Virtual fundraising events experienced an uptick in popularity with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As 2021 continues, we see that online events are here to stay. Why? People worldwide can join in to help nonprofit organizations like yours drive their missions forward in ways only possible via the internet.
So, what does this mean for your nonprofit? Tools and resources are available to help your team implement the most effective virtual fundraising event strategy possible. It’ll benefit your mission to engage your community and raise money for your cause online during and after the pandemic.
In response to the increase of virtual fundraisers, Snowball has developed free and low-cost options to equip nonprofits with the tools to succeed in the virtual sphere. We run our software with an emphasis on adaptability during changing times and have created this guide to help you do so. Here, we’ll cover:
Let’s jump into the best virtual event fundraising practices, so your team can raise more now!
Virtual Fundraising Events: FAQ
Your organization may have some questions regarding the transition to virtual fundraising events. Here are some popular questions you may encounter.
Why are nonprofits turning to virtual fundraising events during COVID?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and improvements in online fundraising technology, we’ve seen a swift adaptation to hosting events online. In 2021, organizations continue to run virtual events to keep supporters safe and distanced. As a result, online fundraising income increased by 23% in the past year.
Many nonprofits remain on track with their fundraising goals and event attendance, thanks to an optimized virtual fundraising model. This comes with a variety of benefits, including:
- The ability to engage attendees from any location
- Direct ways to give online throughout the event
- Contribution to public safety by avoiding large gatherings
When you implement your virtual fundraising model, your team experienced benefits you would not otherwise have gained with an in-person event.
How do you plan a virtual fundraising event?
To start planning your online fundraiser, you’ll need to consider best practices for a successful event and build out your virtual fundraising toolkit. Here are some steps to get started:
- Define your event idea. Determine why you’re hosting your event to choose an enticing idea. For example, if you’re raising money for a sports team, consider hosting an active event such as a virtual walk-a-thon.
- Review your virtual fundraising tools. Consider what software you already have and how user-friendly it is for people to find your event. If your team is starting from scratch, check out our list of top free fundraising software options.
- Set your goals. Just because you’re hosting a virtual event doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice funds or attendance goals. It’s best practice to pull insights from previously collected data at your prior fundraisers. This way, you can understand your primary starting point for an attainable goal.
- Establish your timeline. Establish your timeline. Consider the cadence of your event. When does your campaign end? How long will you have to fundraise once you’ve set up your event? Be sure to check your progress often and make any adjustments or decisions as needed.
The most profitable virtual fundraising events are those that engage and excite your supporters. It’s best practice to look at the types of fundraising events your organization has had success with in the past and transition those to the virtual realm. For example, if you typically host an annual auction fundraiser, consider pivoting your strategy to host the same event online.
We’ve put together a guide to the most successful ideas we’ve seen to date. Read on to learn the details about these events and how you can use them to boost your online fundraising efforts.
Virtual Fundraising Events Ideas
The more exciting your online event idea is, the more likely people are to tune in to show their support! Here are some of our favorites.
Virtual live auction
Virtual auctions are both engaging and rewarding for your participants. You’ll likely attract new attendees to bid and support your organization, as people can tune in from anywhere in the world.
To market this particular fundraiser, it’s best to procure items in advance so that you can publish an online catalog to get your followers excited to bid. On the day of the auction, use live-streaming software to let attendees bid in real-time. This is an excellent alternative to in-person auctions and has a high potential for support.
Virtual silent auction
A virtual silent auction is similar to a virtual live auction in how you should market well in advance to pique interest. The main difference is that your guests bid “silently” by virtually submitting their offers with mobile or online bidding software, still from the comfort of their own home.
Whether your organization chooses a live or silent virtual auction, it’s likely to generate a lot of revenue and provides engaging opportunities for participants as well.
If you’re looking for a unique way to host a memorable event and engage with constituents, a virtual gala is an excellent option. Your team can prepare and host this virtual fundraiser in a few simple steps. Here’s what we recommend:
- Invite donors, volunteers, and other supporters to attend the gala. Use this opportunity to announce a theme and details about how to register. Consider providing a QR code to your page for easy registration.
- Then, recruit entertainment that will excite your audience. Perhaps they’ll perform on your video stream or submit a performance video to be played online.
- Finally, set up an online video conference to allow guests to engage with your event from their own homes.
Typically, galas are upscale events. However, your online gala can be as fancy or relaxed as you’d like. Some organizations encourage attendees to dress up in their own homes, and some encourage guests to join in pajamas!
A virtual walk-a-thon is an excellent way to engage your supporters in a customizable and active fundraising event.
- Ensure participants understand how to use their fundraising pages to collect pledges that donors will make upon completing the event.
- Let your walkers choose their own course and ensure they have a fitness app or watch to track their distance and time. Make sure they complete it on (or by) the agreed-upon date.
- After the event, announce your results to sponsors and collect donations based on pledge amounts and distance walked.
Be sure to host your event over the course of a few days to include as many walkers as possible. Your virtual event will be memorable and easy for participants from anywhere in the world to join!
A webinar is an educational online fundraising event that will help strengthen your relationship with supporters. All you have to do is select a topic about your mission and gather speakers (whether guests or members of your organization) spark interest in your cause.
After your idea and speaker are secured, be sure to encourage supporters to tune in to your webinar. For those who can’t attend, record the session. To raise money, your team can either charge an entrance fee to access the event or allow supporters to contribute gifts over the course of the event.
This virtual fundraiser is not unlike the virtual walk-a-thon and is an exciting way to get supporters involved! Dancers will raise pledge money via their customizable fundraising pages that will be made upon completing the event.
Then, set up a live stream for dancers to complete the event together. Be sure your participants post their experience on social media and tag your organization so their followers can see what a great time they had!
A dance-thon fundraising event is typically successful because it offers an engaging way for participants to have fun and be active in their own homes.
Online 50/50 raffle
A virtual raffle is easy to set up and is highly engaging for all who are involved. All you have to do is sell tickets for your online raffle as you would for a traditional event. Then, send out the streaming link for all participants to join in on the fun!
The raffle ends when the individual with the winning ticket gets the jackpot. The prize is 50% of the raffle entrance fund. The rest goes to your organization! This is an excellent fundraising event that is easily adapted to an online raffle with the right software.
24-hour live stream
A 24-hour live stream event is a great way to run an all-day fundraiser to optimize donations. During your event, you can host speakers, performers, question and answer sessions, and more. It’s recommended that your team prepares by:
- Securing guest performers
- Using a reliable live stream software
- Setting an exciting theme for your event
Your event will be run by team members in shifts to provide a great window for your supporters to join the festivities and contribute at any time throughout the day.
Movie streaming night
An online movie event is a memorable fundraiser that people can join from their own couches at home! All you have to do is choose a movie on a streaming service that appeals to your supporters. Consider sending out a survey to your attendees in advance if you’re stuck on a film to show.
Then, announce your event, and charge for an admission ticket to your virtual event. You can even assemble movie snack packs for an additional price. Then, host your event with the Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party) extension on your browser, and provide a night to remember!
Virtual benefit concert
Virtual concerts are a low-cost way to host an unforgettable music event. Here’s how to prepare your virtual benefit concert:
- Communicate with a band, singer, or musician, and ask them to participate in a concert on behalf of your mission.
- Spread the word about your event across social media.
- Charge a ticket fee and accept online donations from attendees.
- Stream the concert using video conferencing tools.
Make sure you’re marketing your event to supporters across the globe! Consider recording the event for those in different time zones.
Online skills classes
If your supporters are stuck at home and are looking for a new hobby, an online skills class can be a well-attended event. All you’ll need to do is survey your donor base and ask what they’d be interested in. Consider topics such as:
- Cooking techniques
After you’ve secured your topic, locate an expert willing to host your class. Be sure to promote your event and raise money with a small fee for the class link and supplies. Some organizations host new virtual skills classes regularly to encourage their supporters to build on their skills and donate to their cause.
Online talent show
A virtual talent show is an excellent opportunity for supporters to have a platform to perform. This is effective with schools, sports teams, or any organization with willing participants. Here’s how it works:
- Recruit individuals who would like to participate by asking them to submit a time-limited video of their performance.
- Compile the video submissions and password protect the video on your event site. You’ll distribute viewing information once tickets are purchased.
- Encourage donors to vote on their favorite acts by donating $1 for 1 vote.
- Determine a winner and award them with a small prize.
This event is memorable and gets everyone actively involved with your organization!
When choosing your perfect online event idea, be sure to get the opinions of your team and supporters. You’ll want to host a fundraiser that will have everyone engaged and excited to participate.
How to Pull off a Virtual Fundraising Event
Now that you have an idea for your event explore these best practices to find out how to make any online fundraising event more successful.
Build and train your team
To run a successful event, your organization needs a team of willing volunteers to help run your event. To do this, your team can reach out to those who have engaged with your events in the past by contributing time to volunteer. To find these event helpers, be sure to check out the engagement history in your CRM.
Once you have your team, train them in skills such as interpersonal communication, perseverance, and creativity in the face of learning how to host a successful virtual fundraising event are crucial values to possess. To prepare your volunteers and staff for the transition, consider the following resources:
Be sure your team knows your streaming software and can host your event without technical difficulty. For example, most fundraisers require online meeting services. In this case, be sure to teach skills like how to mute, share their screen, and screen record beforehand.
Furthermore, encourage your team and past supporters to partake in your new virtual event and invite others regardless of location. Some nonprofits implement friendly competition as an incentive for the participant who invites your event’s most supporters.
Begin marketing and promotion
Depending on your event’s size and timeline, it’s a good idea to start promoting several weeks or months ahead of time. This way, you can pique interest and maintain continuous updates as the date approaches.
Be sure your content is spread across multiple platforms for optimal reach. Consider using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and sending out emails to your supporters with event details.
Build your fundraising tech stack
Having the right fundraising tools for your virtual fundraiser will ensure that you maximize collected donations. Consider looking for a comprehensive event management solution that makes online events straightforward and engaging.
A wide array of virtual fundraising event software exists, and the best one for your organization depends on your unique goals and needs. Consider prioritizing the following features:
- Ticketing and Registration: Online ticketing and registration capabilities make for a seamless guest experience. It’s best practice to require tickets even for free events so you can capture supporter information and be better prepared for your event.
- Donation Page: This critical tool ensures that you can raise money from within the registration page, during the online event, and through your organization’s website.
- Auction Tools: If your team chooses a silent or live auction for your event, you’ll need the most effective auction tools to pull it off. Online and mobile bidding functionalities allow for an easy and secure way for guests to participate from their devices.
- Data Management: Your donor data from your event will help your organization make decisions moving forward. Look for virtual event software with integrated data management capabilities to streamline this process.
With these features in your tech stack, you’ll make the most out of your virtual fundraising event and the valuable data that comes with fundraising online.
Follow up with attendees afterward.
Following up with attendees after your event is important as growing engagement has always been essential for strengthening your support base. This is true now more important than ever. As disruptions and uncertainties rock practically every sector of the economy, maintaining close ties with members, growing revenue, and boosting retention will be critical for associations like yours. Here are a few ways you can do so:
- Automate donation receipts and thank-you messages. With dedicated fundraising software, you’ll be able to automate your emails to personalize names and messages on your outreach and build relationships. Follow-up thank-you notes reinforce your appreciation for your incredible donors!
- Send a survey. Feedback on your virtual fundraising events will be invaluable as society continues to adapt to online-only engagement. Immediately after an event is the best time to get fresh thoughts and opinions from members. Then, be sure to consider their feedback when planning your next event.
- Provide engagement opportunities. Offer attendees new ways to continue engaging with your organization after the event ends, including your next event or any other pertinent opportunities like signing up for a newsletter.
Understanding how to host successful virtual fundraising events is crucial for nonprofits like yours during the COVID era and beyond. If your organization has yet to adopt virtual fundraising as a practice, now is the best time to nail down your strategies and put them into action.
With the right tools and engaging event ideas, you can uphold your fundraising and attendance goals with your virtual event. Be sure to market well, and encourage your supporters to invite others from around the world to join in for maximized impact.
To learn more about virtual fundraising events and other modern donation practices, check out the resources below:
- Virtual Auctions: How to Plan A Fruitful Event in 7 Steps. Want to know more about how to host a successful live or silent virtual option? This resource will help you implement a highly engaging virtual event while reaching your fundraising goals.
- Free Fundraising Software for Nonprofits. Your organization shouldn’t shell out tons of money to have reliable fundraising software. This is an excellent guide to the most cost-efficient options on the market.
- Text-to-Give: the Complete Guide for Nonprofits & Fundraisers. Text-to-give can optimize your revenue at any virtual event. Find out the best mobile giving platforms and best practices in this resource.