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Virtual Events

Virtual events allow organizations to gather their supporters online through technologies like livestreams, peer-to-peer fundraising software, social media, and video. From annual galas, to peer-to-peer events and more, virtual events empower social good organizations to unite people online by fundraising for a shared cause. Whether you regularly host virtual events or are making the shift for the first time, brush up on these best practices to take your events online.

Preparing for a Virtual Event

While a virtual event should feel approachable enough for any social media follower to observe and participate, it should still also adhere to a basic structure and plan to ensure that any day-of needs and questions are addressed. Keep these nest practices in mind as you prepare for your next virtual event:

Determine the program. You should have a basic framework or program to be covered throughout the duration of your event. Maybe you feature a speech from an executive director or your team is livestreaming a site walk-through. Make sure that all collaborators are familiar with the program and take the time to practice using any livestream or video recording technology in use. Your framework should include the major talking points to be discussed as well as plans for engaging your audience where applicable.

Establish a fundraising goal. Virtual events may have significantly lower overhead expenses than in-person events, allowing you to keep more of the money your raise. Depending on the nature of your event, examine how much you can expect to spend on and earn from a virtual event. Assess how you will set any ticket or registration fees and pay for needed expenses like technology, equipment, or advertising.

Advertise the event. Just like you would prepare for an in-person event, you may consider sending an invitation, email reminder, executing a social media campaign, or creating an event webpage for donors and volunteers to invite others. Make sure than any materials you share communicate that the event is virtual and describe the technology required to participate (i.e. do attendees need to download an app or use a certain browser to access the event URL, etc.).

Ensure you have the technology in place. A virtual event can require more proactive and personal communication with participants than an in-person event, so organizations should be prepared to support this initiative. Many organizations will invest more time and effort in tools that support connection, such as Facebook Fundraiser integration, streaming services and equipment, or mobile push notifications. Work with your Information Technology (IT) lead to determine the types of tools you’ll need to successfully run your event.

Consider the environment. While you may not need to book a venue or create a seating chart, you should still consider the environment in which you will be hosting a virtual event. Ensure that your location is free of clutter, well lit, supported with a reliable Internet connection, and in a space quiet enough to avoid excess background noise. Whether filmed from your office or living room, think from your viewers’ perspective to optimize the on-screen experience.

Prioritize engagement. The most impactful events create opportunities to interact. This can be as simple as preparing a few open-ended questions that are mission-centric or relevant to the event at hand. Get the audience excited about your cause by asking them about their favorite memories from a past event, if they have a vision for the future of your organization or cause, or how they first got involved. For peer-to-peer and challenge events, invite volunteer fundraisers to join teams and lead ‘challenge’ activities throughout the program. As many attendees may be sitting at home while they view your content, think through thoughtful experiences that will continually spark their interest.


Follow up

Just as you would follow up with participants of an in-person event, remember that you can continue to expand upon several touchpoints following your virtual event. A thoughtful follow up will not only remind attendees of your cause, but could also inspire them with the resources to become further involved. Keep these touchpoints in mind as you finalize your event:

Re-share your event. By recording your livestream or video event, you can share it with any individuals who were unable to attend day-of, post highlights from the event on social, and extend the lifespan of your content.

Say thank you. Be sure to express gratitude for your attendees, donors, or participants. Build in a plan, thank you template, or process to recognize the individuals doing their part to further your mission. As virtual events lack some of mingling and networking that an in-person event allows, consider reaching out to your attendees with a more personalized touch like a phone call or text to diversify your channel use and grow your connections with them.

Offer opportunities to get involved. Like in-person events, you may send a follow-up communication after your event. Invite recipients to support you in new ways by signing up for your newsletter, becoming a regular member or donor, or showcasing any volunteer opportunities.

Take stock. Was this your first virtual event, or are you a seasoned pro? Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the event with your team and continually assess how you can measure success. Sort through any trends you saw in comments, clicks, donations, webpage visits, and more to see how you can better engage with attendees and execute future virtual events.


Livestream Fundraising Events

Livestreaming enables you to share live video and audio coverage online. From Facebook Live to Twitch and Youtube, there are myriad platforms for organizations to share livestreams, as well as a variety of techniques to choose from. As you plan your next live stream, consider these three types of fundraising:

Organizational Livestream Fundraising
This type of livestream fundraising campaign allows organizations to use their own streaming channels to broadcast live content for fundraising. With the organization as the content creator, fundraisers and staff solicit donations directly from viewers. This type of fundraising is ideal for organizations beginning to try out livestreaming. It requires technology to record the livestream and to market your solicitation to viewers. An organization selects their prospective audience and controls the messaging and content.

Freestanding Livestream Fundraising Program
Organizations may also choose to fundraise through a freestanding livestream program. Akin to DIY fundraising, these programs are exclusively built for people who livestream to solicit gifts on behalf of an organization from their community of followers. In this case, the content creator is often a volunteer or supporter. These programs require a mix of marketing, strategy, technology, and coaching. Organizations must identify and recruit content creators and provide them with the needed fundraising tools to successfully run a livestream fundraising program or event. Since livestream fundraising programs give permission to volunteer fundraisers to create content about your organization, you may want to provide the content creator with tool kits, talking points, or messaging materials to ensure that they are accurately representing your brand and mission. This technique may allow you to reach a new audience by connecting with your connect creator’s network of followers.

Channel Diversification
This type of livestream positions streaming as a fundraising channel for traditional peer-to-peer fundraising events. The goal is to empower event participants, like walkers, runner, or cyclists, to solicit gifts for the event from their own livestream followers. If you’re considering channel diversification for your event, keep in mind that you should carefully search for and recruit any existing content creators within your participant population. Channel diversification rests on the marketing and coaching activities inherent to peer-to-peer events, with the added lay of livestream broadcasting and networking.


Run/Walk/Bike Events

Faced with severe weather, cancellations, or unprecedented events, many organizations have begun to take their long-distance walk, run, and bike events online. Fitness tracking apps like Strava and Map My Fitness enable participants to track and communicate their progress towards a goal. Instead of asking cyclists, runners, or walkers to gather together face-to-face, invite them to participate in their own community or neighborhood at a time that works best for their schedule. By logging their miles or steps, you can create online experiences that still build community. Incorporate similar aspects as in-person events by sharing the cumulative progress of all participants and incorporate social media, livestream, or virtual campaigns to incorporate these events in your calendar.

Just because you’ve taken your event online doesn’t mean that you can’t engage your participants. Use a consistent hashtag to make your posts easily accessible and pose specific activities or questions to participants to respond to using their favorite social channels. Try to find social influencers or celebrities within your supporter base to help spread the word.