2020 required all of us to pivot in countless ways, as individuals and as organizations.
This is particularly true for nonprofit administrators, who often rely on regularly scheduled events to generate fundraising dollars.
To keep the lights on during the pandemic, nonprofits everywhere scrambled to convert their in-person events into virtual events, some with more success than others.
In my community, where a common standard greeting is a big bear hug, gone were the shoulder-rubbing galas featuring wine, gourmet fare and groups in close conversation. Gone were the runners and bikers racing through the state park, competing for prizes as they raise money for a cause. Gone were the music, beer and cider festivals that attract lively crowds of tourists.
For local and regional nonprofits, hiring a virtual event planning company or purchasing pricey event planning software does not automatically guarantee success.
If you’re looking for keys to a successful virtual fundraising event, consider making a few twists in how you approach three major areas of running a fundraiser – the planning, production and promotion.
In addition to doing all the things you would normally do when developing an event, try augmenting your planning:
- Get super creative: Place yourself behind the computer screen of one of your donors and imagine how you can heighten their interest and build enthusiasm. Without going overboard or over-hyping your event, you can elevate interest via the overall theme of the event, the graphics you use, the music you choose and the engaging content you present. You know your audience, so imagine what will evoke a response to actually click your website’s donate button.
- Step up production: Get ready to create more videos, design and add more event-specific content to your website and streamline logistics of the donation process. The more your organization’s content changes in real time to keep your audience engaged with the event, the better.
- Promote, promote and then promote some more: This is how you maintain top-of-mind awareness with your donors. It’s unlikely that you’d promote an in-person event while it’s actually happening. But with a virtual fundraiser, it’s absolutely essential to continue consistent promotions during the event. Keep your emails flowing out and your social media posts popping up. Gather the people who forgot to attend and perhaps some new donors. In traditional times, when everyone goes home after the gala, you probably send a thank you note. But after a virtual event, you’ll want to do more – reach out and solicit donations from any stragglers, those who meant to attend but forgot, or those who for some reason were unable to attend.
Is there an end in sight to the postponement of in-person events?
Well, there’s no way to gauge exactly when the pandemic will ease its grip, allowing your donors to feel comfortable attending an in-person event.
Even so, virtual events probably will become a permanent part of your fundraising toolbox in the future. Let’s embrace virtual events – let’s get really good at doing them! So start thinking strategically about your event plans, productions and promotions for 2021, and get creative.
I’m here to help – let me know how it goes for you and your organization, and let me know if you have questions about hosting a virtual fundraising event.