As we head into event fundraising season for many nonprofits, we realize this year will be unique. Galas, auctions and large gatherings are being replaced by Zoom events, house parties and live streaming. Overwhelming? A little. But be encouraged because this pivot can present incredible opportunities!
Pulling off an effective virtual event requires putting in the strategic work before, during and after the event. So today, we’re sharing eight ways to increase the impact of your virtual fundraising event and make it a fun, unique and memorable experience for your supporters!
1. Set goals and objectives.
Before you dive into the logistics of the event, ask yourself some guiding questions. Who’s your audience – current donors or the public? Is it invitation-only (private link) or open (publicly accessible)? Are you selling tickets or suggesting a donation? What’s your financial goal? Start with what you netted last year, assuming you’ll cut some expenses by going virtual. Setting strong goals and objectives and establishing metrics will help you keep on track as you plan your epic event!
2. Choose the best platform.
Try live streaming across your social media channels if you want to reach a broader audience, like Make-A-Wish of Eastern NC did with their 2020 Wish Ball. Or do a mix of live and pre-recorded – put together a cinematic, compelling and polished pre-recorded show with different speakers, locations and feature stories (like Hope Reins did). Or, for more intimate events, gather a dedicated group of champions to safely host small house parties in their backyards, during which you can eat, socialize and watch a pre-recorded event (Trinity Academy is trying this approach – it works well for the table captain concept). Drive-bys can be fun and give people a chance to get out of their house (like the Healing Transitions reverse parade). Note in the Pocket even turned their 5k into a virtual race and saw a great turnout – both in terms of runners and funds raised! Instead of having it in a central location, they let people run in their place of choosing and capture their experience with fun social media posts and signs. There are countless ways to get creative and see which format works best for your objectives and your audience.
3. Brand your event.
A fun logo, creative hashtag and catchy tagline can go a long way! Build a dedicated landing page for the event with all relevant details. Equip your team with a digital toolkit so they can update email signatures or post graphics about it on social media. Send a branded save-the-date (print or digital) so people are reminded to tune in. And, to take it a step further and show your mission in action, send a package or gift to people’s homes ahead of time – something for them to engage with before the event.
4. Use content to your advantage.
Offer people a peek into what they have to look forward to at the event. Consider a promo video or something interactive to give people a behind-the-scenes look. Pique interest with brief interview segments of your speakers and highlights of what to expect throughout the event. Find compelling, central stories to tie back to your event and connect people to the heart of your mission. Even leveraging giveaway contests can help expand your promotional reach, especially if qualifying comes down to sharing posts, using a hashtag or inviting a certain number of people to the event. Tip: Registrations tend to spike 2-3 weeks before an event, so be sure to ramp up your content during that time!
5. Record and repurpose.
Record the event so you can send it to those who weren’t able to attend. Repurpose short snippets of the recording for social media content, and post it on your website so people can watch it later. Even use it as a future fundraising tool! Platforms like Zoom allow for easy recording, so it’s a quick win for content that doesn’t take much effort at all.
6. Encourage participation.
Every online platform has interactive features, so use them to keep people engaged and to help capture information during the event. Encourage participants to post to their Instagram stories during the event and use your hashtag. Invite everyone to turn their screens on and take a giant group selfie! Ask people to participate in live polls or quizzes or have a designated place where people can submit questions during the event. Shout-out names of people as they tune in and thank them for joining! Even before the event starts, have a series of slides that cycle through during the 15 minutes leading up to the event. Here you can share your social media handles, any questions people have asked, trivia about your organization, etc. so that people are engaged from the moment they sign on and aren’t just looking at a blank screen. And at the end, don’t rush it! Hang around online after the event ends to answer any questions in the chatroom or provide additional information that wasn’t covered.
7. Keep the party going.
In the days and weeks following your event, keep sharing highlights of the experience across your channels! Save your Instagram stories to an “event highlight” reel and reshare user-generated content from the event by looking at the hashtag or posts that tagged your organization. And make sure you report on the financial impact of the event. People want to know what they helped accomplish. If you’re shy of your fundraising goal, consider a “close the gap” push to cross the finish line. Send out an email and social posts with some key moments from the event and let people know there’s still an opportunity to give!
8. Capitalize on the post-event momentum.
Distribute a survey or poll following the event to collect feedback. This is a great way to keep people engaged as well as learn for the next event! Thank those who attended (and maybe even do a drawing or giveaway after the fact). Events should not be done in isolation, so keep the momentum going – how will the money raised be used? How can people go deeper into your work? Event participation is a big step in the user journey, so make sure you keep people moving and connected!
We hope these eight ideas fired you up about virtual fundraising events. Instead of seeing virtual events as a fallback, remember they are an opportunity to do something different and invite even more people into your mission. Reach out to us for more ideas or if you’d like a strategic partner to come alongside you before, during and after your fundraiser. Happy event planning!