Why You Should Pre-record Your Virtual Fundraising Gala

The pandemic has forced thousands of nonprofits to cancel their in-person galas and stream a virtual gala online instead.

However, the thought of producing a live gala on camera makes many organizers nervous.

Here’s a little secret: the vast majority of virtual galas are pre-recorded.

In this post, I’ll share why it’s A-OK to skip the stress of a live presentation and pre-record your virtual gala.

Pre-recording Reduces Your Risk of Disaster

This is the most obvious reason to pre-record your virtual gala. When you broadcast your gala live, lots could go wrong. For examples:

  • Presenters cancel last minute, forget their lines, run long or otherwise mess up.
  • There are technical difficulties with a camera or a microphone.
  • Some external event forces you to reschedule your gala last minute.

With a pre-recorded gala, you have as many takes as you need with your presenters until you get the perfect one. Issues with microphones and cameras can be solved by re-filming or in editing.

If an unforeseen event forces you to reschedule, you can easily premiere your video at a new time. With a live broadcast, you’d have to book studio time and coordinate with all your presenters and staff.

Pre-recording Gives You More Options

A common misconception is that pre-recording your virtual gala is simply a “lite” version of a live broadcast. Sure it will be good enough but it would still be better if it were live.

In reality, the pre-recorded gala gives you more options than a live gala. For examples:

  • Add special editing effects to any skits.
  • Conduct an interview with a notoriously long-winded board member and only show the best parts.
  • Solicit participation from people who are comfortable recording themselves but not willing to go on live (great for celebrity involvement).

You may find that your end presentation is even better when you pre-recorded than if you presented live!

Pre-recording Is More Cost Effective

A decent pre-recorded gala will cost around $1,000 to produce while a live gala will cost around $12,000. Meaning, having a live presentation must be expected to generate at least $11,000 in incremental donations for it to make sense.

One could argue the live presentation draws more viewers and the real-time acknowledgement of donations and bids encourages generosity.

However, you can augment your pre-recorded presentation with a lively chat window. Further, you can update on-screen graphic overlays to mimic the appealing elements of a live broadcast (e.g., a running donation total).

While there are some exceptionally large organization who will reap the incremental benefits of a live broadcast, the average-sized nonprofit would really have to squint to justify the extra expense.

The Broadcast Isn’t All That Important to Your Fundraising

Related to the previous point, take a step back and think about how the one-hour broadcast contributes to your fundraising goals.

Most nonprofits will find that the majority of their fundraising happens before their broadcast. For example, the success of peer-to-peer campaigns, silent auctions and pre-secured donations do not depend on whether your ultimate broadcast is live or pre-recorded.

Additionally, a significant share of the views of your virtual gala will happen after broadcast time. You can promote the gala for those who missed it to your YouTube channel and embed it on your website. The live presentation won’t matter to these viewers.

Absent a compelling case to the importance of a live presentation, you should opt for the easiest and safest route.


Al McDonald is the Chief Product Officer for TravelPledge and author of the e-book “The Definitive Guide to Silent Auction Fundraisers.” Al has helped thousands of nonprofits exceed their auction goals through auction item procurement and advice. Al understands that successful auctions are hard work and is committed to delivering practical advice that will move the needle for you today.