In the era of Essential and Non-Essential, are you accidentally designating your nonprofit as "un-important"
Virtual galas have some limitations.
While this year has proven that virtual galas work, and you can use them to effectively share your mission and raise money, it's also clear that it's harder (maybe impossible) to match the warmth and engagement you would feel if everyone was in a hotel ballroom.
But, despite the challenges, it's important to ask the question: What's the cost of NOT going virtual?
The health department has banned large gatherings, so nonprofits, like many other industries, have been forced to pivot to a virtual alternative.
Some nonprofits have jumped in and enthusiastically hosted virtual galas.
But the groups who moved quickly, tended to be either smaller- or medium-sized and/or they were larger but with local autonomy, so the decision-making group was still small and nimble.
Without a doubt, going virtual is a big, and often scary, step.
Other nonprofits have had trouble navigating the internal bureaucracy to get enough decision-makers aligned to pull the trigger on a virtual event.
So they continue to wait (as we all are hoping and praying) for COVID-19 to end and for everything to return to normal.
But what's the cost of waiting? What message do you send to your donors if you don't go virtual?
In this era when the government is labeling industries as "essential" and "non-essential", the entire business and consumer landscape is getting carved into two categories: "important" and "un-important".
Are nonprofits inadvertently labeling themselves as "un-important" when they don't make the attempt to go virtual?
Think about the donor perspective.
Your donors jobs have completely pivoted to virtual. They would prefer to return to their offices, but they're stuck at home, stuck in front of their screens working on Zoom, WebEx, Skype, etc.
Because their work is important. So even though working virtually is not ideal, they have to do it, because it's important.
Your donors would prefer that their kids were in school, learning in person. Instead, children, parents and teachers are grappling with a entirely new set of educational challenges called "remote learning" or "online learning".
Because education is important. If the options are to do nothing or go virtual, we choose virtual.
Your donors are Face-timing with grandparents rather than visiting them in person, because visiting is dangerous, but staying in touch with family is important.
Your donors are attending virtual church services, because going to church is dangerous, but hearing the word of God is important.
And on and on and on. In every facet of their lives, your donors are adapting to this new binary world, where everything important has gone virtual, and everything that hasn't gone virtual must be, by default, un-important.
When you announce that you're hosting a virtual gala, your donors will surely sigh and ache for the days when they could get dressed up and go into a hotel ballroom to support you.
They will also understand that your normal in-person event is not possible right now, but your mission is just as important as ever.
So they will completely understand "why" you're going virtual.
It may be harder for them to understand why you're not.