Making the Case for Virtual Galas in 2021 and Beyond

What You'll Learn

For organizations of all sizes, virtual galas are becoming a viable and valuable channel for mid-level and major-level fundraising. If you read our previous blog on how virtual galas are becoming the new normal, then you know why we believe they are here to stay. 

Here are two examples supporting the case for why virtual galas can be a major boon for your fundraising program:

1. Friends of NotreDame de Paris—a fundraising success 

The Challenge. 

Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris is the nonprofit leading the international fundraising efforts to rebuild and restore the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The organization canceled all previously scheduled in-person fundraising events in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our Solution. 

To ensure that Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris could continue to safely cultivate and engage its community while attracting new supporters to grow their revenue base, we adapted our 2020 strategy to include more robust digital communications and a large-scale virtual event, Humanity Rising: Notre-Dame Reborn.  Our team worked on all aspects of the event’s organization, including marketing strategy, development of branded gala collateral, and coordination with executive leadership and the Host Committee.


The event was a great success for the organization, with highlights including: 

  • More than $350,000 raised and 950+ unique viewers during the duration of the gala program.
  • An inspirational gala theme that leveraged clear calls to action to rebuild and restore Notre-Dame Cathedral, helping Our Lady rise from the ashes of the tragic fire on April 15, 2019.
  • Engagement of high-net-worth donors who participated at Patron sponsorship levels, as well as mid-level donors who contributed at symbolic ticket levels. 
  • An outstanding program featuring:
    • Remarks by award-winning actress Glenn Close and filmmaker Ken Burns. 
    • Performances by world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Notre-Dame’s organist Olivier Latry and others. 
    • Master of ceremonies Bill Kurtis, celebrated former news anchor and current judge and scorekeeper of NPR’s “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me”
    • A virtual tour of Notre-Dame Cathedral as she stood before the fire, guided by an expert in French Gothic architecture.   

The virtual gala received excellent feedback from attendees, sponsors, and dignitaries such as the Ambassador of France to the United States, along with requests for encore showings of the full gala program.   

2. SOS SAHEL, Virtual Africa Days Event Series—an advocacy breakthrough 

The Challenge 

SOS SAHEL, a longtime client and partner of Faircom, is an international NGO advancing sustainable development and agricultural solutions throughout 11 countries in the Sahel. On an annual basis, SOS SAHEL organizes the Africa Days Event Series, live events that take place in Dakar, Senegal each spring. The Africa Days series provides a platform for local communities to make their voices heard and to promote lasting solutions to food security. The event brings together key stakeholders including institutions, corporations, and local actors to celebrate the incredible potential of the Sahel.

During this year’s celebration, SOS SAHEL had intended to explore opportunities to promote agricultural knowledge sharing among smallholder farmers. However, given COVID-19 restrictions and the global health context, SOS SAHEL was faced with a unique barrier.

Our Solution 

We worked with SOS SAHEL to tackle this challenge by transforming the Africa Days celebration into a virtual event. To do so, we:

  • Recommended a three-week virtual event series that launched on International Africa Day (May 25th) and ran through June 17th, which is  the Global Day to Combat Desertification.   
  • Defined the key messages and positioning for this year’s virtual celebration — combining the urgency in the region given COVID-19, the importance of technology, and a need for resilience and autonomy in the Sahel.
  • Helped to approach and animate key partners and ambassadors for SOS SAHEL and involve them in the development of content related to the Africa Days.
  • Proposed engaging, interactive content including videos from the field, Sahelian recipes and Sahelian music to be shared on the Africa Days website. 
  • Drafted and designed weekly email blasts to share this engaging material with SOS SAHEL’s email base and to push traffic to the Africa Days website.
  • Organized three days of virtual workshops involving local actors from multiple countries in the Sahelian belt which culminated in a large virtual panel discussion attended by over 150 guests from around the world.


As a result, SOS SAHEL held a successful three-week event series. Over 30 partners and actors from the field shared videos and testimonials of the work made possible by SOS SAHEL. Renowned chef and SOS SAHEL ambassador, Pierre Thiam, recorded a virtual video series about the Sahelian super-food fonio, and its potential to transform the Sahel. Musical artists Didier Awadi and Cheick Tidiane Seck recorded a vibrant song to honor SOS SAHEL which will be used as an honorary song for the Africa Days celebration for years to come.

Nearly 200 individuals participated in the virtual workshops and panel discussions including representatives from the African Union, UNDP, and Nexira. Even during a time of crisis, this innovative, online platform united local actors, governmental institutions, technical partners, and more in their dreams for a brighter future for the Sahel.

We hope you will consider adding them to your portfolio. Please feel free to contact for more information.


About the author
Flavia Alimonti
Senior Account Manager of Global Philanthropy

Flavia brings over 7 years of experience to Faircom New York. An enthusiastic member of the Global Philanthropy team, Flavia has a keen sensibility for advising nonprofits of varying scale and scope as they define and implement fundraising strategies through major donor and institutional giving programs, as well as developing communications tools and conceiving and implementing events from start to finish. Flavia received her B.A. from Tufts University where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Italian Studies. She speaks Italian and French.

What is your #1 fundraising tip? The three key elements of every nonprofit story are problem, solution, impact. Make sure your organization has a compelling story based on these elements, and then be sure to include an ask!

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