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Whether it’s a part of a planned attempt to grow online, or in reaction to an unforeseen change to a live event—nonprofits need a plan to expand fundraising virtually.
Virtual fundraising events come in many shapes and sizes—and their fundraising flexibility enables nonprofits to customize a launch virtual events that fit your particular needs. You know your donor landscape like the back of your hand, so read this guide and find the virtual mold that fits your mission and community best!
This blog gives you the essentials of everything you need to know to plan and organize a virtual fundraiser. We will cover:
Let’s do it!
Virtual fundraising may seem like a whole new world, but the good news is, the core of what you do stays the same. Tweaks will be made to optimize your online programming, gamify your event to drive virtual engagement, and increase social interaction. But you don’t need to recreate the fundraising wheel.
Setting goals, planning your strategy, gathering a team, executing the event, and analyzing the campaign is all the same in the virtual world—it may just take learning some new techniques!
Let’s lay down the basics of virtual fundraising events so you can expand your reach online.
A virtual fundraising event is an online event that incorporates fundraising tools & fun—typically with fundraising technology, livestreaming, and video—without a physical event space.
They can replace galas, walk-a-thons, races, conferences, and really any type of traditional in-person fundraising event.
Compared to an in-person fundraiser, you should expect to:
With COVID-19 affecting fundraising as we knew it, it can feel like virtual fundraising came out of nowhere. But that’s not true!
Virtual fundraising strategies were growing in popularity before COVID-19. With key donor demographics predominantly online, fundraisers across the country had been moving online, to diversify their fundraising and reach new donors.
And we believe they’ll continue to be relevant and popular even after we return to a more “normal” fundraising landscape.
To keep pushing the fundraising needle forward, let’s chat about virtual fundraising event ideas and best practices.
6 Best Virtual Fundraising Event Ideas
Like we said earlier, one virtual fundraising event may not fit the needs of another. So it’s important to understand what options you have for virtual fundraising, to get the best fit for your organization.
Let’s walk through 6 types of virtual fundraising events. Each enables you to reach and engage donors online, and provide slightly different online fundraising tactics.
Online auctions are essentially digital silent auctions. To run an online auction, nonprofits use either mobile bidding or a charity auction software to engage supporters. The 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, the chance to walk away with an amazing items and support a great cause will still spur giving!
Because they’re completely digital, online auctions are cost-effective to plan and can be opened up to remote supporters, increasing fundraising potential and ROI.
Many nonprofits are moving their galas, auctions, and fundraising events online. Taking your silent auction or fund-a-need mission moment virtual is easy. Promote, engage, and reach a wider audience with a virtual fundraising event or appeal.
We’ve picked out a few favorite samples to help you generate ideas and see how you to can create an online Giving Center.
ONLINE AUCTIONS & APPEALS
Click on an image below.
Our virtual fundraising event delivered what we wanted for our in-person event. Our development team is a team of two. Anybody can go online! – Trina Sletto, Minnesota Independence College And Community
In this time of unprecedented change, large gatherings aren’t possible, nonprofits have to find new ways to fundraise in a 100% virtual world.
This isn’t new for peer-to-peer. As any nonprofit team that has executed a peer-to-peer event knows, much of the fundraising occurs online before the event anyway! But when it comes to virtual fundraising, your team must rely heavily on digital promotion and social networks to create reach and hit goals.
Another big advantage peer-to-peer virtual fundraising is that the fundraising is done by your supporters, meaning it takes the direct ask and lift off of your nonprofit.
That means getting the word out on your virtual fundraising is critical to success! If done right, it can give your nonprofit the chance to try creative and innovative strategies to find new donors and hit big goals.
These campaigns are uniquely time-bound online giving campaigns that leverage social and peer networks to raise money. They rely on peer-to-peer fundraising to raise money virtually.
You can execute these by conveniently having your campaign all in one place:
VIRTUAL PEER-TO-PEER EVENTS
Many groups have converted their traditional run, walk, and rides virtual – and the ideas are endless.
With OneCause Peer-to-Peer software, we can continue to grow our event and be a positive influence in the community. We’re giving people a chance to see how their support makes a difference. It’s the human element – the personal connection – that keeps donors engaged. – Prentiss Douthit, Executive Director, HRCA
Empower supporters to fundraise their way by creating engaging challenges and campaigns that amplify giving for your cause.
Personal challenges are when individuals raise funds on their own to benefit a charity, and at the end of the campaign period they take on a challenge of some sort – such as running a marathon barefoot or walking across an entire state.
In the last few years, the challenge bucket of peer-to-peer has become more and more popular thanks to the growth of social media and digital platforms.
Challenges like this require participants to spin up individual peer-to-peer fundraising pages that are shareable across social media platforms, and reshared with peer networks.
This form of fundraising is a great approach for individuals, social groups, teams and families, who come together to raise funds on behalf of meaningful causes and community efforts. Nonprofit organizations turn to peer-to-peer fundraising to get more people involved, raise the profile of an event or activity and increase reach online.
Bringing a group of people together for a good cause develops relationships, offers those involved a chance to give back and releases great creative energy to help non-profits who are always in need of assistance.
Some of the more successful challenges have included things like beard or mustache growing over an extended period of time, or maybe even be connected to an athletic competition, like a hole-in-one contest.
There are many other special events to consider, such as:
VIRTUAL CHALLENGES & DIY CAMPAIGNS
Check out how other nonprofits are creating unique, engaging online fundraising challenges and Do-it-Yourself fundraising.
To check out their site firsthand, click on an image below.
OneCause has made it easy to customize and personalize giving pages… we were able to drive more year-round engagement from supporters and reach a whole new group of donors with social media sharing. – Jacquie Benestante, Autism Society of Texas
Virtual conferences can be a great way of gathering industry thought leaders to network and collaborate—using a videoconferencing solution.
They can be simple, like a webinar, or more complex and include multiple speakers, sessions, and entertainment.
Combine a great speaker line up, secured sponsorships, intriguing sessions, and networking opportunities with some technology—and you have yourself a virtual conference.
Check out our guide to virtual conferences and events.
Some of the benefits of going virtual with your conference include:
The OneCause Mobile Bidding solution has hosted numerous conferences in the past, including the 2019 Epilepsy Foundation Oregon Portland Conference. Check out how they used their Giving Center to optimize their conference—all they needed was a videoconferencing solution to make it virtual!
OneCause is even hosting the first Virtual Raise Conference! It will combine the high-quality, industry leading content, fundraising innovation, and networking opportunities Raise is best known for—not to mention free registration. Register here!
Launch an annual appeal or create unique online giving moments. Raise more for your cause and drive stronger engagement with online donations and giving campaigns. Perfect for direct appeals, giving days, or awareness fundraising.
Online donation campaigns can be done one of two ways:
If it is within your fundraising bandwidth, #2 will most likely get the most engagement from your donor base. The fast-paced nature of donation appeals provides instant results, creating a sense of urgency and friendly competition that keeps donors’ attention.
Just like in in-person events, your virtual live appeal should be a direct donation request to your supporters for a specific reason with a specific financial goal. If you have always done them in the past with raised paddles, donors will embrace the simple and logical change to confirm their bid via smartphone/desktop.
Virtual appeals work best when they include:
When it’s time, close the appeal – and punctuate the entire evening on a positive note – with an announcement of the winner’s name and a round of applause for all participation. Emphasize the funds raised, the generosity of the supporters and, most importantly, the mission.
We’ve picked out a few favorite samples to help you generate ideas and see how you to can create an online donation campaign.
The Key to Success was really easy, user-friendly software that made it simple for us and for board members to set up, and for people grandparents, friends, and co-workers to quickly give a $5, $10, $20 or higher donation. – Shedd Aquarium
If you’re looking to host a fundraising event that’s a little more unique than your average peer-to-peer 5k Run, try hosting a concert!
We know what you’re thinking, big rock stars? There’s no way that’s in the budget. But don’t worry, you won’t have to throw down too much money to throw this stellar event. With the help of local artists and their networks and your own, this event will be easy—and a lot of fun—to pull off.
A charity concert is mutually beneficial for both your organization and the artists performing! While you’ll raise funds, the artist will gain exposure. While your event will help promote your cause, it’ll also help your artists promote their music and themselves.
To enhance the audience’s experience, make sure you have the right lighting and sound equipment to the best of your ability. Even if you have to invest in some, the cost-effective budget of a virtual fundraising event may leave you some wiggle room.
An event like this is a win-win. Plus, you can encourage additional donations by hosting a text giving campaign, an auction, or turn the concert into a peer-to-peer competition in conjunction with your concert!
Check out how these OneCause customers put on a night of entertainment, including concerts, with huge success:
7 Tips for Hosting a Stellar Virtual Fundraising Event
The move to online giving opens up more possibilities for nonprofits: new donors, remote supporters and longer fundraising options. But many fundraisers are still grappling with how to not only move their fundraising online but thrive in a virtual world!
Let’s break it down into 7 tips to get you unfrozen and on your way to virtual fundraising success.
Before jumping in, take some time to evaluate the pros and cons of taking your fundraising virtual. This is an important step to complete solo or with your team, as your first step in your due diligence.
The cons to virtual fundraising events aren’t road blockers, they just require some creativity and unique approaches to fundraising.
Once you’ve decided to undertake a virtual fundraising event, it’s time to set goals & a budget.
Once you identify your budget, the next step to prepping for the virtual world is to invest in the technology to connect your donors to a seamless giving experience: a virtual event fundraising platform.
Whether your virtual fundraising event is a part of an in-person event or an entirely virtual campaign, you’ll want powerful technology to support your powerful fundraising efforts.
For your donors, the giving experience plays a large factor in turning one-time donors into lifetime supporters. If your donors can give easily, they’re more likely to have a favorable opinion of your nonprofit and engage in the future.
Make sure you have the right software to manage your online fundraising event. Without the right tools, you’ll risk losing out on your donors’ support.
Your online fundraising software will be the central location for your virtual fundraiser, so choose wisely!
There are three types of software that are ideal for virtual fundraising, peer-to-peer technology, online fundraising software and mobile bidding with online auction capabilities.
Here are 10 important features to look for in your virtual and online fundraising software:
Be sure to look for these features in any software you consider.
Want to see the OneCause difference? Take a tour of the OneCause Virtual Fundraising Software and see if it can help your mission reach new heights.
When shifting to virtual, its best to know and execute best practices in a virtual world.
OneCause provides virtual event services to those wanting support for their virtual fundraising event. They range from pre-event consulting to day-of virtual event support.
Talk with your team and determine if you would want or need virtual event support! These services include:
Everything you need to go online with confidence and achieve your goals. We’re here to help!
In the world of virtual fundraising, reaching people, captivating attention and inspiring them to give is key to event success. Leveraging diverse virtual event strategies can differentiate you and make your mission stand out.
For example, leverage Ambassadors to carry forward your cause in the virtual space. Think about your most loyal supporters, volunteers, donors and staff and make them Ambassadors.
Another tactic to keep your supporters engaged in fundraising is to utilize incentives. Incentives are a great way to give your fundraisers a little acknowledgement for their hard work. Every time they pass a milestone, reward them a different perk.
For instance, if a fundraiser raises a certain amount for your nonprofit, they might receive a badge, swag, special experience.
This tip goes for both your peer-to-peer fundraisers as well as the people who donate to your campaign.
Setting up fundraising perks can motivate participants and increase your virtual fundraising success.
Check out how Well Aware uses incentives and online rewards to drive campaign success.
Text Messages are also key to engagement during your virtual event fundraiser. Who doesn’t have their phone on them at all times now-a-days?
Through your fundraising platform, you should be able to collect cell phone numbers of your guests through registration. Make sure to:
The ideas are endless for how you can use social media, texting tools, and incentives to grab attention, increase engagement and ensure fundraising success!
To prevent the “peer-to-peer slump,” turn your campaign into a competition. With bragging rights at stake, your participants are more motivated to stay engaged until they reach (or exceed) their goal.
Easy strategies to gamify your campaign include:
Remember that part of keeping donors motivated is interacting with them. Keep people updated on the top fundraisers and stoke the competitive fire with fun and regular progress updates.
Today’s consumers are incredibly philanthropic-minded. In fact, consumers are more likely to be satisfied with a brand if they know the brand is socially oriented. This trend highlights great opportunities for nonprofits and charitable organizations, as they look to bring in more corporate sponsors.
When hosting a virtual event fundraiser, make sure to communicate the benefits and perks of sponsorships in the virtual world. The biggest message to communicate is the brand visibility the sponsor will receive during a virtual event via your fundraising software and in your other promotion channels (social media, website, email, etc.).
With increased reach online, sponsors’ donations will be well worth the while. Communicate to your sponsors the benefits of their brand in the virtual world. You can:
It doesn’t even have to be a large sum of money from sponsors (even though that would be great!) Get creative and work with corporations to see if they can:
Promoting your upcoming online event is essential for success. Having the right audience can propel your organization above and beyond its fundraising goals and invigorate those working towards your mission.
Today’s social fundraisers want to be connected to your cause, receive timely information and be inspired to give through your mission messaging.
Your main goal is to drive traffic to your fundraising website. With virtual fundraising technology, your supporters will easily be able to buy tickets, browse auction items, and begin setting up their bidder profile.
Get your supporters onto your site and into the fundraising groove by taking these essential steps to promoting your auction:
Make sure your donors are counting down the days until your virtual fundraising event by building the suspense! When promoting your event, give guests a taste of what amazing things you have in store to get them anxiously awaiting your event.
The day of the virtual fundraiser has come, and it’s time to open the fundraising.
Once your virtual fundraising event has officially been launched, make sure you optimize your donor communication for the best engagement. You should:
One of the best parts about having all of your donor data in one central location is how easy post-event follow-up can be. After your event concludes, recognize your stand-out donors for the key role they played in making it a smashing success!
Make sure your follow-up has these three key elements:
We understand that after a virtual fundraising event is over, it’s easy to want to take a deep breath and say, “All done!” That is why OneCause fundraising software automates the thank you process for you.
Two of the most powerful words in the nonprofit industry: thank you. Thanking your donors for their support is how you cultivate better relationships with your supporters and keep them engaged with your mission.
But don’t forget that you should follow up with a more personalized thank you within 48 hours after the donation! Think of these thank you tactics:
The reality is, fundraising has changed because of the pandemic. More nonprofits than ever are turning to virtual fundraising events.
BUT—it is for the better! We need to adopt what we’re learning in this virtual reality and integrate it into our annual fundraising efforts to continue fulfilling the missions across the country to the best of our ability.
For more resources on online fundraising, head to our Virtual Fundraising Resource Center to learn about best practices, tips, and success stories from nonprofits that made the shift to virtual.
Diving head first into the world of virtual fundraising is scary when all you’ve done in the past is traditional in-person fundraising. It’s easier to gain the courage of making the leap when you see others have executed it (with success).
We’ve compiled some of our top OneCause Success Stories to spark online fundraising inspiration.
Relentless in their pursuit of helping children living in poverty in Southeastern Virginia, ForKids took their 19th Annual Art Auction virtual, fast. Check out their virtual fundraising success story!
For more than 20 years, The Hill Country Ride for AIDS (HCRA) has been an iconic on-the-ground fundraising event in Texas. Rather than cancel the 2020 ride and disrupt critical funding for many local health organizations, the team decide to take “the ride” virtual. Read how they made it happen below!
Tennessee Kidney Foundation’s annual black-tie gala attracts of 500-600 attendees and is a vital funding source for their mission. Due to COVID-19, the team decided to keep fundraising and turned their gala into a One Virtual Night Only fundraiser! By going virtual, this nonprofit was not only able to keep fundraising, but open up their mission to a wider audience via social media reach. Read more about their event in this OneCause Success Story.
Just can’t stop learning about virtual fundraising? We’ve got your back. Here are some more resources to perfect your next virtual event: