Non Profit Virtual Galas, In-Person Galas, and Hybrid Galas: What are the Advantages of Each?

Hundreds of nonprofits and charities have enjoyed the many benefits offered by a virtual gala. Many find they’re actually able to raise more money through these events than their usual in-person galas.

Even so, there are still many advantages charities and nonprofit organizations enjoy with in-person galas that can’t be so easily achieved in a virtual fundraising event.

Fortunately, thanks to advances in technology, your nonprofit can also enjoy the best of both worlds through hybrid galas that let you enjoy everything virtual and in-person galas offer.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of each virtual event—and see how they’ll affect your future fundraising efforts.  

Virtual Galas

Virtual galas, also known as virtual fundraisers or virtual events, enable nonprofits and charities to fundraise via an online platform like PayBee. Through livestreaming, video, and peer-to-peer fundraising, supporters can now gather online to donate and enjoy virtual versions of live activities—as well as additional events that can only be conducted online.

Charities and nonprofits have been experimenting with virtual galas for years, but the recent pandemic has made online fundraising more of a necessity. Thanks to virtual fundraising events, your organization and supporters can enjoy many benefits, including:

  • Lower overhead: In-person galas require a physical venue, on-site staff, catering, hotels, travel, and other expensive services that drain your fundraiser’s profits. Virtual galas, on the other hand, only need an virtual conference platform and support staff. You’ll also need streaming software and a content distribution network, which are often free. As virtual platform software pricing is usually reasonable, your nonprofit keeps more of the money raised.
  • Fewer logistics: Holding your fundraiser online also means you don’t have to deal with as many logistics as an in-person event. You won’t have to mobilize your volunteers to set up your tables or arrange for catering. This saves you time and reduces stress. That said, if you haven’t hosted many virtual events, you’ll want to invest in a professional virtual fundraising consultant and a good tech support staff to get the best virtual event solutions.
  • Bigger audiences: The banquet hall you rented for an in-person event might only fit a hundred people, but a virtual event platform can accommodate hundreds or even thousands of people since they’re all gathering online. The webinar platform WorkCast, for instance, can host up to 50,000 attendees per event. By hosting more people, you not only increase the number of your donors, you also improve your brand awareness.
  • Flexible audience participation: Your supporters may not have the time to get dressed up and drive to an in-person gala, so they’ll appreciate the opportunity to just drop into a virtual gala, donate quickly, and leave. Saving money on travel can also motivate them to donate more.
  • New entertainment possibilities: Livestream concerts, online charity auctions, and virtual dance parties are just some popular virtual fundraising ideas you can use to entertain your attendees. You’ll also find it can be easier and less expensive to book celebrity guests since you don’t have to deal with travel or hotel expenses. Appearing in the same virtual space as everyone else can also make it easier for your attendees to connect with your guests, encouraging attendance.  
  • Larger donations: The convenience and lower cost of a virtual gala encourages your supporters to put their savings into their donations. Some virtual fundraisers find that not charging for tickets actually increases donation amounts. A properly planned and publicized virtual gala has been known to raise 300% of a nonprofit’s fundraising goal!
  • Efficient digital payments: An online platform provider like PayBee allows you to easily collect donations through a payment’s interface during the virtual event. Any payments not immediately collected can be collected by sending an email to the donor with a payment link. What’s more, PayBee tracks and organizes every transaction in its backend, eliminating paperwork.
  • Improved fundraisers: Collecting data on your attendees and their participation can be challenging at in-person galas—but not virtual events. A good online fundraising platform keeps track of everyone who attended your event, their emails, what items they bid on in charity auctions, and how much they participated in your activities. You can use this information to improve your future fundraisers by focusing on popular activities and inviting your best supporters.  

In-Person Galas

From fancy dinner parties to charity carnivals, in-person fundraising galas have been both important and enjoyable for nonprofit organizations to raise money and awareness for their cause. Although COVID-19 has prevented many charities from hosting their usual events, many hope to see a return to these get-togethers soon.

And for good reason. As profitable and convenient as virtual galas can be, there are still some benefits that can only be found at in-person events. These include:

  • Face-to-face social interaction: Being able to socialize with friends and fellow supporters is a big draw for in-person galas. A good online fundraising platform may let people see each other on a computer screen, but it’s not the same as being able to meet and chat in real life.
  • Different participants: While many online platforms are easy to use, not all donors are computer-savvy. Limiting your nonprofit fundraisers to just virtual galas could prevent some of your most regular (and generous) donors from participating in your fundraising events. Offering in-person galas increases your cause’s supporters.
  • Better human connections: Fundraisers aren’t just about raising money. Nonprofits and charities also benefit from meeting new people in person. This helps build relationships that lead to long-term volunteers, donors, and business partners. Online fundraisers provide a way to communicate, but in-person galas offer ways of developing stronger emotional connections.  
  • More effective brand promotion: Virtual galas let you share slides, videos, or even livestream messages from the people and places your nonprofit benefits, but in-person events can provide stronger opportunities for raising awareness of your cause. If your nonprofit is an animal rescue, for instance, supporters will respond more strongly if they can see and interact with the animals you help. Just showing these animals on a screen isn’t always that effective.
  • Reduced technical issues: In-person galas have their share of lighting and sound problems, but virtual events come with their own unique glitches. Livestream videos have slight lags that make supporters experience virtual galas differently than in-person events. This means you’ll want to have a good tech support team to keep your virtual conference software running smoothly.  

The good news is that today’s nonprofit organization or charity doesn’t have to choose between a virtual fundraising event or in-person gala. Instead, you can hold a fundraiser that offers the best of both worlds in a hybrid gala.

Hybrid Galas

A hybrid gala lets your supporters attend your fundraiser either virtually or in-person. This does not mean that you just livestream your in-person event so your virtual audience can watch it. Rather, you’ll offer two fundraising experiences, a virtual one and an in-person one, that intersect so well your supporters feel like they’re sharing an equally engaging experience.  

This requires having two production teams—each with its own scripts, sets, activities, and visual aids—in order to provide your virtual and in-person audiences the presentation that lets them engage best with your hybrid event. Both groups need to feel their needs are being met and that your organization is focused on communicating and interacting well with everyone.  

Such an event comes with its own set of challenges. Not only will you be producing a virtual and in-person event, both galas need to coordinate with each other to work seamlessly. This can mean taking into account the different time zones of your attendees so you can better inform different audience members of your event schedule. It might also mean choosing between live and recorded entertainment for each audience.

For these reasons, having a support team with experience in producing live in-person events, virtual fundraisers, and hybrid galas is essential. Make sure to use an online platform provider like PayBee that stands ready to help you every step of the way in coordinating your hybrid fundraiser. Having a proper support system reduces your stress, letting you focus on what you do best—promote your mission.    

And done correctly, a well-crafted hybrid event offers your supporters and donors some excellent benefits. In addition to having many of the opportunities provided by virtual and in-person galas, you’ll be able to offer:

  • Multiple entry points: These days, people don’t just learn about nonprofits or charities from in-person gatherings. They engage with organizations through webinars and virtual activities. Offering multiple ways to participate in your group lets you reach a more diverse group of volunteers, donors, and supporters.  
  • Better accommodations for your donors: Some of your supporters can’t attend an in-person gala because of travel limitations. Others prefer the social structure of an in-person fundraiser. A hybrid gala gives both groups options to participate the way they want, improving your reach and increasing the number of your supporters.
  • More opportunities for connections: If networking and building relationships are important goals for your organization, then a hybrid gala gives your staff and your supporters the chance to connect with people from around the world, both in-person and through a virtual networking event platform. As your audience sees your fundraiser as a chance to grow connections, interest and engagement in your events will grow.
  • New ways to share your event: Supporters who participate in your event virtually can share recordings of the event online. This improves your brand awareness and helps you attract more supporters to your cause.

As we move into 2021, hybrid gala experiences will become more of a reality for nonprofit and charity fundraisers. Donors who now know the convenience of virtual fundraisers will be eager to keep that convenience when in-person galas return. By learning how to host a hybrid gala, your ability to engage with and accommodate new generations of supporters will only grow stronger.  

Putting on Your Ideal Fundraiser

Changing times require nonprofits and charities to learn new forms of fundraising, but these innovative events also offer amazing opportunities to raise more money and make stronger connections.

When it comes time to host your own fundraising event, make sure to have a clear idea of what goals you want to meet and what type of experience you want to provide your supporters. Once you understand how your donors want to support your organization, you’ll be able to decide on the best virtual event platform, in-person fundraiser, or hybrid gala best fits your needs.

Above all, you’ll want to stay informed about your new options and the technologies available to you. Sign up for a free virtual gala demo with PayBee to experience a virtual gala for yourself and learn about its benefits. Each demo is also followed by a live Q&A session where you can ask more about the different types of fundraising events.  

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Michael Jung


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