How to Do a Successful Virtual Fundraiser

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How to do a successful virtual fundraiser

If you work in the world of nonprofits, you’re likely familiar with the world of fundraisers too. Well, that, and a manner of ways to combat crises on a daily basis!

But with the pandemic making in-person gatherings once near-impossible, virtual fundraising events have become more popular than ever. In fact, it’s likely that they won’t go away once COVID-19 does.

And why is that, you ask? Well, there are plenty of benefits to going virtual.

In-person fundraising events can be a huge cost. But when you host a virtual fundraising event, you can reap those same benefits without the steep costs of hosting in-person.

Virtual fundraising also keeps everything digital and organized. So no need to track down that one envelope with a handwritten check a donor hands you in the heat of live event festivities.

Let social media and online technology do that job for you. But this is not to say that online fundraising is a piece of cake.

No, there are still plenty of considerations to take into account. Luckily, a successful virtual fundraising event is not unheard of.

So get ready to have a successful event even in the face of COVID-19. But before we dive in, let’s look at the unique benefits that virtual fundraising events can provide.

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The benefits of virtual fundraisers

COVID-19 definitely put a damper on the whole of 2020. But virtual fundraising events may be one of those silver linings to come out of this modern pandemic era.

Going virtual for your fundraising event includes a number of benefits

#1. Bigger audience reach

For fundraising events or even a gala, nonprofits often have to scramble to get a big enough audience. They’ve got their community that they can always call on.

But how can you promote your nonprofit beyond your immediate community circle? Take it online!

Virtual fundraising allows anyone from around the world to attend. All they need is Internet access.

A live event can sometimes hinder how many folks are able to attend. This could be due to physical capacity or the location of the event itself.

But when everything is virtual, accessibility is far easier to attain. Hosting virtual fundraisers gives your nonprofit the chance to receive donations from anywhere and everywhere.

So no more worrying about whether enough local organizations will come at your beck and call. Open up your possibilities with an online event.

Invite folks you wouldn’t consider inviting previously. And get new supporters and donors from all around the world.

Thinking local is great. But why not make the world your oyster?

#2. Fewer costs

Fundraising events cost money to produce. Seems kind of ironic, right?

I mean, spending money to raise money? Welcome to the world of nonprofit organizations.

Luckily, a virtual fundraiser eliminates some of those extra costs. For in-person events, you need to think about things like the venue, catering, signage, and A/V equipment, just to name a few.

But online fundraising doesn’t require the same amount of hoopla if you will. That’s not to say that you can’t get creative with a virtual fundraiser.

In fact, there are plenty of virtual tools at your disposal. But more on that later.

For now, all you need to know is that a virtual fundraiser equals cost-effectiveness. And cost-effectiveness equals more money towards your donation campaign.

The last thing you want is to spend more than you raise. So go virtual if your team needs that extra bit of cushion.

Fundraisers shouldn’t be the thing to hang your organization high and dry. They should be prosperous enough to raise you the money you need to continue forward with your organization.

#3. Easier to track donor information

It’s easy to get flustered at an in-person event. And sometimes, that means donors aren’t always accounted for when they need to be.

We hate to admit it. But it’s true.

Luckily, when supporters donate online, their information is automatically tracked throughout the event. No need to scour page by page to see which participants gave and which participants didn’t.

Your virtual event can track donations by itself! And, as soon as a donor clicks the button, they’ll receive a thank you note and tax receipt in their email.

There are plenty of things that a live event can offer that a virtual fundraising event can’t. But when it comes to organization, virtual supporters are well-accounted for.

Tips for hosting a virtual fundraiser

Now you know the benefits of a virtual fundraiser. But below are some extra tips to help you get started on your journey into online fundraising.

Ask peer organizations for fundraising tips

#1. Set your overall goal

Ok, you might be thinking, “Duh.” Every event needs to have a goal in mind.

But sometimes, you need to be reminded about why you are organizing this event. After all, it’s easy to get lost in the details.

If you host a virtual fundraising event without an objective in mind, the virtual event can feel aimless. And that won’t inspire attendees to want to donate.

But with a focused campaign and mission, participants can feel secure in giving the gift of donations. So create a clear message and a strong “why.”

Let this message incorporate itself into your marketing strategy. Start defining what sets your organization apart and include that language in a social media post or online event page to boost attendance.

This is the first step of your virtual fundraising event for a reason. This is where all of the ideas can spawn from.

#2. Create a fundraising goal

Getting your message across is the first half of the battle. Now, the second half is getting those donations.

Many fundraisers set their campaign around a number goal. And there’s actually quite a good reason behind that.

When donors know how much you’re looking to raise, they understand how much they can contribute. Some nonprofits prefer to keep a number goal out of the question.

But this can actually limit attendees since they won’t know how much or how little to give. Setting up a clear fundraising goal teaches your audience what you have in mind.

And it also helps to inspire supporters to band together to reach that goal. Some people may not think of virtual fundraising events as a team effort.

But all virtual fundraising depends on the actions of each individual participant. So set a goal in mind.

Get everyone on the same page. Then allow each person to contribute to the nonprofit campaign and celebrate the wins alongside one another.

#3. Pick the right platform

Virtual events come in all shapes and sizes. And because of this, you’ll want to make sure you have the perfect format to help you achieve your goals.

Plenty of nonprofit organizations go with Zoom. And there are plenty of benefits to that option!

But don’t forget other virtual platforms like Crowdcast or GoToMeeting/Webinar, for example. You may find that they have just the support team you’re looking for.

In fact, consider the following questions before you choose a platform for your virtual fundraiser. You’ll want to make sure that they relieve your headache – not induce it.

  • How much volume can their audio handle?
  • Do they offer support tools for novice learners?
  • How do they handle attendees when they register for the event?
  • How much will it cost for them to stream video and audio to large audiences?
  • Is this platform conducive to facilitate an auction?
  • Does their system allow guests to donate easily?
  • Will they still provide live support during the event itself?

Also, feel free to get as creative as you can with the format and platform of your choice. Zoom tends to be a standard option since most folks became familiar with it during the pandemic.

And this certainly encourages attendees to participate. But allow for your nonprofit to introduce attendees to another online platform they might not know about.

Use social media to promote your virtual fundraising event

#4. Practice, practice, practice

Technical difficulties cannot always be anticipated during a live show. And sometimes, that just means that the team or organization hosting is forced to go with the flow when the video freezes in an unflattering way.

But that doesn’t mean that all elements of the virtual fundraising event should be left up to fate. Of all of these tips, this is perhaps the most important one: practice your virtual event.

Then practice again. You’d practice for in-person events, wouldn’t you?

You’d at least let the host rehearse their bits on stage and walk the event room, right? Do all of the equivalent prep for your virtual event.

You might find that certain ideas like playing a game were great when in brainstorming mode. But for the live event itself, it doesn’t quite work out the way you had hoped and you’re left with more time to kill.

So make sure that you walk through the event, even if only virtually. That’s right – send link after link to make sure that guests can experience a successful and seamless login.

It wouldn’t hurt to bring on a professional corporate entertainer who knows how to lead an event smoothly, and with excitement! And one who has the virtual experience and knowledge to help give good recommendations on a slew of touchpoints leading up to the event.

You could look at this as a tedious thing to do. Or, you could choose to view it as an opportunity to see your ideas through.

Either way, there’s no harm in practicing. Besides, this way you’ll know for sure whether Zoom or any other platform will be able to support your nonprofits’ needs once your event goes live.

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#5. Promote your fundraiser online

Social media is the free marketing tool every virtual or in-person event needs. Online, you have the chance to connect with your supporters.

You can easily create posts that include pertinent information about your nonprofit or fundraising campaign. And you might even use social media to talk about your organization’s future ideas.

This will only encourage more donors to come forward to help you see those ideas through. Additionally, advertise whether you’ll host an auction during the fundraising event.

Or, highlight donors who give a particularly big donation to encourage others to donate as well. There are a number of ways to create hype for your virtual events.

Post about the mission of your nonprofit. Or even make a promotional video that’s easy for folks to circulate around.

The goal is to get people to participate before the live event or gala. The more you can push your campaign before the virtual event, the better.

#6. Honor your donors

Okay, the previous point touched on this a little bit. But it’s so important that it warranted two different sections!

Honoring big donors and their gift is the surest way to secure any future donation from them as well. And you get to hold them up as an example to the rest of those attending your gala or event.

Let’s be real. We all like to be celebrated for our kind deeds.

And donors are no different. So make your gala feel all the more personal by giving heartfelt shoutouts or stream them into the event as well.

There are a number of ways to make your guests feel special. So, as host, make room for donors to be celebrated.

Make sure your donation platform is easy for guests to navigate

#7. Follow up

You might think that once the event is over, so is all the work. Not quite.

For any kind of event, it’s always a good idea to follow up. Send another email to guests thanking them for their attendance.

Or, send along a digital gift to further acknowledge their support. This kind of follow-up is what makes you stand apart from other peer organizations.

And it makes you stand apart with class. So take the extra step to make sure guests are cared for even after the live fundraiser is over.

They’ll definitely remember it. And they’ll remember you.

Final thoughts

A successful virtual fundraiser hinges on many things. But hopefully, these tips have given you a good idea of where you can start.

When in doubt, it’s always good to look at your peer organizations for inspiration. They might have had successful ideas come to fruition which helped boost their numbers.

And in the world of nonprofits, it’s likely they’ll want to help you succeed as well. Good luck!

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Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular comedian for corporate events, magician, and virtual speaker.