How to Make a Success Out of Your Virtual Fundraising Events
Have you decided that it is time to start fundraising online? Great! The past several years have seen more people transition to online outreach so you are certainly in good company. Virtual fundraising can be incredibly successful, and it is a good idea for anyone to give it a go. Whether this is your first virtual fundraiser, or your tenth, we are happy to give you all the tools you need to make it a successful one.
- What is a Virtual Fundraising Event?
- Benefits of Hosting Events Virtually
- How to Host Your Next Virtual Fundraising Event in 8 Steps
- 6 Best Practices For Hosting a Successful Virtual Fundraising Event
- Final Thoughts
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What is a Virtual Fundraising Event?
When you run in-person events, your sales come from a direct cash hand-off or in-person card payment. You host it in a physical location, and you may create fun themes for the fundraiser. You need decorations, food, and a whole slew of people to help you set it up and clean up once it is over. It costs money to rent the venue, feed people, and possibly get all of the wiring taken care of for microphones.
When you have a virtual fundraising event, the same concept applies, but the event location is a website. You have a lot less to worry about physically, and your task lists are mostly back-end, behind-the-scenes work. You will make a lot of phone calls, create marketing strategies, and research virtual fundraising software. You will certainly still need a microphone, just not one that is connected to a PA system!
Hmm...Trish hasn't considered a virtual fundraising event before...but she will now!
Just like any other fundraiser, the aim of a virtual fundraising event is to raise as much money as you can for your cause. Your virtual fundraiser could be in response to a specific situation, or just to fuel an ongoing project. Whether you are planning something special around the holidays, or focusing your efforts on Giving Tuesday, or looking for a boost throughout the year, you can do just about everything you would normally do in person online.
Pro Tip: If you are not ready to take the plunge into a fully virtual event, you may like to consider doing a hybrid event. That way, you can get the best of both worlds! Get an idea of what it means to have an online presence by broadcasting a full-blown live event on your social media platforms.
Benefits of Hosting Events Virtually
First and foremost, virtual events are far more secure than in-person events. Venues can fall through, supporters may live too far away to attend, and the weather can be an unreliable factor. You cannot plan for any of these things, and in the worst case scenario, you lose money in the rescheduling process. This can take up too much time, and too many resources.
As long as the marketing is effective, in-person fundraisers are usually a smash hit. However, there are some situations that can cause them to flop, and the worst possible outcome is no turnout at all. That would mean you invested your time and resources and you did not raise any money as a result, which can be thoroughly discouraging. Because virtual events are much easier to attend, this unfortunate outcome is much less likely and the financial burden is not nearly as severe.
When you do virtual fundraising instead, the potential pool of donors is substantially larger. Your marketing opportunities expand from flyers and local event pages to newsletters and social media campaigns. There are far lower costs associated with online fundraising, so it is accessible to many nonprofits. Plus, when you pay less to access a wider pool of major donors, it is a win-win situation.
When you do the majority of your fundraising online, it is also easier to gather user data for retention. When people fill out the payment forms, you can provide an option for them to sign up for updates. This can create a lot of traffic for your online mailing campaigns, and eventually, convert people into contributors.
People are also more likely to visit your virtual fundraising events a second time if it was an easy and engaging experience the first time around. When your audience is wider and there is a higher change for adopting them into your communities, your virtual auctions are much more successful.
How to Host Your Next Virtual Fundraising Event in 8 Steps
Here is an outline of the main steps, from running the event to tracking your performance, required to host a great virtual fundraiser.
Step 1: Set Objectives
Your objectives will be your guideposts as you create all of your marketing strategies. To achieve the turnout you need, begin planning for, and promoting, the event as early as possible. Set clear objectives for how much money you want to raise and how many people you want to share your mission with.
Your objectives should be measurable, and reachable. You do not want to discourage yourself by setting unreasonable goals that would be incredibly difficult to meet. Set goals that make sense based on your project format and resources. Your objectives will likely compound, and when you tend to each of them carefully, you ensure you do not forget anything.
For example, you may have a goal to raise $5,000 for a new program. While this may be your main goal, you may have a secondary goal to sign up 40 new people to your monthly newsletter (as this is where your organization typically sources volunteers) and a third focused on achieving two recurring donors (who will help to provide ongoing support outside of the current program). These objectives are measurable and attainable but will likely require some specific focus to achieve.
Step 2: Choose the Event Format
Determine whether your event will be hosted live from a streaming platform, or if you and your team will record it in advance. If you do not have a lot of experience with being in videos online, you might want to go with the pre-recorded option where all, or the majority, of the event is recorded in advance. You will have a chance to tailor the energy as you edit it and can save the "live portion" for live Q&A or an interactive panel discussion. Once you are more comfortable with video, you might enjoy taking it to a live platform.
Tristan is ready to get up to speed on hosting virtual fundraising events!
How will you present the event? Options include:
Conferences with or without breakout rooms
The format of your event will be the foundation you build value onto. Your supporters devoted their time and funds to your cause, so make sure you build a solid foundation and provide a format that will be the most meaningful to them.
Step 3: Plan the Event
Once you have a firm decision in place about the event delivery, it is time to nail down more of the specifics. You and your team would really benefit from a number of project management tips. For example, consider:
Identifying a dedicated team to plan and/or run the event
Ensuring that each team member knows their role and how to perform their specific responsibilities
Creating a day-of checklist with details that may otherwise be forgotten
Get your team fully briefed and make sure you have everyone you need.
Pro Tip: Create tickets to the virtual event and include a link in all of your marketing content. Contact other organizations in your network to give them the details to increase the awareness around the event as much as you can.
Step 4: Set Up Any Online Tools
Whatever you use for your online fundraising must be totally secured before you get started. Whether it is an auction, gala, or conference, you have to make sure everyone will be able to tune in seamlessly. Choose the platform you will stream it on, sign up for an account, and download the software. Get your camera and microphone ready, and ensure that you have everything you need.
Pro Tip: Make sure you make the most of your online fundraising software! There might be special features to make your virtual event more interesting or engaging. Fully explore the software ahead of time so you understand what is possible for your event.
Step 5: Promote Your Event
For this step, you will be deploying your complete arsenal of online marketing tactics to generate traction for your virtual fundraising. Here are some ideas of how you can promote your event online:
Post event information on your social media
Send out a carefully planned email campaign
Share posts in other forums for nonprofit news
You can also post your event on forums that are relevant to the cause. For example, if your nonprofit helps animals, it could be useful to post in various animal lover groups.
Since you will have such a wide reach, you can create truly wonderful results for your turnout with the right marketing campaigns. Make your ads engaging, fun, and eye-catching. Your turnout will be much better as a result. If you have any additional materials to sell that are associated with the event, such as a webinar or virtual tours, be sure to promote those as well.
Step 6: Rehearse Your Event
Once the cameras are rolling, you do not have much time for mistakes. Aim to get everything locked down and into your memory before your big kickoff announcement. People may be tuned in more at the beginning of the event, as that is the time that will most likely be stated on your flyers. Not only do you want to rehearse the opening carefully and confirm everything you want covered in your speeches, you want to test out all of the technology beforehand.
Pro Tip: Plan to run through the full event at least one time several days before the actual event. This will allow you to work out any kinks (and have time to find solutions, if necessary) before the big day.
Make sure you have a clear plan for the order you will announce information. Create notes to review as you host the event to help keep you on track, and make sure your notes flow well in your rehearsal.
Step 7: Run The Event
Once all of the details are tended to it is time for the opening announcements, run your event! You and your team will ensure that everything stays functioning smoothly, and you should share live clips on your social media stories throughout. Remind people to donate, and thank them constantly. Keep track of how much you make in donations, and keep the audience posted on how close you are to your goals.
Keep an eye on the time as the event progresses. Ensure you do not go over the allotted time and leave a buffer for questions and discussion. Issue kind shoutouts to any major donors who send large amounts, and pay them your thanks on the stream. If you have time, answer questions as they flow in, as people may like to take this opportunity to connect with you directly about your mission’s passion.
Step 8: Review Your Performance
It is a good idea to have a total count on your active donors, followers, and any other key performance indicators important to your organization’s success before you begin your fundraiser. That way, once everything is said and done, you can create a direct comparison of the before and after count, giving you an idea of how successful your virtual fundraising was.
Of course, the total amount of funds you raise from the beginning to the end of the event is also a great way to measure your success. Keep notes on the things that seemed to work well and reuse those factors next time.
6 Best Practices For Hosting a Successful Virtual Fundraising Event
As you go through each of the steps listed previously, there are several useful practices that can help keep you on track. Keep these things in mind as you host your event, and in the time leading up to it. All the little things you do will create your total turnout, so go over the details with these practices in mind!
Keep It Short and Sweet
It is common for people to have a shorter attention span when they browse the internet than when they are walking around in person. For this reason, you should keep the virtual event punchy and interesting so people can tune in effectively. Generally, many nonprofits opt to keep the span of their event under one hour. It requires less of a time commitment from everyone, and maximizes donations for a short amount of time.
Matt is getting ready to host his virtual fundraising event!
Use Video Success Stories to Your Advantage
Videos are often the most effective way to convey the emotional aspects of a success story to participants. This method can be easily adopted by virtual events, as everything can be queued up digitally. To make your audience feel the power of the donations they contribute to your organization, you have effectively demonstrated the positive impact they are already having.
Educate Supporters Ahead of The Event
Make sure all participants on your team know how to use the software involved in running your event. Give them an idea of how the event will function, from start to finish, and delegate any important tasks beforehand. This ensures that everything will flow smoothly on the big day.
It is also a good idea to create a post that tells your supporters how to access the live stream, depending on what software you use. There might be a link you can post on social media, or you may have to give viewers a password to enter once they get to the site.
Give Yourself Time to Plan
You might think that because the event is online, you may not have as much planning to do, however this is actually not the case. Sure, you do not have to rent a physical venue and set up tables, but there are still some time-sensitive goalposts you must consider in the time leading up to your event.
To really make the most out of your efforts, you need purposefully executed marketing, and it should be deployed over a period of time. Your marketing efforts need time to work. The more time you have to plan, the greater a value you can bring to your audience, and that is exactly how you convert them into supporters.
Show Donor Progress Towards a Goal
This can be done in the form of a nice visual on the screen for the duration of the event. Your software will likely have an option to create a donation tracker to place somewhere on the screen, and it helps to show donors how close you are to achieving your goals. It can be very inspiring for your supporters to see in real time how many people have rallied together for a worthy cause.
You may also choose to include counters for how many donors have become followers to your social media. Even tracking the total number of people who have tuned in to the event could be a fun way to broadcast your success across a number of platforms.
Have a Clear Call to Action
Take full advantage of the fact that you have your entire audience in one place, and give them a clear call to action. Tell them directly how to place bids, become members of your network, buy your t-shirts, or go to your donation page. Provide links to your social media, and any other important websites you wish to draw attention to.
Make the most of the attention your supporters give you, and let them know how they can get more involved. You might be surprised at how many responses you get! People may be more than happy to be active donors from a safe distance, maybe even hours away.
The world has increasingly shifted to virtual content over in-person events. Major donors will still tune in to your virtual fundraising event, and you may even have a wider reach. Do not forget to account for those short attention spans; keep your language interesting!
When you follow a plan, you can be sure you cover all of the most important bases. Once the time comes for your event to go live, you know how to use your software, your marketing has been done, and you have kept your team well informed about the fundraiser.
Your tracking methods will help you to take a look at the data once your event is over, and you can capitalize on what worked well by reusing it next time.
We hope you find much success in your virtual fundraising! There will be tons of planning involved, and if you execute it properly, it should all pay off before long! With this simple guide and some of our best practices, you should have everything you need to execute your virtual peer-to-peer fundraising events.
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💡What is a virtual fundraising event?
A virtual fundraising event is the same as in-person fundraising, except you make your donation request online. Your primary method of connecting with donors is social media and email campaigns with donation requests. Find out more.
🔑 How do you host a virtual fundraising event?
You choose your event format, choose your software, and get going! You will determine all the details, promote your event, and then run it! Follow a few best practices, like tracking your progress, to make the most out of it. Find out more.
📝 What are some good virtual fundraising event ideas?
The holidays are a very popular time for a variety of fundraising purposes. You could also host a silent auction, which can last up to a few days. Otherwise, you can create a webinar, or host your event live, with an online fundraising platform. Find out more.