Tips for planning a successful virtual fundraiser

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Greenough Brand Storytellers
November 10, 2021

2020 has upended how we do almost everything. One major impact has been on how nonprofit organizations raise funds. In-person fundraising events such as galas, 5Ks and other socially-oriented events are no longer possible.

Greenough Brand Storytellers has been advising its clients on how best to shift fundraising events to virtual gatherings or socially distant meetups. Below are a few best practices that nonprofit organizations can use as they consider their fundraising events for 2020.

Suggestions for a successful virtual fundraiser:

  1. Make it authentic: Try to stay as true as possible to the theme and vibe of the actual event as you can in the virtual event.
  2. Break traditions if it doesn’t serve your goal: If you’ve done something in the in-person event because that is the tradition, but it doesn’t feel right for the virtual version, don’t stay married to it.
  3. Innovate: Per #2, if there is a way to make something better, do it!
  4. Test everything: Trying out a new idea? Test it among a focus group. Using new technology? Test it again and again until you know it works.
  5. Keep it succinct: Our digital attention span is very short, so introductions, speeches and transitions should be concise.
  6. Reach for a speaker: Because speakers no longer have to travel for events and because of the state of the world, many “celebrity” speakers are more willing to participate in local events.
  7. Air it live: If possible, the best events are those that are live and not fully prerecorded (although pre-recorded elements are welcome)
  8. Make it interactive: For example, give an on-screen shout out to all participants. Knowing that there are people around the world tuning in to this event, acknowledge everyone on screen collectively by opening up the zoom portal for everyone to see who is on briefly (~30 seconds). Additionally, having a chat function or hosting intermittent survey questions is a nice way to keep people engaged.
  9. Send gifts to participants: Just as they would for an in-person event, mail gifts to each participant’s home so that there is a common connection and a positive feeling felt toward the organization.
  10. Have a robust social media strategy leading up to the virtual event: The most successful virtual events leverage the power of social media in the weeks leading up to the event to create a call-to-action and support the organization. Encourage participants to post their viewing parties and tag the organization and use a special hashtag.
  11. Create a call to action: The event should end on a positive note with a call-to-action for all participants to support the organization.
  12. Focus: Do not try to do too much. Keep your event focused by limiting speakers. Stay on message and tie back to your organization’s mission and the goal at hand.
  13. Make it memorable: With so many events now virtual, think about what you can do to make your event memorable and stand out from all the others?

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