By: Dan Campbell, Raising Paddles Fundraising Consultant &  Auctioneer

As most of you are planning your first virtual gala, you might wonder if this is a one time effort that is simply needed to fill the gap in fundraising due to all of the cancelled in-person events. For most of you, this has been a new experience that is fraught with uncertainty and risks that will impact the future of your NPO. Frankly, it is scary! Which is why you will want to build a team that is built for the long term. Building an alliance with partners and supporters who have the agility to adjust with you and provide thought leadership as your needs change is the best response to this crisis at hand. We at Raising Paddles have spent just as much time on our consulting and education efforts with NPOs as we have on our actual gala planning efforts.

Important Partnerships

It seems straightforward to hire an auctioneer that will show up the night of your event and perform. Depending on who you hire, some auctioneers have more experience than others helping NPOs with fundraising strategies. But the next level of partnership is providing the value of consulting and a big picture view for the long term that many of our clients are seeing the need for. We spend an inordinate amount of time researching all aspects of fundraising from the donor perspective. To us, this is a customer experience moment… how do we build a strategy that connects to your donors? Regardless of whether they are in a ballroom or sitting on the couch at home.

We have nine team members who spend a great deal of time searching for best practices we can share with our clients to help them stand out in the crowd. We also are partnering with similar like-minded providers in the fundraising world who provide cutting edge technology and experiences that can support your audience virtually or in-person, or both. This level of research and team building does not happen overnight. The vetting process to ensure your needs are met, as well as your donors’ needs, has been procured over 25 years of dedicated focus on fundraising. When you find such a partner, take advantage of that experience and build long term relationships with these partners who can add incremental thought leadership to your team.

A New Fundraising

I started writing this article with the thought of, “where does this virtual trend go from here?” We believe many of you will look to hybrid options for 2021 and beyond, as we see the potential of incremental fundraising sources that can be supported by combining the best attributes of in-person galas and online fundraising. 2020 has taught us a lot about the delicate future of fundraising, but it has also taught us that a resilient team with extended partnerships can create breakthrough results and create opportunity from chaos.

No matter where you end up on the continuum of fundraising galas in 2021 and beyond, just know that we are here for you, and we will work harder than anyone to bring fresh perspectives to your gala and the guest experience. We look forward to working with you to develop your unique event planning in this ever changing world.