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A Year with No Galas

by Sheron Patrick | Nov 18, 2020 1:22:26 PM

Fall, what does it bring us? The more celebrated gifts include rustic colors, hearty food and pumpkin spice lattes. For the business community, though, this time of year ushers in an important stretch of social opportunities: gala season.

Well, it used to, anyway. The coronavirus put an indefinite stop on any type of large gathering.

Cancel? Postpone?

So, what does that mean for the tens of thousands of charities, non-profits and other organizations that depend on galas to raise funding for their causes? Unfortunately, options available include the words “cancel” or “postpone.”

Dan Newman is the owner and founder of Alaska Premier Auctions and Appraisals (APAA). Since 2018, APAA has provided auction services for nearly every type of personal or business auction, including non-profit charity events and business liquidation auctions. He’s felt the pandemic’s impact and seen what’s needed to survive it.

“In-person events are obviously way down, both due to limitations to peoples’ comfort levels but also to mandates imposed by city and state officials,” said Newman. “What I have found for the organizations I’m working with, they are learning to master the art of the pivot by overcoming and adapting to a virtual event, hybrid options and online only fundraisers.”

Pivoting for the "New Normal"

Understandably, some clients Newman worked with in the past decided to cancel or postpone their event. He says any money lost was recouped from organizations eager to try something new and different.

“Yes, you’re missing that in-person drive and enthusiasm. But if the platform they’re using is done correctly, you can take a four-hour event and turn it into a 90-minute event where they can still make their money for the event, sometimes an additional 15-40% more than in a traditional auction.”

This has been especially true for formats such as silent auctions. Bidders no longer have to physically check in on items they’re eyeing. Smartphones and other technology make it possible to rebid on an auction item from nearly any location.

Technology or Traditional?

Technological advancements have served as a handy alternative to traditional gala operations, but are they a permanent replacement? Partially, yes.

“It’s not going to be the same, it will be a hybrid or some mixture of both in-person and virtual,” outlined Newman, “It would not be smart to not do a hybrid; you are leaving money on the table.”

As it stands now, charities and other non-profits can send auction items – both silent and live – to attendees up to a week before their event. Using email and social media posts, organizers can also create buzz and excitement that lasts longer than what may have been generated at an in-person function.

“Because it’s virtual and online, you really must market your event well, which means quite a bit more work on the front end,” said Newman. “You do not have that undivided captive audience sitting in a room, so getting those eyes on your event is paramount. I hope to help elevate these organizations to do multiple smaller virtual events throughout the year rather than one big event in person.”

While ballgowns and tuxes may be collecting dust in closets right now, fundraising efforts formally associated with galas are still going on. Like everything else this fall, they may just look a little different.


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