Nonprofits that canceled fundraising events because of COVID-19 still have tremendous opportunities to raise awareness and support for their organizations.
Virtual fundraising events, if skillfully planned and executed, help an organization continue moving its mission forward. Several benefits of virtual events include: (1) Staying top-of-mind among key stakeholders; (2) Reducing expenses by not having venue, food and beverage or rental fees; (3) Unlimited “attendance” capacity and the ability to attract a broader audience geographically, including seasonal residents who have moved north for summer; and (4) Leveraging digital marketing strategies to collect accurate data for future relationship cultivation.
Fundraising events offer much-needed sources of revenue to power programs, particularly now as demand for services is soaring.
For decades, Priority Marketing has been Southwest Florida’s premier agency for event planning and management. Our list of successful events includes the Market Watch real estate summit, Junior Achievement’s Business Hall of Fame, Hope Kids Care’s Shine and more. Our team of industry professionals plan and execute events that help clients reach benchmark goals and meet or exceed fundraising objectives. Signature events can create once-in-a-lifetime experiences that guests will be talking about for years to come.
The ultimate goals of a virtual event are the same as an in-person event: raise awareness and support for a cause.
Below are four components to a successful virtual fundraising event:
Create Goals and Set a Plan
Successful event planners set specific goals, often striving to improve upon attendance and fundraising totals from prior years. Expectations might be different for a virtual event. Here are three considerations:
- Consider the audience. Who would attend? Guests attend fundraising events, first and foremost, because they support a cause. They also attend events for networking purposes, so social components of a virtual event cannot be understated. Host a pre-show Virtual Happy Hour over Zoom, Google Hangouts or Webex so attendees can connect with each other. This is especially important for events that include auctions because friendly rivalries often drive up bids.
- Consider the platform. YouTube and Facebook both offer livestream capabilities that allow guests to connect as the event is happening. Recording livestreams also allows the event to continue living on the web further expanding audience reach.
- Consider the timing: Event organizations often have to book venues one year in advance. Catering, entertainment, A/V support and other vendors must be secured months before the event date. However, virtual events can be planned in a matter of weeks. The key is allowing enough time to produce, promote and publicize the event.
Determine a Source of Revenue
The primary reasons to hold a virtual fundraising event are to raise awareness and support for an organization. How will you raise money? Five popular strategies will enhance fundraising potential:
- Sponsorships: Corporate and philanthropic partners often provide sponsorships in exchange for recognition at an event. The same holds true for a virtual event. A benefit of sponsoring virtual events is extended visibility that stretches beyond the 2-3 hours of a traditional event.
- Auctions: Many fundraising galas include a live auction or silent auction, or even both. Bidding for a silent auction can commence weeks in advance, helping fuel interest within the community.
- Prize drawings: Organizations can sell tickets for chance prizes and 50-50 drawings days or weeks leading up to an event, both in person and online. This provides guaranteed funding while encouraging those who purchase tickets to join the virtual event.
- Registration: Nonprofits still can sell tickets to virtual events, but generally at a lower price point. However, a higher-priced VIP ticket with exclusive benefits or experiences can magnify revenue.
- Matching funds: Identify a supporter or supporters in advance willing to match donations. This effectively doubles the value of each gift and offers added incentive for others to give.
Promote the Event
Successful events of all types share a common element – good attendance. Virtual events do not have an attendance cap, so the sky is the limit. Connecting and engaging with potential guests is a priority with so much competition in the virtual space.
Nonprofits can still distribute printed invitations, but virtual events can also connect digitally with potential audiences:
- Email: Existing databases contain the names of individuals who already have shown their interest or support. Create e-invitations with compelling copy and eye-catching images to announce a virtual event.
- Social media: Promoting the event on social media can reach individuals who aren’t already in the fundraising funnel. Encourage supporters to share the Facebook Event page to reach a wider audience.
- Landing page: Direct all email, social media, public relations and digital marketing pages to a special SEO-friendly landing page. Demonstrate why this event is a can’t miss opportunity. Data collected during this process is extremely valuable for an organization.
Produce a Professional Event
Virtual events should be planned and produced with the same standard of excellence as live events. Poor execution distracts the audience and interferes with viewers’ ability to stay emotionally connected to the cause.
Generally, virtual events should run about 45 minutes to an hour. Attention spans tend to be shorter on computers, tablets and smartphones.
A virtual event program should follow a “story arc” with a specific flow:
- Welcome message
- Explain how to enjoy and engage fully in the virtual space
- Information about the cause or organization
- Prerecorded or live video from an influential leader of the organization or compelling speaker
- Appeal for donations with live acknowledgement of donors
- Brief live auction, if desired
- Prerecorded or live entertainment
- Silent auction closes and/or prize drawing winners announced
- Thank you message to guests
- Invitation for guests to stay engaged
- Closing statement to signify the event’s conclusion
The key to event storytelling is to reach guests on an emotional level. Take your audience on a journey to keep them entertained, happy, inspired, connected and empowered.
Do you want to create a virtual fundraising event? Contact us today by calling 239-267-2638 or emailing info@PriorityMarketing.com.