In an effort to adapt to today’s event landscape while also raising funds for hospital workers and frontline staff, we produced a virtual fundraising concert for our longstanding partner, National Jewish Health – the #1 respiratory hospital in the world. Our virtual fundraiser featured national acts and had thousands of people tune in from over 56 countries. Read more about the step-by-step process of hosting a virtual benefit concert online from Imprint Director of Accounts, Franny Starkey.
I was listening to a webinar with two panelists from major non-profits that serve communities across the country and was particularly struck by a common phrase one of the panelists mentioned was nomenclature in her organization. She referred to “blue sky” and “gray sky” fundraising. The work an organization does year-round to raise dollars when the need isn’t urgent is referred to as “blue sky” and when disaster strikes the organization’s efforts turn to “grey sky” fundraising.
But what if your organization’s work can’t solve the grey sky, but you’re still affected by it? How do you make sure your cause is still relevant and therefore your funding flow doesn’t dry up? Nonprofits and associations are wrestling with this question as benefits, galas, and fundraising events across the country cancel and the nation’s focus turns, rightly, to support our essential workers and organizations helping to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
While online fundraising has always been a critical aspect of any development plan, pivoting to virtual fundraising events is an imperative new focus for planners. Events are a critical tool for nonprofit organizations – they help raise money, yes, but also raise the organization’s profile and bring people together to connect and learn critical information about the state of the foundation. These events become emotional because of the critical need that is being highlighted or the incredible stories that are shared.
How does that emotional pull, that helps to raise the necessary funds from the event, manifest in a virtual setting?
First, what are the advantages of hosting a virtual fundraising event?
- Overhead cost is much lower so profit margin increases. Production for virtual is much less than hosting a physical event.
- Participation can be expanded – there are no capacity issues online.
- Benefits for sponsors can be extended through additional marketing and the length of the event’s archival online.
- Talent and entertainment options are limitless – prerecorded content makes scheduling issues easy! Mobile and online bidding platforms already exist and are in wide use, easy to integrate them into most virtual event platforms.
Given some of these key advantages, how can a planner create that all-important human element online and inspire viewers to give:
- Utilize incredible talent that’s more accessible than ever. National acts and major speakers have significantly reduced their rates for virtual engagements and scheduling issues are easily resolved because content can be prerecorded and presented “live.”
- Use the time spent on producing the event on personalizing the invitation and messaging throughout.
- Consider spending some of those saved budget dollars on delivering customized thank you gifts in advance or following the event.
- Create unifying moments throughout the virtual experience to create a sense of community around your cause. These could be as simple as everyone lighting a candle together at once to everyone delivering a simple message in unison.
So, like with every question we keep getting around what’s possible with virtual events, the answer is YES – virtual fundraising events can work and be meaningful! Where do you start planning? Here are some important considerations:
- What digital platform is best for your event?
- What online bidding platform is best for your chosen event platform?
- How many viewers do you anticipate?
- Will you charge to attend or just solicit funds live?
- What’s included in your program? Keep it to 60 minutes or less.
- What entertainment is featured? Consider the legality around music streaming online.
- What interaction from the viewers is important to the event?
- How can sponsors be highlighted in a virtual setting?