From “22nd Annual Pace Setter Speakeasy Soiree Gala.”

October 19, 2020; KSNT and Valley News

Earlier this month, a healthcare center in Temecula, California, a city an hour north of San Diego with a population of just over 117,800, was able to raise $300,000 during their one-night virtual gala in September. What is behind this achievement? Is this an isolated case, or are there other nonprofits that have been able to transform their online fundraising successfully during the pandemic? What can we learn from them?

Below we offer a few examples of how nonprofits have utilized hands-on creativity to meet their fiscal needs during a time of required social distancing and an economic downturn.

Neighborhood Healthcare, for example, is an award-winning health services center, recognized by the Health Resources and Services Administration, a federal agency, for providing services for “geographically isolated, economically and medically vulnerable communities.” With 16 locations throughout San Diego and Riverside counties, they hold a yearly fundraising gala to service uninsured patients, “regardless of their situation or circumstance.”

From the onset, Neighborhood Healthcare meets the very first requirement of a successful fundraising institution which according to Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund Bright Spots report, is to make fundraising a core of the organization’s identity.

That being said, their Speakeasy Soiree Watch Party offered a night of online musical entertainment/auction that was hard to miss. Through a combination of pre-recorded fundraising pleas from administrators, board members, doctors and patients; a live rock concert, comedy skits, and live auction, the fundraiser was advertised under the pandemic-appropriate slogan of “better together.” Neighborhood Healthcare’s appeal for support went to the heart of how communities have come together during this pandemic crisis.

A more modest but yet significant fundraiser by Metro Theater Company in St. Louis, Missouri, brought in $90,000 through their virtual “MTC After Dark” program to show off their talent and mission strengths in supporting local theater artists, students and educators, through partnerships with local underserved schools. The online event offered background information on the importance of theater in creating hope and empathy in students, personal testimonies from supporters and beneficiaries alike, and humor! Notice as well their pre-show and post-show media outreach.

The Humane Society in Nashua, New Hampshire, raised just over $105,000 during their virtual gala back in June, surpassing all their expectations. By partnering with a collaborative shared spaces and video production institution, Events United, they were able to take advantage of its professional filmography Studio Lab space and equipment to launch the event. Events United has been busy this year as a “fundraising engine” by adapting what they already knew to create top-notch livestreaming events for local organizations.

“We have done a few of these virtual auctions now, and it’s been an amazing experience, getting to work with these organizations and seeing the things they do,” said Jon Martell, Production Design Manager at Events United in a statement. “It’s also been a learning experience doing these events. We have to ensure that we convey the charity’s branding message and, at the same time, keep the show engaging for livestream viewers so they watch longer, which makes the fundraising more successful.”

If you are interested in holding your own virtual fundraiser, GiveForms provides a quick guide on some things to consider when planning one. If anything, going virtual means you can invite an unlimited number of guests and that your fundraiser doesn’t have to stop on gala night.—Sofia Jarrin