How to Organize and Execute a Virtual Fundraiser


Note: This post by sponsored by Dialpad. Any views expressed are the sponsor's own.

For non-profit organizations, fundraising is a regular part of their activities. In recent years, virtual event fundraising has become a popular alternative to in-person fundraising. However, it requires careful planning to be successful.

This guide will highlight some of your key considerations when organizing a virtual event fundraiser. It’ll also cover specific event types and ways you can learn from the virtual fundraising experience.

1. Compare virtual fundraising to real-life fundraising

The first step towards successful virtual fundraising is understanding how it works - particularly in comparison to in-person fundraising. Regardless of how it plays out, a virtual fundraising event typically needs up to 10 weeks to plan and execute properly; establishing such a timeframe is a great way to minimize stress when planning a virtual event

Many concerns around virtual event fundraising relate to your online presence, as opposed to the logistical challenges of conventional fundraising methods. Good virtual fundraisers focus on their online components, including marketing channels and access to the event itself. 

You might want to run a live event or one that is pre-recorded, depending on the confidence of your team. You can also think about event availability. Do you want to stream it once, at a specific time, or do you want to make it available over a longer period?

Virtual event fundraising is more cost-effective and flexible than other fundraising types, but it’s also less personal and more difficult to stand out. Your choice will, to an extent, be shaped by your resources and popularity, but don’t be afraid to question if it’s right for you. 

2. Clarify your goals

Early on, you also need to clarify what you want to achieve. Raising money is the obvious goal, but you can also use these events to recruit new donors, lure back lapsed ones, or simply raise awareness of your cause.

A clear goal is essential to a successful fundraiser, and this typically means understanding your audience. While virtual events can theoretically be viewed by anyone, it’s good to hone in on a specific group for the event to be successful. This echoes B2B ecommerce trends, which are invariably shaped by our changing behaviors. This, in turn, influences other things like the online channel and event type.

At this stage, you’ll also need to think about your budget; how much money can you allocate to the production of the event? More is better, but this obviously needs to be balanced against your funding goals going forward.

Source: Wild Apricot

3. Decide upon a format

Next, you need to decide what you’ll actually do. As with event goals, there are many different options. You can host a simple speech or presentation or facilitate a dialog on something via an expert or a panel. 

Your event can also be interactive; you might want to field questions from viewers, auction off valuable items, or host a quiz that viewers can participate in. Alternatively, you can take viewers on a tour of a local area or somewhere significant.

In addition to thinking about what you do, consider how you will present it; a professional production is essential to winning over donors. It’s usually worth performing a dress rehearsal of the event; this allows you to check that things like lighting and sound are all working as intended. Professional graphics (which you can use to introduce speakers) are also an excellent choice.

Event length is another consideration. If you’re a small organization, a relatively short, one-off event (lasting up to an hour) may be ideal. Conversely, bigger organizations may want to consider several events that cover a wider array of subjects. In the latter case, think carefully about how to build your virtual event agenda.

4. Choose the right tools

Just as offices benefit from tools like PBX phone systems, virtual event fundraising demands various digital tools to work properly. The most obvious starting point is some kind of live-streaming software and the platforms you want to stream it on. Your earlier research into your target audience will help here but consider platform-specific features, too, if they serve your interests.

In addition to broadcasting the event, you’ll need to consider how people will donate to you. There are several different tools you can use to facilitate this; weigh up specific features of different tools before you make a choice. Data collection, targeted at attendees, will help you better understand your audience and improve any future fundraisers. You may also need to consider other specific tools, such as auction bidding and real-time subtitling.

Above all, make sure that all relevant team members know how to use these tools properly. This is especially important if you’re streaming live; a technical slip-up could prove disastrous.

5. Promote your virtual event

Once you’ve settled on a goal and format, it’s time to get the word out about your fundraiser. Just as your event needs to be professional, your promotion of the event needs to be professional as well. 

You can reach out to people in several different ways, including social media, emails, online videos, and text messages. You can even think outside the box and reach out in unusual ways, like posting physical invitations. You may also need to produce different email templates for different people. A regular donor will need a different message than one who hasn’t donated in a while, for example.

Other strategies include offering a sneak peek of the virtual event or asking participants to promote it on their own channels. Whatever you decide to do, add prominent branding and clean graphics to all of your communications to show you mean business.

Setting up a virtual event page is also a great idea, even if you’re streaming via an external platform. This page can tell attendees about the fundraising event and include crucial information like contact information. It should allow people to donate to your cause and make it very easy to do so. 

You should also send multiple reminders of an event to attendees, perhaps a month, a week, and a day before the event. If you’re charging for entry to your event, offering an early-bird discount can boost ticket sales.

Sales tactics like high velocity sales may offer some inspiration for your fundraising. Tactics like a multi-channel approach, targeted content, and a thorough understanding of what you do are all very useful in this context.

Source: Markletic

6. Be an active participant

Once your virtual fundraising event launches, make sure you’re playing an active role in it. Post about it on social media, thank specific donors for their contributions, and remind people how they can donate from time to time. Other ways to engage viewers include optional programming and creative use of family photos. This is important, as, broadly speaking, virtual attendees have less fun than in-person ones.

It’s also important to think about the language that you employ, as well as what you talk about. Make sure you convey your gratitude to all your donors (even if you don’t name them) and help them understand what impact their donations have. Where possible, connect donation amounts to specific benefits, such as resources or operating costs. This helps people understand what they’re helping to achieve.

Another solid strategy is to talk about the progress made by the organization itself. You can talk about how many people you’ve helped (and if that number has increased) as well as what you plan to do in the future. This helps establish your organization as a serious one and will hopefully encourage more donations in the future.

7. End well (and look to the future)

Once you’ve finished your virtual event, make sure to express your gratitude once more. Thank attendees for coming, and remember to send out messages via email and social media. You might want to highlight particularly generous donors in communications and remind people what their money will go towards.

After this task is complete, it’s time to review how successful the event actually was. Did you meet your goals? Did it cost as much as you expected it to? If the event didn’t go as expected, what lessons can you take into future fundraising events?

One way you can improve your virtual event fundraising efforts is by sending out surveys to attendees. If your event’s performance was underwhelming, this could help you to identify problems such as technical issues and boring content and come back even stronger in the future.

Source: Grandview Research

Wrapping Up

Virtual event fundraising is an excellent choice for many organizations. However, if you’re new to the practice, it’s important to understand the unique challenges it poses. Outside of specialized tools for broadcasting and collecting donations, it needs a strong online marketing push to be successful. 

Virtual event fundraising benefits from a clear goal and engaging content. It also demands careful post-event assessment to identify flaws and room for improvement. By considering all of these angles, you’ll ensure your fundraising efforts are as strong as they can be.

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