Fundraising Goes Virtual: 8 Tips for Doing it Well

In the wake of the corona virus pandemic, nearly all business and nonprofit related events—trade shows, conferences, educational forums, workshops, exhibitions, fundraisers—have been canceled, postponed, or turned into online virtual events

For the non-profit organization, fundraising events are the lifeblood of sustainability and are essential to advance your mission. Gathering with a large group of donors is not going to happen any time soon, yet, the mission and the fundraising must continue. You may be thinking, “But we can’t take an in-person program, a year in the planning, and transform it into an online event within a few weeks!” So, what do you do? 

As event producers, we understand your concerns and are confident that fundraising events already deep in the planning stages can be converted to virtual events successfully. Based on our experience, we recommend these eight virtual fundraising event tips:

Format: Options include live-streaming, an online auction and/or other real-time donation campaigns, or a hybrid approach. If budget allows, direct-mail campaigns can also be effective. 

Platform (for live-streaming): Some of the best free options include Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Twitch, Zoom (which can stream directly to YouTube Live and Facebook Live, if you like). For actual donation collection, you’ll need to decide a platform for accepting funds as well—keeping in mind ease-of-use and any fees associated with it. 

Communicate: Pre-event communication is critical. Include information such as registration instructions and confirmation, option to share their interest or registration via social media or email, how to participate in FAQs, fundraising goals, new or ongoing initiatives and pre-event reminders, etc. 

Plan: Decide who and how you’ll engage your donors during the event. Virtual events allow you to add new benefits including incentives. Your audience can participate through gamification,virtual door prizes, and surprise guests. Celebrity Guest Bombs are a lot of fun and can leave a rewarding impression on your supporters. Keep them engaged with a live donation leader board, announcements of real-time updates (including recognition of some offline donors), and pre-recorded video* to fill in the gaps.

*Today’s donors are mission-driven and want to know how their donations are being used and what impact their contributions had on the mission. In general, people emotionally connect to personal stories more than statistical data and broad statements. They expect transparency and dependability from a non-profit. Video storytelling is a powerful tool!  

Promote: Leverage your different communication channels and share the campaign page. Engage your sponsors to help publicize the event. Contact the news media and pitch coverage of the event and/or about becoming a media sponsor. Consider running social media ads (promoted posts). Use both email and social media, perhaps even snail mail, and don’t forget the call to action!  

Rehearse: Whether you’re a beginner or veteran, it’s prudent to run a full rehearsal ahead of time—to check script, lighting, video, audio, slides or images, internet connection, background/backdrop, and any “hand-offs” to guests or other moderators.  

It’s go time: As the saying goes, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for—you’re live! Try to create an atmosphere that’s both fun and energetic to keep participants interested and entertained.

Follow up: Switch-up your communications so that you’re continuing to engage donors—and not merely when you ask for money. Send a post-event survey of those who attended. Let them know the good their gift will do, and that you couldn’t do it without them. Send an update on the campaign that congratulates them on helping you reach your goal. Say thank you again.

Even with these tips, there’s more that needs to happen—before, during and after—to produce a truly successful fundraising event. 

Getting it wrong with an important annual fundraising event really isn’t an option, so you may want to consider hiring event planning professionals, like our team at Chemistry PR & Multimedia. Call us today to schedule your consultation for help. 

Chris KubanChris Kuban started Chemistry PR and Multimedia with a vision to effectively formulate corporate and non-profit brands across the country. In doing so, he has become an expert in Media Relations, Event Management, Social Media implementation and video production.  He engages, coordinates and oversees a diverse team of local and national suppliers, vendors, employees and consultants, allowing him to successfully coordinate over 120 national events focusing on overall logistics, media relations and his clients’ expected ROI. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn