2020 has been the year of virtual events. In addition to keeping things as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual events also offer a host of other benefits. Virtual events allow smaller organizations to reach a wider reach, create a more accessible environment for attendees with disabilities, and help organizations save on overhead costs like event space. If you’re looking for a way to transition your next event to a virtual structure, or host a brand new event online, read on!
Communication is Key!
Before you continue planning your virtual event, be sure your donors are in the loop. Nobody wants to spend money on travel costs or request time off work, only to then be told it was all unnecessary. Use this opportunity to collaborate with your previous donors, current members, and prospective donors about what sort of virtual fundraising event format they would prefer.
Determine A Format
Will it be a live-streamed speech, a video presentation with multiple speakers, a silent auction, or a virtual run/walk? Will it be in real-time for a specific window of time, or will it be an ongoing fundraising effort for your organization via your website? Will you need to ensure you can communicate with event members in real-time? Answering these questions ahead of time will help you plan your schedule, find a platform, and troubleshoot with attendees.
Find A Platform
While Zoom is an excellent platform for video conferencing, it’s by no means the only platform available! Do some research, read reviews, and find the platform that will provide you the most value and features for your time. Cisco WebEx, Google Hangouts, Hopin, MegaMeeting, Brella, BlueJeans, Pathable, and Localist are just some options available.
Promote, Promote, Promote
Since this isn’t an in-person event, the chances are that you won’t be limited to the number of attendees. Make sure you get as many people interested as possible! Consider investing in paid search, advertising on partner websites, or creating a social campaign specifically to get the word out.
Create Your Schedule
While the best-laid plans can easily come undone in the blink of an eye, it’s good to have a schedule to refer to, even if you deviate at some point. This is especially true if your event is a larger conference with multiple tracks. Attendees may not want to attend every session and will want to come and go at the right times. Be sure you give them the information to do so!
Plan For Problems
Give clear instructions, including how to troubleshoot common issues. Depending on the platform you select, you’ll likely be able to find an FAQ section with a lot of the answers you’re looking for! Either direct users to the FAQ if they’re having trouble, or consolidate solutions and provide an easy-to-navigate troubleshooting document with your event registration.
Include Offline Donations
The best way to make everyone feel included is to… well, include everyone! This includes donors who aren’t able to attend the event or don’t want to attend but still want to donate to the cause. It’s a great way to encourage donations during your event as well.
Decide on a Hashtag
Get the conversation going in real-time on social networks by making use of a hashtag. Every time you hit a milestone in your donation goal, post about it! You may even encourage more donations from people who weren’t aware of the event but saw live updates.
Make It Visual
Encourage donations by having a live-- or close to live-- count or tally of contributions and how close your organization is to meeting your goal. Consider something that’s quickly easy to understand, like a thermometer or progress bar.
Create a Menu
Making a menu of sorts is an easy way to help donors conceptualize how much their donation is helping. For example, if you run an organization that provides school supplies for underserved children, consider adding line items specific to your organization. $150 might cover new school supplies for a child going back to school in the fall, $300 could cover a school year’s worth of meals for a child, et cetera.
Make a Playbook
If this was your first virtual fundraising event, be sure you use the opportunity to write everything down that went well and things that could use some work. Create a playbook for what worked, what didn’t, and what you’ll do next time so that when your next event comes around, you don’t have to start from scratch.
Create Some Content
The best thing about a virtual event is that you can record it and create a video for later use! Create a video summarizing how well donations did, allow attendees to watch speakers again, and write a few blog posts about how it went, how much you raised, and what you learned during the experience. Check out our blog post on how to repurpose content for more ideas.
Ask your attendees for feedback on how they thought the event went. This can be valuable insight for your next event, especially if you hit some speed bumps. Make sure you do the same with your internal team!
Planning your first virtual event can seem daunting, but if you embrace all the flexibility it allows, you can have an event just as successful as an in-person event. Be sure you’ve done your research, planned for hiccups, and communicated with your attendees about what to expect. Then enjoy the event!