• Nonprofit Learning Lab

Virtual Gala: Engaging Donors and Sponsors

Updated: a day ago


This post was written by the Nonprofit Learning Lab. The Nonprofit Learning Lab is hosting an online workshop on The Virtual Gala: Engaging Donors in their Own Homes.


My nonprofit gala tickets are usually $250/ticket and our sponsorships levels are $5K, $20K, $50K and $100K...should I still ask for this amount at a virtual gala?

Yes! Your donors and sponsors give to your organization because of their affinity to your nonprofit's mission, vision and the work that you are doing. Keep your ticket prices and sponsorship levels at the same price. If a sponsor has been impacted particularly hard by COVID, they will let you know or maybe you are already aware of the impact COVI has had on their business. It is also really important to put in the time and effort to cultivate your donors and corporate sponsors.


You need to be in communication with your donors and corporate sponsors especially now during so much uncertainty and change. Perhaps priorities are changing and how is your organization addressing the impact in the community?


It is important to understand that just because donors or corporate sponsors showed up to a breakfast every year for the last 15 years does not mean they will log on to a virtual event. You have to put in the cultivation time for your donors and corporate sponsorship to ensure the same results. Communicate with your donors, call them up on the phone, and set up a time to check-in with them so you can gauge if they can give at the same level or even higher.


What are some sample sponsor benefits for a virtual event?

Your sponsors are looking for different ways to engage with potential customers and clients because traditional methods may have been slightly altered. Brainstorm how your sponsors can interact with your community and how you can promote your sponsors. Some examples could include:

1) Special announcements from sponsors during a virtual event to all guests

2) Special announcements from sponsors during breakout sessions

3) Distribution of sponsored content perhaps through a blog post or short video promo on website or facebook page

4) Product placement in VIP swag bag

5) Promotion of corporate sponsors on website or event app with a discount code


Also, sometimes asking your sponsors how they want to be promoted can also be really helpful in generating new ideas.


Is Zoom the best platform for a large group when you want event attendees to go into breakouts?

There are many different event platforms that you can choose from for your event from Hop.in to zoom.us to www.accelevents.com. You have to think about what experience you are trying to curate for your attendees and then think about the platform that aligns with the experience. Figuring out an online platform is similar to choosing a physical venue for an event. It takes time and you need to make sure you choose the right platform just like you always need to make sure you choose the correct venue.


What's the best date of the week/time of the day to host an event such as a gala or other live online experience?

The time and date of your virtual event depends on your audience, guests and donors. Are you a professional organization where you typically host an annual fundraiser that is a morning breakfast or are you a nonprofit that typically hosts an evening gala? To determine the best day of the week and time of day to host an event, you have to think about your audience, where they are, and what they are doing. Ask your audience, donors and guests what they would prefer. They will tell you, especially if they have a strong affinity to your organization. If you have an events committee, you could also do an internal survey within the events committee to determine the best date and time.


For those of us planning virtual or hybrid events for later in the fall when small groups might be able to gather together, any advice on how to engage that kind of audience?

I think you have to be flexible to what is happening in your community and with your donors. You have to know your audience. If you are gathering people together, follow the proper protocols and be extra careful and over communicate about what you plan to do. Have designated spaces where people can sit, structure spaces so people are at a distance and require people to wear a mask. As contact tracing increases in communities, it is important to be hyper aware of how an outbreak could be traced back to your nonprofit gala or fundraiser. An outbreak would be a lot of extra work for your staff to handle. What is in alignment with your community? You do not want to spend time planning an in person event and have no one show up because they are fearful of gathering in public spaces. It also might be time to re-imagine your annual gala. Perhaps the gala is now few mini-events (25-30 people) spread over a few days with more intentional conversations and smaller number of people or it is a hybrid model that includes online and in-person. It is time to get creative and continue to be flexible and adaptable together.


Need more ideas? Join us for your online workshop Virtual Gala: Engaging Donors in their own Homes: www.nonprofitlearninglab.org/virtualgala

Nonprofit Learning Lab

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