Gavin Newman, CEO of iVent, shares his advice for staging online fundraisers
Over the past two years, virtual fundraising events have become the “go to” solution to ensure that non-profit organisations are able to maintain donations as Covid hit the world. With fewer people attending events in-person, these activities have moved successfully online, which allows the community to still come together to support a specific cause.
And there’s no sign of them stopping any time soon despite physical events returning slowly.
Virtual fundraising events bring an array of benefits such as offering greater accessibility to geographically dispersed attendees. They boost convenience for both those giving and for those receiving, which is why this shift to an online space is set to stay.
However, for any non-profit to be successful, they must understand how to turn these virtual events into an engaging and interactive experience. Unlike other virtual events, you’re asking people to not only donate their time, but also their money.
As a result, your event needs to encourage people to invest otherwise you’re going to be left behind. There’s lots of non-profit organisations that are asking for donations, so why should people choose you?
Through careful planning and a strong event management strategy, you can ensure you’re engaging donors and maintaining revenue and that’s without mentioning the importance of choosing the right virtual event platform, as this forms the basis for any such campaign. You must have an experienced virtual event expert involved to create a successful experience.
My company, iVent delivered a charity event for Teenage Cancer Trust in 2020 when these sorts of events really took off and it was phenomenally successful mainly due to some very clever ideas on engagement and a well thought-out plan. I was really surprised at how successful it was if I’m honest. We delivered a three-course meal to the participants, sponsored of course, delivered a multi-performer pop concert and also a live auction so it really felt like a live event situation.
It was certainly easier trying to attract stars as they didn’t need to travel to the event and that was also true for the donors too as it took up less of their time. There were also significantly lower costs to the charity as there was no requirement for venue hire ,travel and other in person event costs.
In our experience having a great MC to host your event and the virtual live auction will definitely encourage donations, it is no different than having a great host on a TV show. A comedian/comedienne usually works very well as they are used to playing to a camera.
Gamifying any type of virtual event is a fantastic way to increase audience participation and sustain their engagement. Humans are competitive by nature and love to win. Use this to your advantage when planning your next virtual fundraising event and encourage donors to compete against one another.
With a virtual event environment you have a readymade solution that can manage many more of the elements of your event – it can for instance be used to house your online catalogue to generate interest way in advance for the auction items. Use the star/s of the show to deliver a 30-second teaser piece to camera to build excitement.
We find that mixing up the formats so it’s not just a case of attendees listening to one person on the screen is the best way to keep engagement high. Games in different rooms, meeting other event attendees in a fun space where it’s more than just a live chat widget (there are outstanding options currently) and generating that all important social energy through a packed programme culminating in the auction has been our secret to success.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking that because it’s virtual it will be boring and wont work. I will reiterate, get an experienced virtual event professional involved from the off. Apart from good technology that should be on your list of priorities when choosing the right platform.