COVID-19 has changed the way we do a lot of things, including fundraising. Preventive measures established by the Centers for Disease Control made in-person fundraisers challenging to host. Now, charity events require creative and innovative thinking, transitioning into the virtual world.
Even when fundraising events are transitioning online, that doesn’t mean you lose the positive effects. Here, we’ll outline how to fundraise during a pandemic.
Can Virtual Events Replace In-Person Experiences?
Yes — virtual events can substitute for in-person experiences. And, in many ways, these even surpass face-to-face encounters.
Virtual events are online-only experiences. People can fully connect with your organization from the comfort of their homes or wherever they choose to participate. These events are more beneficial than in-person gatherings because of advantages like these.
- Easier to plan: Face-to-face events take extensive planning. Hosting virtual fundraisers requires planning, too, but not to the same degree. A digital fundraising platform acts as a fundraiser’s core, a one-stop solution for planning and executing an effective event.
- Less expensive: In-person events require additional planning steps of finding the venue, catering food and beverages and working with various other vendors — the costs of which can exceed thousands of dollars. Virtual events require a comparatively minimal investment in a software program and advertising techniques, plus the costs of delivery, prizes, etc.
- Far-reaching: Virtual events have a broader reach than in-person ones. Face-to-face gatherings attract a local population, limited by their venue’s location. In contrast, virtual events attract anyone with an internet connection.
- Trackable: Virtual fundraising tools allow you to set goals and track them before, during and after the event. You can watch in real time as supporters contribute to your cause, and share your progress live to encourage more donations. Plus, afterward, you can see what your audience responded well to and other areas for improvement.
Despite these benefits, it’s realistically not possible to digitally replicate some aspects of in-person events.
How to Do Virtual Fundraising Events
Do you already have an event scheduled? Or, do you host an annual event and aren’t sure if you can duplicate it online? Decide whether you can hold your fundraising event virtually by asking yourself these questions.
- Can you reasonably modify the event? Determine how reliant the event is on in-person interaction. For example, football is a team sport, so a modified football tournament isn’t going to play out. But, a virtual 5K could, because it requires purely individual effort to succeed. If you can alter your event without sacrificing its integrity, you can hold your fundraiser virtually.
- Do you have enough time to replan your event? Time plays a crucial role in any event. If you’ve already progressed into the later stages of planning your event, how long will it take you to replan? If your event date is closely approaching and you don’t have enough time to regroup, you may want to cancel it altogether and choose another date.
- How will transitioning online affect the guest list? Usually, virtual events broaden your guest list. However, some attendees may not feel comfortable attending online events, especially older adults who struggle to navigate technology. If the switch adversely impacts your guest list, try rescheduling to a later date.
Depending on your event, you could be able to keep it nearly identical. Or, you may have to make bold changes to make it work.
Virtual Gala Examples
Is your nonprofit searching for virtual fundraising ideas for events worth hosting? Consider these virtual fundraising examples.
- Dinner gala: At a traditional dinner gala, guests enjoy a catered event while charity members speak about their organization. Fundraising activities are part of the evening, like a moving speech from a sponsor or a review of past years’ achievements. Host your virtual fundraising gala by using a digital venue. Supply guests with a URL to your livestream and deliver food to their door before starting. Then, as your guests eat, invite your sponsors to share their stories or screen-share a presentation.
- Virtual walk or run: A walk-run is another typical fundraising event. Though these usually take place outside, it’s best to reimagine the event for your participants’ safety. Host a virtual walk-run by selling tickets online and distributing running numbers, a water bottle or a T-shirt as a thank-you gift. Participants can complete it at their pace and in their preferred socially distant location.
- Online auction: Auctions are interactive ways to raise money. A few months in advance, advertise your online auction and welcome donations for bidding. Then, make it live and give participants a little over a week to bid. Investing in an online auction program may make it easier to manage your virtual fundraising and accurately record winners.
- Raffles: Raffles follow a similar process to online auctions. A few months before your event date, announce your raffle and invite people to donate giveaway items. At the same time, promote your prize drawing to the public and sell tickets at a fixed price. Post photos of your items online and wait around two weeks before pulling winning tickets.
- Photo competitions: People love sharing pictures on social media. Use these tools to your advantage by hosting a photo competition. For example, if you’re a charity saving four-legged friends, invite people to post their pets on their social media page using a specific hashtag. Make a poll and have your followers vote for first, second and third place.
- Virtual food drive: Some charities work with local food banks to give back to those in need. Continue this tradition by hosting a virtual food drive. In an online food drive, donators don’t give canned goods or other nonperishable items. Instead, they donate money directly to the charity. All you have to do is to start a campaign with your food bank.
Technology and social platforms are thriving nowadays. Take advantage of these tools by integrating them into your activities for virtual fundraising. With creative virtual fundraising, you can make a significant impact, potentially even more than an in-person event.
8 Tips for Making the Most Impact at a Virtual Event
During your planning stage, consider this advice on how to plan successful virtual fundraisers.
1. Share Your Event on the Right Channel
Advertising plays a significant role in any event. Your marketing strategy should leave a lasting impression and target potential attendees. What virtual gala platforms does your audience respond well to? Sharing your event in the wrong places limits your campaign’s effectiveness. Choosing the best place to spread the word will make it more likely that a larger portion of your audience will attend your event.
Here are some examples of effective channels.
- Email marketing: More than 4 billion people worldwide use email, making email marketing a practical advertising platform. Send an email promoting your upcoming fundraiser. Personalize the content, and keep the subject line short, sweet and inviting.
- Direct mail: Most of the mail people receive are bills or junk mail. Send a personalized letter, postcard or flyer to attendees’ mailboxes, inviting them to your event. The personalized invitation will stand out from the rest of their mail, and they will be more likely to engage with it.
- Social media: Worldwide, over 3 billion people use social media. For most people, social media plays a role in their daily routine. Determine your users’ preferred social media — likely Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn — and advertise your event on your social media page and via paid sponsorships.
You can — and should — use more than one channel to promote your fundraiser. The more you advertise your event, the more likely you are to have a large turnout.
2. Make Your Event Sound Fun
Make your event sound like it’s the best time your attendees will ever have. More specifically, you want to create the impression they will be missing out on something incredible if they don’t attend.
If you’re learning how to plan a virtual gala, remember it’s essential to differentiate your groundbreaking event by:
- Sharing photos of attendees enjoying themselves in previous years.
- Inviting them to take part in a first-ever event.
- Using descriptive and impactful language.
The best way to promote your event is by using a compelling call to action. A CTA is your attendees’ invitation to participate. It’s the hook, line and sinker that gets the audience excited. Use your ad to inform your audience on everything they need to know, then use your CTA as an actionable conclusion.
3. Consider How Your Audience Will Engage With Your Event
Put yourself in your donors’ shoes. How will they be interacting with your event, and what information do they need for the smoothest interaction? Don’t assume everyone will be engaging with your event via computer. The platform attendees use will depend on your event type, but most will use a phone, tablet or laptop.
Tablet and computer users typically navigate the web similarly. So, you can use relatively the same dimensions and interactions for your event design. Smartphone users, however, require unique layouts because of the screen’s smaller interface. Plus, smartphone users have easier access to call your organization or donate straight from their accounts.
You’ll most likely design your event using a platform with a premade outline. Choose a responsive platform that automatically adjusts to all screen sizes, so all your audience members can engage with your event.
4. Share a Link on All Your Channels
Revisiting the list of usable channels, make sure to provide details on how to access your event on every platform you use. These include your flyers, emails and social media accounts.
Before sending out your invitations, set up your fundraiser’s website or affiliate link. Then, supply your audience with step-by-step instructions on how to access it. Inform attendees about how they can best use the platform.
5. Use the Right Platform for Your Event Type
As you’ve probably picked up, your fundraising platform plays a vital role in your fundraiser. Choose a program that is simple for both you and your attendees to use. Various events require different software. For example, if you host an online auction, you’ll want a platform where donators can easily navigate between items and make their bids. On the other hand, the same service might not work well for a charity run.
When hosting a virtual gala or fundraisers, consider these examples of the many existing solutions you can use.
- Facebook Live: Most people are familiar with the leading social media platform, Facebook. Facebook has a built-in broadcasting feature called Facebook Live. This feature uses your device’s camera to start a livestream, and when you go live, you can invite specific people to join. Facebook Live is a smart choice because most of your audience has probably used it before.
- Zoom: Another livestreaming software you can use is Zoom. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses turned to Zoom for meetings and discussions. You can host Zoom fundraisers to invite and track attendees with built-in registration features, plus work out technical kinks with testing abilities.
- Auctria: Auctria is an auction-based platform you can use in tandem with other software. Auctria allows you to manage auction items and donations with a user-friendly interface.
6. Track Your Performance
When evaluating platforms, choose one that allows you to assess your event’s performance. Ideally, you should set key performance indicators and goals before hosting your event. Some KPIs to track include:
- Cost per dollar raised
- Return on investment
- Donor retention rate
- Donor growth
- Gifts secured
- Frequency of contact with donors
- Fundraising participation rate
- Email conversion rate
- Email opt-out rate
Set achievable goals that reflect past events’ success. Some examples of realistic goals are to have a positive ROI and attract more donors than the last event.
7. Plan for Technical Difficulties During Your Event
The most significant obstacles you’ll face in a virtual event are technical difficulties. These are almost a guarantee, so embrace them. Some of the most common challenges you might encounter include:
- Registration problems
- Video playback issues
- Wi-Fi dropping
- Hashtag hijacking
As long as these technical difficulties are minor, your audience won’t mind.
8. Have a Trial Run Before Going Live
Though you should expect technical difficulties, perform a few trial runs to smooth out any kinks. Host a private, temporary event where you can run through the entire program for your volunteers. They can tell you which aspects need improvement, and you can make those tweaks, so your audience doesn’t experience the same interruptions during the event.
Planning an Event? Rely on Volgistics for Smooth Volunteer Management
Even when you must be socially distant from your volunteers, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice efficiency. A lot goes into planning an event, including managing your volunteers to ensure smooth operations. Volgistics is a volunteer management platform that allows you to:
- Track compliance with background screening
- Monitor interactions
- Schedule volunteers
- Track short- and long-term goals
- Text and email volunteers
Schedule an online demo and talk to us about your goals. One of our friendly and educated staff members will walk you through our unique software. Not sure if Volgistics is right for you? We invite you to sign up for our free 30-day trial! We’re confident that our software is a good match for your charitable organization.