Virtual fundraisers have become all the rage lately – and with good reason!
Even as in-person events slowly begin to trickle back over time, many organizations saw the convenience and availability of virtual fundraising events as a great way to keep in touch with their supporters and find ways to raise money, even without needing to (or being able to) schedule a big in-person gala like we used to.
As a result, the need for virtual fundraising won’t be going anywhere into 2022, and if your organization hasn’t held one before, now is the perfect time to try them out. Virtual events of all kinds are a great way to stay in touch with your community, bring your teams together in new ways, and engage your donors like never before, even if they’re not physically with you at the event.
Best of all, hosting a virtual fundraising event isn’t as difficult as you think it might be!
Virtual fundraisers, true to their name, are a fundraising event held completely online. While your team may be present in an event studio or other location to broadcast to your guests and potential donors, generally speaking, the actual audience is watching remotely from their phone, TV, or smart device without having to be physically present at the event. (There are some exceptions to this, such as hybrid fundraising events, which combine virtual and in-person aspects, but we’ll get more into that later.)
Virtual fundraisers can take many forms, but the aim is always the same – virtually hosted events where the guests can still donate money and contribute to your cause and organization, without having to actually be there. The rise in services like YouTube and PayPal have made hosting these events easier than ever, and nonprofit/charitable organizations the world over have turned to virtual fundraisers to help them continue to raise money, even in these uncertain times where in-person events may not be a viable option for every attendee.
There’s a lot of different virtual fundraisers out there, each of them more suitable for certain nonprofits and organizations than others. A few of the most popular types include:
Virtual auctions: Similar to the auctions typically held by nonprofit organizations, but with the added twist of being completely virtual, allowing attendees to bid on these items online.
Cooking classes: A fun way to engage your audience and encourage participation is to host an online cooking class or mixology class, and create different price tiers to allow audience involvement (such as allowing a Q&A with your guest chef after the event) while they prepare their food or drinks at home.
Exercise classes: Similarly, you could enlist the help of a local fitness buff to help your attendees learn new yoga techniques, or just learn how to do push-ups the right way for once, with different donation levels receiving different benefits or add-ons during the course.
Virtual galas: Of course, not every fundraising event needs to be a learning experience – why not help your guests unwind by providing the attendees with drinks and hors d’oeuvres delivered right to their home, encourage some formal wear, and have everyone meet up virtually while you solicit donations? It’s all the fun of an old-fashioned gala, without anyone having to leave the house!
Of course, there’s also hybrid fundraising events. Hybrid fundraisers, true to their name, are events that combine virtual and in-person aspects; imagine an auction where guests can bid on the items online alongside the in-person bidding, or an in-person gala where people unable to attend can still donate money online in exchange for a digital attendance to the event.
These events can take many forms, and different organizations will benefit from different approaches!
While planning a virtual fundraiser isn’t much different from planning a traditional, in-person event, there’s still a lot that can go into it, depending on the event you’re trying to run!
Understand why you’re hosting this event
Even if your fundraisers have moved to an online platform, you still need to have a strong goal and endgame in mind for your event. Why are you organizing this event? Are you trying to raise money for your organization, or raise money for a specific cause? Do you have a financial goal to reach? Can you compensate for the perceived ‘lower value’ of online events, even if your operating costs are much lower due to the event’s virtual nature? These are all important questions to ask before moving forward, and can help you better understand your goals and needs over time.
Define your target audience
Once you understand your goals and aims with this event, finding out your target audience will be key. Online events can reach a much broader audience, both demographically and geographically, but understanding exactly who to appeal to will be key in attracting guests and making your fundraiser as successful as possible. Don’t neglect things like age ranges, time zones, or even upcoming holidays when you schedule your event and try to reach the demographics you need to!
Create a budget and agenda
Once your event goals are defined, you’ll need to figure out how much money you can feasibly spend to attain them, and then plan the evening’s festivities accordingly. By setting an agenda early on in the planning process, you can better define what you want your event to accomplish and better accommodate for snags or changes of plan along the way, which is always preferable to just making it up as you go, right?
Find the right streaming platform and broadcasting space
Depending on your level of technological inclination, this may be a more challenging step, but an important one for any online event to take. By understanding what sort of platform you’ll be using to stream your event (Zoom, YouTube, a private platform), you’ll better understand your technological requirements and get an idea of how to prepare for the big day.
The same can be said for broadcasting spaces – your event will still need a space that can handle the actual broadcasting or ‘virtual’ part of the event, even if you don’t exactly need to rent out a ballroom downtown for everyone to mingle in. Your organization will need to locate an event broadcasting space that can handle the streaming duties of the live portions of your event, whether it’s the aforementioned auctions or cooking classes, or just someone playing ‘party host’ as the donations trickle in. This goes double for the internet connection – you’ll need to make sure that your space has a strong enough internet connection to broadcast the event, and a plan in the event of dropped connections or other issues. (Our event space Bldg22 has a backup internet connection for just such an occasion, for example.)
Above all else, just try to have a good time with it! Your energy will be infectious to your guests and attendees, even if they’re not there, and keeping things light will make it all the more enjoyable for you, your crew, and your guests. After all, isn’t that the goal of these sorts of events, even above and beyond the fundraising?