How to Plan a Digital Fundraiser

a-chrome-sphere-at-the-top-of-a-stanchion-along-a red-carpet
A chrome sphere at the top of a stanchion along a red carpet.

Though venues are lifting mask restrictio
ns and policies on social distancing, some people will continue to be wary of large gatherings, and offering your guest list a choice may be the most sustainable option going forward. Many nonprofit fundraising planners have been re-imagining how to create the income they’ve historically raised at their annual in-person galas, online. 

Enter the virtual or hybrid gala.

The idea can seem intimidating, but when the platform you use is intuitive and built for the purpose of connecting people in the new normal, the prospect of creating a digital gala fundraiser is not too different from planning one in-person. 


Let the Past Be Your Guide

Though they share similar components, all fundraising galas are not the same. The first step in moving a gala online starts with what makes your gala unique and then builds out from that point. But first, think about what has been successful in years passed.  

  • Do you serve a full dinner, or just cocktails and hors d’oeuvre? 
  • Is there an awards presentation?
  • Is there live entertainment? 
  • Does your evening include a silent and/or a live auction?
  • What activities and games do your donors love?

Create an exhaustive list of elements that your gala includes, then make some decisions about what you want to maintain for the virtual event (hint: you can keep it all). This will become your project plan. 

The key is incorporating what was old into something new and online. A good example of this is John Kasinski’s prom for the 2020 seniors.

Choose a Venue

Everyone loves the feeling of walking through the doors of a beautiful space on gala night: the sound of live music and people mingling with excitement for the night to come is infectious and we miss it. Because Galoo was built specifically to incorporate the venue in its platform, this mood can be recreated digitally much to the delight of your attendees.


People raising a glass of champagne at a formal dance party

People raising a glass of champagne at a formal dance party.

Check for spaces that have Matterport scans and Galoo subscriptions. If you have your own venue where you hold your fundraising galas, have your own space scanned and purchase a Galoo subscription for your organization. 

In addition to creating an experience for your gala, it will provide a revenue stream for the future, allowing you to produce many different types of events and with greater capacity and scalability than the physical space will allow. 

Keep it Social

Galas and fundraisers are meant to be social events, and keeping that aspect built into a hybrid event can be a challenge. One of the things that sets Galoo apart is the ability for a table to “sit” together in a video chat while also watching the live event.  

Galoo’s VP of Sales & Marketing: “I was a table captain at a gala last year, and I had several friends join me for the event. As a group, we ordered the food we wanted through the organization’s menu and tuned in the night of the event. All of us were disappointed to realize we couldn’t be together. Our only option was to set up a text group, and we spent the evening typing. If we had been in Galoo, we could have been in our own chat room and talking with each other organically throughout the night.”

Live Streaming How-To

Live entertainment, activities, and auctions can all be integrated into your programming in engaging ways when you keep in mind that attention spans for virtual events are different. Varying short activities with live music and entertainment keeps people up on their dancing shoes.

Break into your live entertainment with these ideas: 

  • Share when you hit milestones by highlighting the funds you’re raising in real time. Let people know how close you are to your goal
  • Break your award ceremony into bite-sized segments
  • If you usually showcase activities like raffles, silent auctions, and door prizes, work them intermittently into the live stream
  • Add prizes for best “at home” prizes like best gala setup, best food presentation, best dressed, etc. and pepper them throughout the night
  • Keep it short and sweet. No one wants to spend 2 hours on a livestream, even if they love your organization.

Pro Tip: To ensure the presentation is professional, mute all mics except for the speaker’s and make sure the program is provided beforehand. Create a keyword that tells the next presenter it’s their turn.

Food and Drinks

There are numerous ways to incorporate food into your virtual gala that scale from sharing recipes for a common, simple menu to sending out a chef to each person’s home. Shipping a box of goodies to your attendees is more affordable now that food delivery options are so accessible and easy. 


A glass centerpiece featuring a string of white lights at a gala event

A glass centerpiece featuring a string of white lights at a gala event.

Drinks are even easier. Hiring a mixologist to create a themed cocktail for the night is a beautiful touch that adds a great deal to your program. 

Marketing a Virtual Gala

The beauty of creating a virtual or hybrid fundraiser is sharing it digitally. It’s quicker and far less costly because you can involve your attendees—and because of the unlimited capacity and nature of online events, people can join at the very last minute. 

  • Invite guests to share selfies of them at home on social media with your gala hashtag (don’t forget to create your hashtag)
  • Tag influencers! They might just show up
  • Thank people who share your event in real time
  • Create Instagram and Facebook stories about your event
  • Appoint someone to live-tweet the event
  • Have your speakers post on their social media
  • Create and schedule paid targeted ads (Google, Facebook, Instagram, etc)

When it comes to gala fundraising, “the way we’ve always done it” probably isn’t ever going to work again, and that’s a good thing.

Event planning is evolving quickly to incorporate virtual and hybrid technology to engage people in new ways that go far beyond the Zoom galas of 2020, so getting on board with learning how to throw an online event is increasingly becoming a top-tier life skill. 

The Galoo team trains our clients how to customize the Galoo platform to fit any venue or event. Let us show you a demonstration of how easy it is to create a virtual fundraising gala with Galoo.