How Much Does It Cost to Throw a Virtual Gala?

Despite the virtual gala being the “plan B” for many nonprofits in 2020, many organizers have realized that their net donations are increased by going virtual!

Since their virtual gala was less expensive to throw, the decreased revenue from ticket sales was more than offset by the lower costs.

But just how much does it cost to throw a virtual gala? Let’s break it down.

Virtual Gala Costs: The Short Answer

Of course, virtual galas differ in size and scope. That said, here are the most common cost points:

  • A DIY, pre-recorded virtual gala will cost $1,000 to $2,000.
  • A professionally produced live virtual gala will cost $10,000 to $15,000; though, some “no expenses spared” virtual galas can cost up to $30,000.

Virtual Gala Costs: The Longer Answer

Pick and choose the cost categories below that you plan to include to estimate costs for your virtual event.

Streaming Platform

$0 to $500

The cheap option: There are several free options, like Facebook Live and YouTube Live.

The medium option: You may require lower latency (aka video delay) if hosting a live auction or other presentation that requires interactivity with the hosts. Low-latency streaming services like Zoom Webinar and LiveStorm can cost around $200/month for every 500 participants you expect to attend.

The deluxe option: Many online auction providers, like Event.Gives and ClickBid, have added live streaming capabilities into their software for a fee – usually around $500.

Check out our decision tree for choosing the best streaming platform for your event.

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Video Production

$250 to $30,000

The cheap option: Shoot your video on your smartphone or webcam (budget $50 for a decent microphone). If pre-recording your virtual gala, you’ll need decent editing software, like Camtasia (~ $250), and know-how.

The medium option: Handle scripting, staging and location in-house, but hire a freelance videographer to make you look good (~$1,500 for a day). You usually pay by the hour so the more organized you are, the lower your costs.

The deluxe option: Rent a video production studio with a team of A/V professionals (including a director). Budget $12,000 to $30,000 for a one-day shoot. Your cost may be lower depending on how many creative elements you do yourself (e.g., script writing) and your location.

Auctioneer

$0 to $5,000

The cheap option: Have a volunteer or local celebrity warm up the audience, collect bids and Fund-a-Need donations. Often, this option actually costs money in foregone revenue, so you should only consider this if your event is pre-recorded or there is a low ceiling on the funds you could raise.

The medium option: Hire a commercial auctioneer (e.g., a real estate auctioneer who moonlights as benefit auctioneer) to run the show ($1,000). The commercial auctioneer will typically present well on stage but will lack fundraising expertise.

The deluxe option: Work hand-in-hand with a benefit auctioneer who can coach you through the key decision points before presenting on stage. Prices will vary based on reputation, consulting services and pricing model, but let’s estimate $5,000.

Online Auction Software

$0 to $3,000

The cheap option: We’ve heard of auctions collecting bids in the comments of the streaming platform, though we don’t recommend this for events with more than 50 attendees.

The medium option: Choose a “Do-It-Yourself” plan from a reputable online auction software provider, like ClickBid. You’ll pay around around $1,000, though won’t have a dedicated support person or many add-ons.

The deluxe option: Purchase the biggest package offered by an online auction software provider. Not only will you receive online auction software, you’ll get dedicated support and additional functionality, like Fund-a-Need tools, messaging, ticketing, and more (~$3,000). Price may vary based on event size.

Note: Many online auction providers will charge your winning bidders a payment processing fee, usually around 4% of the transaction value. This price is not reflected in the numbers above.

Marketing

$0 to $1,500

The cheap option: Blast your email list a few times and post to social media to collect registrations.

The medium option: Invest in some graphic designs to brand your event and create a sharp landing page. Freelancers can provide a logo, some collateral and a landing page for around $500.

The deluxe option: Get the word out to a new audience of people with paid ads and incentives for registering, like a raffle prize.

Miscellaneous

$0 to $1,000

Budget $1,000 (or more for bigger events) for small expenses that don’t deserve their own line item, like minor set decorations and costumes.

Volunteer & Staff Time

Varies

Even though you won’t pay volunteers and your staff may be salaried, that doesn’t mean their time is free for the purpose of your virtual gala. Your cost/hour is the next best alternative use of their labor.

For example, if your nonprofit restores forests, and your volunteers could be planting trees instead of working on your virtual gala, then your cost of labor is the value of those trees that could’ve been planted.

We don’t list “Volunteer & Staff Time” to create another accounting project for you. It’s simply to remind you that labor isn’t necessarily free despite seeming that way.


Conclusion

At the low end, we have a cost of $250 + labor (you probably underspent), and at the high end we have $41,000 + labor (you probably spent too much).

The reality is you should be somewhere in the middle. Analyze where your investments will result in the biggest increase in net donations.

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Alex McDonald is the Director of Customer Experience for TravelPledge, the benefit auction’s connection to generous business owners. Alex manages TravelPledge’s content strategy and customer onboarding. He is passionate about helping nonprofits exceed their auction goals.

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