many questions to be answered before you can make an educated decision on what to do. Make a list of all the details to consider and do your research before gathering to meet about making a decision. That way, when you do meet you’ll be able to illustrate different options to the committee that you can take action on immediately.
#2 Make a Decision
Once you know your options, the next step is to make an informed decision everyone is on board with. So gather all the key stakeholders together and have a meeting to address everyone’s concerns. Run the meeting with a clear agenda and present the information you have about different scenarios so everyone can give their input. Avoid overcomplicating the choices or letting people’s fear overtake the discussion. A clear-minded and focused discussion on what is best for your organization will result in the optimal decision.
#3 Assign a Task Force
Once you’ve made the decision to move forward with a change of plans, assign a task force of key staff and volunteers who can roll up their sleeves and deliver on the new plan. Look at your existing event committee and shift roles accordingly. For example, if you are moving to a virtual event, the person in charge of procurement can focus on determining the best items for online auctions and packages to avoid. This is not the time for lengthy meetings or volunteers who can’t commit to specific tasks or deadlines. Clearly define your plan and assign roles and tasks to those who have the most expertise in specific areas.
#4 Execute Your Plan
Ready, set, go! There is not going to be time to waste as you move quickly to make the changes to your event. With a clear plan and regular touch-base meetings, you will want to get going right away and not lose any momentum. First communicate the plan, team, process and timeline to your task force. Then begin executing on the plan and increasing the level of communication. The first hurdle will be to communicate to your staff, board, volunteers and guests you are making a change, and making sure they know to still “Save-The-Date,” whether it’s for a virtual event or later in the year. Then keep promotion high with email and social media to generate excitement about your auction packages.
#5 Keep Going!
Now that you’ve changed your plans and have everyone moving in the same direction, keep your eye on the prize and keep fundraising! It may be a big change for your supporters, but they still want to feel like they’re contributing as if they were in the room with paddles raised. Make it as fun and interactive as you can to keep that bidding energy high.
For inspiration, look at what other organizations are doing. We love how Upaya Social Ventures promoted their virtual event with a video. And how Girls Inc. hosted an UnGala.