Nonprofits need support now more than ever and so many of these organizations rely on their annual galas as vital fundraisers. The YWCA of Greater Atlanta is one such nonprofit. Their yearly event, The Salute to Women of Achievement, garners one-third of their annual budget, but because of social distancing guidelines, the YWCA was looking at forced cancellation of their one big event of the year. In the spirit of “the show must go on,” the Y decided to take their event virtual and they reached out to Everywhere Agency for help. We have a heart for nonprofits, especially those that elevate women and girls, so we were game to help one of the first nonprofit events go virtual in the country.
Turning a fancy gala event, typically staged in a glam hotel, into a virtual event is easier said than done — you can’t snap your fingers and shift a “live event” into a “laptop event.” There were a few technological hurdles along the way, but overall, we found that going virtual had some major benefits:
1. MORE COST EFFECTIVE
No caterer to haggle with, no linens to rent, no venue to reserve means your virtual event is going to be far more cost-effective. The sheer amount of work and labor in general will be reduced — leaving you to focus on the goal: more donations and attendee participation.
2. QUICK TURNAROUND
Without the need to reserve a venue months in advance or organize a fleet of volunteers, virtual events can be planned and promoted rather quickly. For example, Everywhere Agency and the YWCA of Greater Atlanta were able to organize and produce the Salute to Women of Achievement event in just three short weeks.
3. BETTER ACCESS TO ATTENDEE CONTACT INFO
Like many non-profit events, the YWCA gala usually has individuals and sponsors who purchase a table for a sit-down dinner and invite friends to join them at the event. This means the YWCA often only has had the contact information for the person who purchased the table — missing out on a slew of emails from the guests and potential future donors. Registering with an email for the virtual event meant the organization suddenly has the ability to reach out to everyone after the event to thank guests for their attendance and encourage donations. They are also able to stay in contact with those who registered but ultimately didn’t attend.
4. NO CONSTRAINTS ON CAPACITY
The YWCA event usually has around 500 attendees, all of whom have to get dressed up, drive to a locale and face the burdens of Atlanta traffic. We were able to host an event that allowed attendees to show up from the comfort of their own living room couch. The YWCA began promoting the event about 2 weeks in advance and ended up with a whopping 740 registrations (all of whom had to provide their email to the YWCA to register) and almost 500 attendees on the evening of the event. Without any constraints on size, you can also increase the number of donors and drive more people to your website for information.
5. MORE INTERACTIVITY AND COMMUNICATION DURING THE EVENT
For the YWCA event, each honoree gave an acceptance while sitting in front of their laptop and the chat function itself was buzzing with chatter and positive energy — we saw more than 1,000 conversations. One of the commenters said joining in made them feel “connected and safe.” In the current climate of the world, the sense of togetherness was certainly a highlight of the evening. Not to mention, we were able to answer donation questions on the spot and solicit for donations throughout the event.
Change is hard and virtual events, much like in-person events, require thinking through many logistical challenges. However, it just may be a better format for your organization once you give it a try. If you are feeling uncertain about how to pull off this transition, reach out to us and we’d be happy to talk through your options.
To read more about the success of the event in the local media, check out this Atlanta Business Chronicle story.