The Chat Window: Your Virtual Gala’s X-Factor

09/07/2020 8:01 PM | Anonymous

By Alex McDonald

A great feature of virtual galas is that donors can join from anywhere with just a single click. The flip side is that donors can also leave with a single click.

In this post, I’ll show you how to leverage the chat window to keep donors engaged for the duration of your virtual gala.

Why Do You Need a Lively Chat Window?

Regardless of how entertaining and inspiring your virtual gala’s broadcast is, donors will miss the interactivity of your in-person gala. The chat window fills the need for interactivity by allowing donors to engage with your organization and with each other.

Furthermore, a lively chat window communicates to all attendees that your organization has broad support from a passionate donor base. Donors want to be part of success stories.

Finally, social media streaming platforms, like Facebook Live, use engagements (comments, likes and reactions), to determine whether to suggest your live stream to a broader audience. Lots of comments means more people see your live stream.

3 Simple Ways to Encourage Comments

Fortunately, mixing things up in the chat window isn’t difficult - it just takes a little forethought.

“Salt” the Chat Window

Ever notice how there is always money in the tip jar at your local coffee shop? Baristas add their own money to show that tipping is the normal thing for customers to do.

This is called “salting the tip jar.”

Similarly, you should “salt” the comment window by arranging for some volunteers and especially dear donors to kick off your event with a flood of comments.

The comments can be simple notes like “So excited to be here!” or “I like the host’s outfit.” If streaming to Facebook Live, commenters can share a Facebook Live Reaction (e.g., like, love, laugh) as well. 

Other donors will want to get in on the action and submit their comments.

Dedicate a Representative to Responding

In addition to salting the comment window, you’ll want a gala representative to respond to donors’ comments and acknowledge generous donations.

This role is especially necessary if your gala is prerecorded and the hosts can’t acknowledge attendees on air.

Your representative should be quick witted and well known to donors. Not only will donors submit more comments, they’ll stick around to see the reply.

Incorporate the Chat Window into the Live Presentation

Online attendees love when the live hosts acknowledge their comments. Here are some simple ways to facilitate this interaction:

  • Ask a trivia question about your organization and give a prize to the first correct response.
  • Encourage viewers to submit funny phrases which hosts try to work into their monologue.
  • Solicit questions for an organizational leader to answer in your broadcast.

Obviously, time these games as to not compete with your Fund-a-Need or live auction.

If donors wanted purely scripted entertainment, they could log in to Netflix. The chat window gives your event an X-factor so you can entertain guests while communicating your mission.

Brainstorm with your committee how to apply the above strategies to cultivate a lively chat window for your virtual gala. 

Alex McDonald, director of customer experience at TravelPledge, connects nonprofits with auction items posted by generous businesses. He also shares his extensive marketing experience by developing educational content for organizers of benefit events.

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