February 21, 2022
Congrats! You’ve just received approval on your fundraising event strategy for next year. But while some donors may be ready to return to in-person fundraisers, others may not feel as confident (especially if they work with immunocompromised or other at-risk populations).
There’s no denying the magic of getting together in person, but virtual fundraisers have their benefits as well. Not limited to one location, virtual events allow more people to participate, particularly those in your community with medical and financial limitations.
Virtual fundraisers are also more cost-effective than in-person events while also generating more actionable data on viewership and engagement data, as well as specific performance for each session. That kind of granular data helps you prove ROI and attract more donors and sponsors in the future, all of which benefits your organization and the people you serve.
Want to start fundraising virtually — or improve upon last year’s campaign? Whether you’re heading up a school or a non-profit organization, follow our top tips to create an effective virtual fundraising strategy.
Before investing time and resources into your event, your team needs to agree on its goals, audience and format. This will ensure that your team members are working toward the same goals and making progress on the right metrics. Here’s what you need to consider when creating your event strategy.
Goals: First, set measurable goals that align with your organization’s biggest needs. Some examples include:
Prioritize these metrics based on primary, secondary, and tertiary goals to inform final decisions on content, speakers and sponsors.
Audience: Now that you’ve defined your goals, figure out who you’ll need to reach to achieve them. The more you know about your core audience, the easier it’ll be to create content that inspires them enough to act. So run reports in your fundraising database to learn who your donors are, how much they’ve donated, what events they’ve attended previously and what kinds of content they’ve engaged with in the past.
With that information, you can determine what kind of event and what kind of sessions will get your audience most excited.
Format: With the rise of virtual event platforms, hybrid events and peer-to-peer fundraising, organizations have more virtual fundraising options than ever. But not all formats work for every use case and organization. So decide what’s best for you.
Our favorite creative virtual fundraising ideas include:
Once you’ve selected your event format, it’s time to plan your program itself. Your sessions will be the heart of your event — humanize your cause, put faces and stories behind the stats that you share. These more than anything else will inspire people to contribute to your cause.
But this can be easier said than done: When you’re deeply immersed in your cause on a daily basis, it’s hard to see it from an outside perspective. Get started by thinking about your organization’s mission and the outcomes it promises to its constituents. Which people, which stories and initiatives can resonate with a broader audience?
From there, you can begin creating your full agenda and recruiting speakers.
Once you’ve determined your content strategy, identify people in your network who can share those stories. Here are a few kinds of speakers to consider:
PS: Don’t limit yourself to your immediate circle. The biggest pro of the virtual format is accessibility, not just for attendees but for potential speakers. It’ll be much easier for your organization’s leaders — and other experts — to give remarks from their desk than to travel to a separate fundraiser. Similarly, as long as they have access to the Internet, you can accommodate members of the population you serve more comfortably in a virtual setting (since they won’t need to travel, etc.). So take advantage!
Speaker quality can make or break a virtual event. So if your speakers can’t use your virtual event platform to interact with your audience — or just plain can’t use it — your event as a whole will suffer. Prepare your presenters to succeed with the following tips:
49% of marketers agree that audience engagement is the most important factor in having a successful virtual event. But as we’ve all experienced during the pandemic era, it’s often difficult to strike the same quality of connection with audiences virtually.
Our attention spans expand and contract based on our interest level — so if your event has a compelling narrative and strong speakers, you’ve won half the battle.
From there, get people talking with your virtual event platform’s interactive tools. Encourage attendees to participate with the presentation via the chat, Q&A and polls. (82% of virtual event organizers use polls to increase audience interaction.) You can also provide downloadable handouts and/or replays for guests that want to take another look — or spread the word to their own networks.
Next, monetize your event by booking corporate sponsors. Virtual event sponsorships can net your organization upwards of $10,000 — which you can use to improve your event offerings and support your mission. So scour your professional and personal networks for businesses that might support your event. Then pursue sponsorships with these tips:
Define your organizations’ value: In your pitch, clearly communicate how your organization’s mission aligns with that sponsor’s goals. For instance, if you’re heading up an organization that increases access to tech for students, consider targeting tech companies with a similar focus.
Also demonstrate your organization’s success: How many people in the community have benefited from your organization? What outcomes do you see among people you serve and what additional services can you provide with the sponsor’s funds? The more concrete information you can provide the sponsors, the more likely they’ll be to buy into your vision and support it.
Tell them about your audience: Since they’ll be pursuing leads from within your audience, your sponsors will want to know about your audience’s demographics and size. How many people are you expecting at your event? How old are they? What is the gender split? What topics are they most interested in? This information will help sponsors evaluate your opportunity and see if it will provide a good ROI for them.
Create tiered sponsorship packages: Offer different sponsorship levels so you can attract small local businesses — who might have a stronger connection with your mission — and bigger brands. The best way to differentiate these packages is by the quantity and quality of ad placements: Have higher-level sponsors place their ads below your video player during sessions and in the header of event emails. Also consider using push notifications to encourage people to visit your biggest sponsors and give them more exposure.
Learn more about securing and optimizing your event sponsorships here.
One great way to attract and retain those sponsors? Select a virtual event platform with standout sponsorship booths, so that your corporate partners can earn a good return on investment from participating in your event.
So what features should you look for? The best sponsorship booths include the following:
The more your sponsors can interact with attendees and book meetings, the more excited they’ll be to participate in — and invest in — your event.
Professionals wear multiple hats in the slowest of times.
Ease the stress of planning and promoting your event by picking a one-stop-shop virtual event platform — one where you can send email invitations and reminders, create and design landing pages, manage speakers, schedule practice sessions and process payments all in one platform.
Besides keeping everything organized, keeping everything in the same place also reduces the risk of mistakes when you can least afford them.
Speaking of mistakes, it’s really easy to make them while you’re speaking live on camera.
So for your cause to resonate with potential donors and sponsors, your content delivery needs to be seamless from start to finish. That’s why we recommend pre-recording each of your sessions. This allows you and your presenters to experiment with different storytelling styles and navigate the virtual event platform before going live to attendees and donors.
During the session itself, you can roll your pre-recorded session and, using an automated workflow, set trigger polls, chat questions, and offers to pop up at predetermined times throughout the session. This way, you can be fully present with attendees during each session, answering their questions and advocating for your mission, without worrying about remembering to send an offer, etc.
Next step: Get people in the “door.” Event marketing is involved enough, but get started with the following tips:
Good as it feels to pull off a great event, nonprofits need prolonged engagement from donors to ensure their long-term financial viability.
So you need to follow up your content with outreach that’s both heartfelt and data-driven. That includes:
Following your event, repurpose its content so you can have fundraising appeals on hand to use throughout the year. Below are some easy ways to turn one keynote session into several weeks’ worth of content:
Multiply this across six or seven event sessions and you’ve got a whole lot to work with. Besides spreading the word about your mission, this also gives your team more time and space to create more impactful pieces of mission-related content.
You’ve got the playbook. Now use our virtual fundraising tips will help you crush those fundraising goals — you’ve got this!