Nonprofit events: in-person or virtual?

Now that the world is coming out of the pandemic, so are nonprofit events. After two years when all events by charity organizations were moved online due to COVID, does it make sense to make them in person again?

While most organizations bemoaned having to cancel their events and doing them on Zoom, many are noticing the advantages they enjoyed as well. Let’s face it. Serving dinner at a fancy hotel is expensive. A good percentage of ticket prices and sponsorship money always went to the venue and the caterer. Then there were the many other costs — decorations, video, programs, flowers, music, staffing, parking. Too many well-meaning nonprofits did annual gala after annual gala only to find that after six months of planning, they were left with much less than they need or want.

This is not to say there isn’t a time and place for real life galas. There is something warm and special about an organization’s supporters, friends and staff getting together, meeting, talking and sharing an evening together. No Zoom event can replace that. But what virtual fundraisers taught us is nonprofits can do a great job putting on a fundraising gala while raising more money. If you knock out all the costs, and extend the reach by going virtual there is a place for an online gala as well.

What is important to remember is supporters don’t attend a gala for the chicken dinner. In fact, many hate it and avoid galas. There are just too many. Instead, focus on your organization’s mission and message. That’s what will being in the money.

And your supporters may surprise you by giving more because they can do it from the comfort of their living room and don’t have to put on a necktie or gown.