In-person events and fundraisers have been the norm for nonprofit organizations, but the current state of affairs has brought on the need to make some changes. The need to distribute your nonprofit’s message, gain supporters, engage donors, and raise funds hasn’t disappeared. Organizations need to continue to engage prospects and constituents by pivoting into the virtual event space.
Many aspects of the planning process are no different than preparing an in-person event. As you plan your virtual event, always have clarity about your “why.” What cause is your event supporting, and “why” is that cause important? Once you have an answer to your “why,” communicate it in your promotions, throughout the event, and in your post-event communications.
Jumping into the virtual event landscape can be arduous at the start. Between deciding on the best technology platform, adapting the content of the events, and coming up with new processes for execution, it can be hard to manage it all. There are many virtual event formats your organization can take on. Below are some ideas that we want to share with you that will hopefully help your planning and enhance your virtual events strategy.
Online Storytelling Volunteer Opportunities
Children and older students are spending more time at home than they have in the past. By participating in online ReadingPals literacy programs, children can continue to learn by being read to, and older students can continue to mentor by reading. An online storytime program can be broadcast live, or it can be pre-recorded and shared online.
Organizations can manage volunteer applications and candidate matching through Andar e-Volunteer. This Andar module is fully integrated into the Andar/360 database, allowing organizations to have a holistic view of their community members’ complete engagement history. We recommend that the volunteer recruitment page includes information about the online storytelling program and also contains detailed instructions on how videos can be submitted and the waivers that need to be signed.
Letters to Local Heroes Volunteer Opportunity
Even though we are following physical distancing practices, we all still crave connection. One way of showing support for one another is through thank you notes and letters to local heroes and individuals who need companions.
United Way of Miami-Dade is accepting letters written by volunteers to local heroes. Letters can be written from the comfort of home and community service credits are available upon request. Four letters or video submissions equate to one hour of service. United Way of Marathon County created a ‘Thank a Healthcare Worker’ webpage using Andar Software’s survey tool. They have received a multitude of messages from people in their community wanting to thank front-line healthcare workers.
United Way of Miami-Dade has seen a lot of traction in the virtual volunteering opportunities, especially from college students seeking credit.
Virtual Lesson Fundraiser
Many of us have been looking to learn new skills. Attending art or cooking classes in person may be out of the question, but virtual classes are a definite go. A great example is to have a cooking class to raise funds for meals for kids. While schools may be closed in some areas of the country, meals-to-go can be picked up via a drive-through option by those in need.
This type of virtual event is a successful fundraising approach because participants are getting something in return (learning something new and having fun) in exchange for the funds they are giving. Rather than having a set registration fee, organizations can provide different donation amounts that registrants can choose from. If possible, it would be fabulous to have a celebrity chef to lead the class.
Nonprofit organizations can promote the event and manage registrations with a tool like Andar i-Attend. We recommend that organizations send out the ingredients list well ahead of time. It would also be great to give participants the ability to share the event with their friends and family via email as soon as they register. The benefits in doing this are two-fold:
- For participants - Virtual classes like these become a fun social activity to share between friends.
- For nonprofit organizations – The more friends that participants invite, the greater the fundraising reach will be.
Deliver Outstanding Events
Hear how United Way Elgin Middlesex uses Andar i-Attend and Andar/360 to manage events. They collect registration and attendance data, assign coupon codes, and manage individual and sponsor registrations in one integrated database. All of this information is then used for their post-event communications plan.
A BYOB (Bring Your Own Breakfast) Conversation Event
Interview style events where one person asks a guest speaker questions are wonderful for various reasons. The content being shared is often very informational and personal. Plus, there’s no need to prepare too many visuals because it isn’t structured like a formal presentation, but rather a casual conversation.
It’s preferable to have community leaders, influencers, or celebrities be the guest speakers to increase the chances of obtaining high attendee numbers. Sprinkle your organization’s mission statement and impact goals throughout the conversation — and make fundraising requests in the middle and at the end of the event via an online pledging page. (Take a look at this customer success video to learn more about Andar Software’s online giving tool.) A guest speaker that has a direct link to the cause and can make connections between the fundraising requests and the content they are sharing would be beneficial. Open up the floor to a Q&A portion at the end of the event to engage participants and increase their earned value of attendance.
A (No Meal) Virtual Luncheon
Many galas, banquets, and luncheons have gone virtual. While they may not be the same as their in-person versions, many still include sponsors, celebrity speakers, guest performances, raffles, silent auctions, and much more. Nonprofits can make the event engaging for attendees by providing polls, quizzes, games, and breakout room chats. Participants can also be encouraged to share photos of themselves dressed up at home with the virtual event hashtag. We recommend having an online giving page ready that organizations can promote throughout the live event and also share in post-event communications to give attendees one more opportunity to give to the cause. (Learn more about Andar Software’s online giving solution in this webinar recording.)
United Way of Broward County did a great job of taking their 9th Annual Magnolia Luncheon online. One of our past blog entries covered an in-depth interview with Stephanie Metrie, Manager of Public Relations and Marketing at United Way of Broward County. Visit the blog to learn how their event was planned and executed.
United Way of Broward County turned their well-known Annual Magnolia Luncheon into a successfull virtual event.
Adapting in-person programs and events into the virtual realm might take additional work when starting, but the process will get easier with time. Plus, there are fewer costs involved in running online events, such as not having to source expensive venues. Another benefit of hosting virtual events is the collection of email addresses from all participants. As organizations gather more and more contacts, they should be included in future email communications.
It’s best not to try to replicate an in-person event exactly to a T. As participants attend from the comfort of their own homes, the level of interaction and attention span will be different than if they were at an event in person. Finally, much like in-person events, virtual events will benefit from being well promoted. Use all means possible to advertise your event (email, social media, word of mouth, and if available, media coverage) to maximize your reach!