Live Streaming for Nonprofits: Your Guide to Virtual Success

Virtual events and live stream programs are here to stay.

Telling your story and keeping your mission relevant is a top priority to engage supporters in virtual fundraising. The power of multi-media allows nonprofits to build connections with remote donors and humanize your mission, no matter where your supporters are.

You’re probably thinking – that’s great. I’d love to do that, but I am a:

A. Nonprofit without a high-tech budget

B. Fundraiser without video skills

C. Small team with little bandwidth

D. All of the Above

Don’t worry – we get it! This blog will help you get around these barriers.

Live streaming is now a necessity in a virtual world and easier than you may think! It provides exciting opportunities for your nonprofit to expand its reach and increase impact, by engaging supporters from anywhere.

We’re here to help you leverage live streaming in your next virtual event or campaign to help you keep fundraising during these challenging times.

We’ll start with the basics and end with you having the tools you need to make some decisions:

Here we go!

Live Streaming Basics for Nonprofits

Before we dive into the details of benefits and uses of live streaming, let’s start with the basics: a general overview of what live streaming is, why it has become so valuable for nonprofits, and how it’s typically done.

What is live streaming for nonprofits?

Live streaming is a type of media that broadcasts an event in real time without first being pre-recorded and then uploaded to play for the audience. In other words, the content is being created and broadcasted live.

Live streaming for nonprofits means broadcasting your event or program for remote donors and supporters.

This medium gained popularity for nonprofits as in-person events and fundraisers were not possible because of COVID-19. As a result of the overwhelmingly positive response, live streaming is becoming an increasingly integral part of nonprofits’ strategies.


Why is live streaming effective?

Live streaming ‘works’ because it’s an engaging alternative to in-person events that can open up new opportunities for multi-channel engagement with supporters.

With the right recipe of virtual storytelling, energy, mission moments, and fun, live streaming your fundraising event can be very effective (not to mention the exponentially greater donor reach than in-person).

What are some top live streaming tools for nonprofits?

The different platforms for live stream production can be overwhelming. But they don’t have to be! Let’s keep it simple. The most popular and accessible options include:

Facebook Live

This popular and free social networking site offers a way to stay in touch with family, friends, and colleagues. Facebook Live is a great option for live streaming your event considering the easy-to-use platform and that most people are familiar with the features. The live stream will automatically post to your nonprofit’s page for all to see, even if they did not attend.

Instagram Live

Launching in 2016, Instagram Live has been gaining momentum as an easy-to-use live stream platform. Although Instagram is predominantly a photo sharing site, the Instagram ‘Story’ feature allows a page to go live and even alerts your followers that the show is about to start!

Tip: With 75% of 18-24-year-olds using Instagram, this platform would be a great option to reach a younger demographic.


Home of the largest video-sharing platform in the world, YouTube launched ‘YouTube Live’ in 2008 to reach your community in real time and differentiate yourself from pre-recorded video. You can choose to record your live stream via webcam, mobile cam, or encoder streaming and go live with a prepared title, description, and thumbnail image.


Through a cloud-based platform, Zoom allows for all people to join a unique ‘meeting’ with a login and a meeting ID. Zoom offers quality video, audio, and a wireless screen-sharing performance across Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and Blackberry systems making it a great way to invite donors and supporters to a ‘meeting’ and host your live program there.


Still not convinced live streaming is the right move for you? Let’s move to the reasons behind why live streaming is here to stay—especially for nonprofit fundraising.

Benefits of Live Streaming for Nonprofits

Let’s keep it simple. Here are key benefits of live streaming:

  • Cost-effective. Your overhead cost with a virtual event is nonexistent compared to in-person. Live streaming can be as robust or easy as you want it be – sometimes it’s just a matter of a click.
  • Remote Engagement. Streaming keeps supporters engaged with your organization despite not attending in-person events.


  • Increased Reach. Live streamed fundraising events can generate support for your cause and drive more engagement than your other digital materials.


  • Authentic Experience. Live streamed events can offer a different, more personal or behind-the-scenes experience for supporters. Supporters have direct access to real-time engagement with your mission and staff that they wouldn’t otherwise have in-person.
  • Leverage Existing Content. Streaming can be incorporated into different virtual campaigns in a variety of creative ways. The videos from the livestream makes it easy to recycle and reuse engaging content. Broaden the reach of your message and find new channels and mediums to use your livestream.
  • Donor Familiarity. Supporters are largely already accustomed to engaging with brands through video and streams.


Ways to Use Live Streaming in Virtual Events

We know what you’re thinking.

“Okay, so live streaming is a beneficial medium. How does it actually translate to the nonprofit world?

Let’s walk through the different uses case for  how nonprofits might use live streaming to create engaging virtual events.

Virtual galas & online auctions

Virtual galas & auctions are essentially digital silent auctions coupled with a livestream program. The engagement garnered from a live stream only increases bids in the virtual auction.

To run an online auction, nonprofits use either mobile bidding or a charity auction software to engage supporters. The key is to use dedicated virtual event and video streaming software to handle all of your planning and management tasks in one place.

The auction software is used to:

Online auctions can help nonprofits raise a lot of money in the virtual world. It doesn’t matter if you are online, watching a live stream show from your couch coupled with the chance to walk away with amazing items and support a great cause will still spur giving!

Virtual peer-to-peer

We know, peer-to-peer events don’t seem like the right fit for live streaming. You have to be in-person for them. Right?

Nope! In the age of social distancing, nonprofits have been looking to the capabilities of live stream to recreate the energy and community feel of peer-to-peer events—especially run-walk-rides.

After supporters complete the virtual run, walk, or ride, close out the event with a live stream to bring your mission and community together.

To learn more about virtual peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, read our complete list of best practices.

Live discussions and Q&As

Bring the conversation to your mission and let your supporters feel like they are getting a peek behind the curtain with a live discussion or Q&A.

Compared to virtual galas, these interactive events require little planning and can be repurposed for years to come in your newsletters, blogs, or recorded videos.

Highlight a board member, longtime donor, executive director, or a person impacted by your mission and live stream your conversation. You’ll be surprised the engagement you receive.

Live stream options for hybrid events

Hosting a hybrid event is another common virtual fundraising scenario. This happens when your nonprofit hosts an in-person event with an online engagement component for remote supporters who are unable to attend the onsite fundraising.

Virtual fundraising software and mobile bidding helps you easily engage virtual attendees and boost revenue via remote engagement strategies. Remote attendees can still participate and donate by:

  • Tuning into your event’s live stream
  • Bidding on silent auction items
  • Participating on social media
  • Making online donations
  • Purchasing merchandise or fixed price items

It doesn’t matter where they are, what they are doing, or why they can’t come – attendees can bid remotely and participate from anywhere! All you need to do is send them a link to your live stream event, and they are off.

Looking to go virtual? OneCause can help you combine live stream capabilities with seamless giving for your next virtual event. Take the virtual fundraising software online tour today!

Pro Tips for Live Streaming Success

Take full advantage of your nonprofit’s live stream program with these 10 tips.

1. Set your budget & goals.

As with any new campaign or event, it’s helpful to set clear goals and guidelines in advance:

  • Determine your budget. Work with your team to determine a workable budget for your new virtual project.
  • Set your goals. Determining specific revenue goals goes a long way to set your fundraiser up for success.
  • Work backwards to determine specifics.
    • What’s the timeframe of your virtual campaign or event?
    • Will you need new technology to collect donations or stream video?
    • What is the live stream platform your donor demographic will connect with?
    • Will your virtual event occur alongside an in-person event?

Carefully work through the specific guidelines your live stream event must stick to in order to support your goals. Outlining these in advance is essential for keeping the planning process focused and driving the success of your live stream.

2. Choose the live stream platform that will complement your fundraising software.

Your fundraising software AND live stream platform should amplify the other. Make sure you choose a live stream platform (listed above) that will strengthen giving on your fundraising software.

Your virtual fundraising software should allow for:

  • Flexible branding & creative campaigns
  • Versatile fundraising options
  • Social integration
  • Gamification & motivation
  • Promote engagement with a multi-media experience

3. Create a virtual fundraising team.

Don’t try to handle everything on your own! Form a virtual fundraising team to handle tasks like:

  • Technology set-up (live stream)
  • Promotions and social media
  • Sponsorships
  • Fundraising monitoring
  • Live stream talent

Splitting up tasks will simplify the entire process from planning to follow-up.

We recommend recruiting your team early and clearly defining each individual’s role.

4. Promote your event to excite your audience for event day.

Heavily promote your virtual campaign or event in the weeks leading up to the big launch!

Use marketing outlets and opportunities like:

  • Social media
  • Video content (Show your supporters you are prepared for a live stream program with clean and authentic video promotion.)
  • Email invitations
  • Ambassador updates
  • Text messages
  • Announcements from partners and sponsors

Because anyone can join a virtual fundraiser, broadcasting your message to as wide of an audience as possible will be essential.

5. Plan your [short] program.

virtual run-of-show looks very similar to an in-person event. Just because a camera is involved now doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing!

One difference is… keep it short. You, as a producer, want to ensure that the program is of a reasonable length, it should not be the same timing as an in-person event. Most virtual and online events are running 45 minutes to 1 hour max.

This is probably the most important point because, unlike an in-person event, viewers can simply log off or change the channel if they don’t want to view your program anymore.

Don’t know where to start? Here is an example run-of-show for a 30-minute virtual gala.


6. Tell your nonprofit story on your live stream program.

Why is storytelling so important in virtual live stream run-of-show?

  1. Nonprofits have to cut through the noise and stand out online.
  2. Everyone’s attention is becoming increasingly fragmented.
  3. We need a way to connect people to our causes since they can’t connect in-person.
  4. We need to inspire giving in a virtual world.

Think about:

  • The story: Find real-life stories that function as proof points to your nonprofit’s mission.
  • The hero: What is everyone’s favorite part of any story? The hero. While your nonprofit is doing incredible work for your mission, it’s all made possible by the generosity of your donors. Make them the hero of your story – every time.
  • The conflict: A story has conflict. So, you first need to lay out your value proposition, introduce the pain point, and then how you fix it.

You now have a story to tell!

7. Include engagement tactics in your live stream.

Even though your audience is not right in front of you it is still important to engage with them and interact. Use these great tools for engaging in a virtual world:

  • Q & A / Poll / Chat – Most live stream platforms allow you to encourage communication throughout the live stream. Take advantage of these capabilities and connect with your audience!
  • Social Media – Be sure to get a social media plan in place for your event.
    • Think about different ways you can encourage guests to participate
    • Use creative hashtags
    • Encourage watch parties
    • Live behind the scenes on social channels
  • Text Messages – Through your fundraising platform you should be able to collect cell phone numbers of your guests through registration.
    • Send push notifications throughout the show
    • Remind viewers to bid on auction items
    • Create urgency to donate to your fund-a-need
    • Provide updates on times, fundraising progress and closing times

The ideas are endless for how you can grab attention, increase engagement and ensure fundraising success!

8. Do a tech dry-run.

The live stream event is days away now. Do NOT let the day come without doing at least one test run-of-show so you are familiar with the technology and can troubleshoot any issues before event day.

Let’s avoid every event planner and fundraiser’s nightmare and bring together your virtual fundraising team to test:

  • Microphones
  • Internet bandwidth
  • Video quality
  • Live stream platform features
  • Virtual background

9. Don’t be too formal.

Let’s be honest. Your audience could be in their pajamas watching your live stream event, so let’s not act like it’s a formal gala over live stream. Have fun, bring humor, and convey your mission in human and relatable terms.

Ways to have fun on a live stream include:

  • Create a theme
  • Plan entertainment
  • Play music
  • Keep up the energy
  • Promote prizes

Quality and professionalism does matter – it reflects your brand. But let’s be clear. The goal of visual storytelling IS NOT to go and produce a Hollywood video! It’s to produce a video that highlights your nonprofit’s mission with quality that is good enough that it isn’t distracting for viewers.

This way, your message will shine through and your fundraising engagement will soar.

When you’re preparing for a live stream, be sure to incorporate these ideas and more into your event. Your donors will feel the energy through their screens, and you’ll see the benefits come through in your fundraising.

10. Give viewers a reason to stay until the end.

There has to be a reason for viewers to stay tuned-in throughout the show. Think about tactics that keep people watching, including:

  • Important information that’s being released
  • Fundraising Updates
  • Discount code
  • Entertainment or performances
  • Videos, photos or mission moments
  • Giveaways

Just remember, fundraising in a virtual world doesn’t have to be daunting. Just follow these simple steps to create a program and experience that keeps them tuned-in and engaged with your cause.

Nonprofit Live Streaming Success Stories

Sometimes a little positive peer success helps you see how you too can go virtual. Check out those that have been there and done that with a live stream event.

How Interfaith Food Pantry Tapped Into The Power of Virtual Fundraising and Livestream


Interfaith Food Pantry used a variety of social media, livestreaming, virtual auction, and raffle tactics to drive a surge of support for their mission. Raising nearly $14,000 from their raffle and $33,000 with live donation appeals, their virtual campaign and event was a great success.

View Success Story



The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington raised over $150,000 and attracted 500+ livestream attendees to their multi-day virtual event! By incorporating a wide variety of virtual auction and engagement tactics, the organization surpassed all of their goals for the event.

View Success Story

How OneCause Created a Virtual Event and built community online


We decided to do something to help our local community during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also shaping the future of virtual fundraising.

Check out how we hosted used our own software to host our vaery own virtual event to raise 400% to goal for our hometown nonprofit, Second Helpings.

View Success Story

Wrapping Up

Although virtual fundraising has quickly become a new necessity for many nonprofits amid 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic, online-only campaigns and live stream events are a trend that’s here to stay.

Live streaming, accompanied with virtual fundraising software, is the perfect tool to engage with your guests virtually.

The benefits of flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and the ability to reach wide virtual audiences make these strategies a no-brainer for many organizations.

The world of fundraising has gone online and we can help! Request a consult today