A Monumental Black Tie Production: Buffalo Urban League’s 2020 Gala

A Virtual Fundraiser Case Study

Speaker Coaching |  Live Production | Graphic Design

$ 1 K

The Challenge

In December 2020, the Buffalo Urban League came to us in need of a rapid-turn-around production plan for their annual fundraising gala. The event, titled, “A Legacy of Empowerment, a Future of Promise,” aimed to raise funds for BUL’s programs that serve the Western New York region. BUL is a deeply-embedded and community-centric organization that seeks to empower “African Americans, other minorities, and disadvantaged individuals to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power, and civil rights.” With COVID and the safety of its constituents in mind, BUL had decided that in the case of this year’s star-studded affair, with a packed line-up of performers and prominent speakers, the show must go on. And it did. With only a week to make it happen.

The Solution

After some initial conversations, it was clear that BUL required a sophisticated mix of pre-recorded and livestream content, while maintaining the purposeful, black tie aesthetic that their donors had come to expect. The production also needed to accommodate the gala’s four optional entertainment venues of R&B, Jazz, Dance and Art. Rather than directing attendees to and from the main stage to these break-away performances during the gala, we decided to place full performances at the end of BUL’s one-evening agenda. Meanwhile, we turned the pre-recorded performance footage into teasers that would intersperse main stage developments. The main stage itself was produced with a podium & green-screen backdrop resembling the plush red velvet, curtained proscenium of an upscale performing arts venue.  

Play Video
Play Video


BUL’s 2020 gala took off like a well-orchestrated in-person event that didn’t spare the finer touches. Those touches meant things like wardrobe consistency between pre-recorded and live stream segments, and lower-thirds pop-up graphics reminding attendees of the event’s surrounding festivities. These included a neatly-tabbed section on the gala’s landing page, which we designed, for R&B, Jazz, Dance and Art. The gala also featured a live auction that took place as the evening unfolded, where attendees could bid on auction items while simultaneously tuning in to the main stage. The auction featured an ecommerce-like gallery of donated gift items from sponsors and works by artists Valentino Dixon, Ari Moore, Kobi Barber and Ani Hoover, who were also featured in the “Art” entertainment display. Attendees could join an ongoing chat forum that appeared alongside the main stage. And throughout the evening, a self-updating, animated donation tally with donors’ names appeared on screen, giving momentum to BUL’s fundraising objectives. 

BUL’s 2020 gala can still be re-lived and enjoyed on the event’s landing page, which houses recordings of the performances and main stage talks.

What We Did

01Speaker Training

02Graphic Design


The accessibility page featured the whole event schedule with translations for each session.

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