Virtual Gala Ideas for an Engaging Event

Fundraising Events

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A virtual gala can be a great opportunity for your nonprofit to raise additional funds for its mission with lower overhead than a traditional gala event. This means that your nonprofit can raise more funds while spending less with traditional galas. But how do you make your virtual gala events fun and engaging? We’ve put together these virtual gala ideas to help you host more engaging and profitable virtual galas. 

What is a virtual gala?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a gala is a “festive celebration” (and they offer three ways to pronounce it, so if you were hoping to clear that up, we’re sorry to let you down!). Often, this type of event marks a special occasion. In the case of most nonprofits, that occasion is fundraising. But what makes a virtual gala event?  

A virtual gala is a festive celebration that is held entirely online with no in-person participants. Because the event is virtual, this kind of gala event relies on livestreaming the party to participants. Broadcasting the party to the partygoers is what makes a virtual gala. 

During a virtual gala, participants can livestream their own participation or watch the event from the comfort of home without broadcasting their own fun. 

Virtual gala ideas

1. Choose a fundraising theme

You can make you gala engaging  by adding a theme to your event. The event theme you choose can be relevant to your nonprofit or just a fun theme that resonates with your audience. The uniqueness of your theme can be a huge draw for your virtual gala event. 

Some fundraising gala themes for your virtual event include: 

  • A murder mystery party where guests watch a murder mystery play and try to solve the murder based on the clues. 
  • A Disney gala where guests dress as their favorite Disney characters (this same theme idea can be applied to just about any franchise) 
  • An Oscars Party (or any other awards show) 
  • A virtual talent show 
  • A decade party where you choose an iconic decade for people to celebrate, like the 1970s or the Roaring 20s. 

But the possibilities are endless! Get your thinking caps on and come up with the perfect theme for your virtual gala to draw in more guests and earn engagement. 

The FHN Foundation went with an out-of-this-world theme, literally! Their Gala Galactic features an outer space theme that even carries over to some of their silent auction items.

2. Hire entertainers for your virtual event

Just like you might hire a DJ for your in-person gala event, you should ensure a night of engaging fun at your virtual gala with entertainers. It’s not enough to set up a livestream to talk at your guests. Instead, offer them some value for their gala attendance by hiring entertainers that can perform for your viewers. 

You could hire a magic act to perform tricks, a band to play some danceable tunes during the gala, or even have your staff put on performances if you’ve got budgetary concerns.  

Gala events featuring a talent show are ideal because your guests can show off their unique talents. This means they’ll provide their own entertainment to your gala event. Just be sure to have prizes for the acts that receive the most votes (and yes, dollars raised).  

While not a gala fundraiser, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Laurel Region hosted Big Talent, a virtual talent show event featuring several acts from their community. Guests voted on a winner by donating to the act they liked most. The act that raised the most funds was the talent show’s winner at the end of the event.

3. Include in-person elements

You may be wondering how to bring some in-person fun to your virtual gala event. It’s true that in-person events tend to be a lot more engaging. However, you can bring some of that engagement to your virtual guests by incorporating some in-person elements into your virtual event experience. 

For instance, you could cater food for the gala event and arrange for it to be delivered to guests the day of the event. Or, you could give all of your guests a gift card to a food delivery service like Door Dash or Grub Hub so that they can order their own fancy gala meal for delivery. 

Additionally, you could send guests the goody bags that normally would be part of the in-person gala experience. Bonus points if those goody bags include props that make for great selfies. Selfies shared on social media are great for social media engagement.

4. Encourage audience participation/livestreaming

The tips so far have been about making your event engaging for your participants. However, a great way to drive engagement is encouraging your participants to take action during your gala. You can ask them to turn on their cameras during a gala on Zoom, or even plan a quiz  or another activity that leads guests to take action. 

During the livestream broadcast of City Year Boston’s Starry Night 2021 virtual gala, they encouraged guests to give by displaying a text-to-donate short code and phone number for text donations. Throughout the livestream, they also broadcast QR codes guests could scan for more information. 

A QR code displayed on screen during the livestreamed Starry Night Gala 2021 for City Year Boston.

5. Integrate social media into your virtual gala

Most of your virtual gala attendees will have social media accounts. It can be helpful to host your livestreamed gala event directly on social media like Facebook Live or YouTube live. This encourages active engagement from your attendees as they comment on your content. They can also more easily share your event with others. 

Other ways to get people talking about your event is to come up with a unique event hashtag they can use. 

6. Include fun sub-events

Sometimes the best way to make an engaging virtual gala is by incorporating fun sub-events for guests to take part in during the festivities. Silent auctions, raffles, and contests are great ways to get people talking about and taking part in your event. 

Cannonball Kids’ Cancer’s Gold Gala featured virtual house parties hosted by members in the community. These sub-events were literally separate parties hosted during the main event. This fundraising method was so successful they were able to raise more than $76,000 for their mission. 

In addition to the house parties, they also hosted a virtual silent auction that guests could take part in. 

Cannonball Kids Cancer's Gold Gala event homepage featuring a child they helped plus information on giving to their event or taking part in virtual house parties.

Final thoughts

We hope that these virtual gala engagement ideas make your next gala event more fun and engaging for your guests. As you drive engagement during your event with these tactics, you should see more donations, auction bids, and item purchases taking place.  

If you’re looking for software that makes hosting your own virtual gala a breeze, give us a try! 

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