Virtual events were supposed to be a short-term replacement for traditional fundraisers. But, almost two years after the first COVID-19 lockdowns, plenty of nonprofits still rely on them. The good news is that some overall best practices have emerged from the pandemic. Here are some ways your nonprofit can make the most of your next virtual event.
1. Prioritize donations over registration revenues
Even the best-run virtual event can’t duplicate the glitz and glamour of, say, an annual ball. Moreover, the costs of virtual events are far lower. The ticket price, if any, should reflect these realities. That doesn’t mean the revenue opportunities necessarily have to suffer, though.
By offering an affordable admission fee, you can encourage greater overall generosity. For example, you may attract people who would normally be turned off by a high admission fee but are willing to pay a lower fee and then make donations on top of that. Your registration should include the option to obtain certain perks for an additional donation, anything from branded merchandise or early access to an online auction catalog to exclusive panel discussions.
2. Revamp your format
Attendees likely will be sitting in front of a computer or phone in solitude during the event. Many people are “Zoomed-out” at this point, and their attention spans are shorter. So single sessions shouldn’t run more than an hour, including audience Q-and-As, and you should provide intermissions between sessions, if applicable. You also might consider holding a series of virtual events, rather than a one-time, multi-session event. One potential benefit? Higher sponsor interest.
Whether you go with a one-time event or a series of sessions, consider using breakout sessions to connect with your attendees. The networking and connections that happen in smaller groups at in-person fundraisers can take place in chat rooms, too. Digital breakouts let people get to know each other and share ideas, while also preempting potential tedium.
3. Don’t neglect tech
We’ve all heard about or experienced some virtual meeting “fails” by now. You get audio but no video, video or sound of horrible quality, attendees dropping in and out, or similar snafus.
As the event organizer, you need to invest in top-notch technology. Cameras, microphones and streaming software designed for live streaming are essential. Provide remote speakers and moderators with tip sheets that explain everything they need to know about camera setup, lighting, sound and how to access the event. A “dress rehearsal” is always advisable.
4. Opportunities don’t end with the event
The conclusion of the live event isn’t the end of opportunities. Of course, you always should follow up with attendees afterward. But the feedback on what worked for them and what didn’t is especially valuable for novel situations such as virtual events. You also can give attendees a limited window of time to view the event again, with a link on the screen enabling further donations.
Event recordings can be leveraged to generate additional interest, too. Posting video clips or recaps can draw in even more people. The ongoing exposure will make sponsors happy and could result in more donations.
Here to stay
Virtual events will probably remain a part of fundraising efforts for many nonprofits long after things “return to normal.” The practices outlined above can help you maximize your results and avoid common pitfalls.