Two Audiences, One Big Party: The Woodland Park Zoo’s Hybrid Gala Made $2M
Woodland Park Zoo was caught off-guard by the onset of the pandemic. They had to suddenly take their highly-anticipated 2020 Jungle Party completely virtual, and could no longer use the vendor services they’d already paid for. But the talented event staff still managed to pull off the hybrid gala event, even if it didn’t make quite as much money as previous events.
Going into 2021, event managers Steven and Cate wanted to provide their dedicated donors with the true Jungle Party experience they all loved and missed. Some COVID-19 restrictions had loosened, and so a “hybrid”-style event made perfect sense for the Jungle Party. The two-prong approach gave those who were eager to socialize again the chance to attend the in-person gala, and everyone else could tune in from home—with both groups watching the same live auction and bidding on the same items, which kept everything fair.
Prioritizing the Live Gala Experience Brought in Big Bucks
The Woodland Park Zoo’s leadership understood that a well-designed event experience drives giving. People who attend a fundraiser in person want to be wined and dined, to experience the atmosphere, watch an entertaining program, and raise their paddles in fun and energetic live auctions.
The idea? Offer the very same Jungle Party their supporters all attended and loved before the pandemic. The live half of the event would attract many of their big donors and sponsors, so they decided to focus on providing a top-notch gala experience—one that would culminate in the live auction and paddle raise, which were always big money-makers at the in-person Jungle Party.
To give guests this familiar atmosphere, the Zoo pulled out all the stops. They hired a professional emcee and professional auctioneer to run the event up on stage, and filled their outdoor venue with fun and thematic décor. It was everything their donors had missed about the Jungle Party, down to the food, the music, and the socializing.
Making Hybrid Gala Guests Part of the Fun
But Cate and Steven didn’t want hybrid gala guests to feel left out, so they broadcasted parts of the live program on the virtual livestream. Knowing people watching from home wouldn’t want to sit in front of their screens for four or five hours to watch an entire live program, they arranged the schedule so only two hours of the program were streamed to virtual guests. Thanks to Greater Giving’s Online Bidding platform, both in-person and remote guests could bid on silent auction items at the same time, and they all got to enjoy the exciting live auction together.
The Zoo partnered with a Seattle production company to ensure the livestream and the video content was of the highest quality possible; it needed to look and sound authentic to truly bring the Jungle Party magic to virtual attendees. Little details in the program made it feel more real and inclusive for those tuning in remotely, like shout-outs to donors on the big screen, and a huge thermometer displaying the fundraising goal that encouraged everyone to give.
The atmosphere at the in-person event was infectious, and everyone present and watching from home had a great time. It was a huge success, and the Jungle Party raised $1.9 million—the same amount as pre-pandemic events.
FIND OUT MORE! How did The Woodland Park Zoo raise nearly $2 million in the midst of a pandemic? Read the full client story here to learn how they pulled off such a complex event, and get all the tips and tricks to help your nonprofit get there, too.
QUESTIONS TO ASK WHILE PLANNING YOUR HYBRID GALA EVENT:
If you plan to livestream your live auction, brainstorm with your team how to time and schedule your live and virtual programs to maximize participation in the auction from online attendees, while saving some special moments for your ticketed guests to create that exclusive, tailored experience they expect.
- What is a reasonable amount of time for your audience to stay attentive while watching a livestream from home?
- Do you plan to livestream your entire live program, part of your live program, or none of your live program?
- If you don’t plan to stream any of your live event program, what other live or pre-recorded video content will you stream to virtual guests?
- If you do plan to stream your live program to virtual guests, what other unique or exclusive opportunities will you offer in-person attendees?