How to Prepare for a Virtual Fundraising Event for the First Time

Are you looking to host your fundraising event in the middle of a pandemic? Or is your goal to attract donors from different parts of the world? Regardless of where you lie on this spectrum, hosting a virtual fundraising event could help fill the gaps in your business.


Virtual fundraisers don’t have the immediate appeal and interactivity of conventional face-to-face events. People can’t laugh, socialize, and contribute with as much ease as they are used to, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t match it. Thanks to advancements in technology, virtual events have become a walk in the park and an easy way to network.


In fact, advancements like gamification could easily keep donors engaged despite being worlds apart. The trick to a successful event lies in the kind of planning you put in place and the tools you leverage. Lucky for you, this post will help get you started with some amazing ideas to generate enough donations to fund your cause.

How to Prepare for a Virtual Fundraising Event for the First Time

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Why Host a Virtual Fundraising Event?

The seasonal nature of fundraising events makes it inadvisable to postpone them to later dates — until the pandemic is over, for instance. Postponing an event could easily push your event to the off-season, where you might not get the same amount of contributions as the in-season. Luckily, virtual events are flexible enough to help you circumvent most common setbacks. Some of their benefits include:


  • Convenience: You can design your virtual event in a way that matches the needs of your donors. For instance, you can spread the event over a number of days to align with the diverse donor schedules.
  • Wider Reach: While in-person events provide an unmatched interactive experience, they do restrict you to a specific number of donors due to travel requirements and event hall sizes. Virtual events will open your fundraising efforts to a whole new world of donors. Since you are no longer restricted to donors in specific locations, you can raise the roof on the final donation value.
  • Leveraging Data and Automation: Virtual fundraising apps and tools have been advancing rapidly to the point that they could automate common tasks. Want to thank a donor for their contribution? You can simply use automation tools via email to send out thank you notes immediately after a contribution. Since these tools also record data, you can easily track KPIs and learn how to improve future donations.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Hosting in-person events comes with a lot of overhead costs, which could easily reduce your ROI if not monitored. You need to pay for catering, signage, and venues, among other things. In comparison, donors won’t need to be in the same building for virtual events, cutting down most of these costs.


Most of these benefits extend beyond the pandemic. However, you can only perfect the art of hosting virtual fundraising events if you approach it in the right manner.


Five Virtual Fundraising Formats to Consider

There’s more than one format for hosting virtual fundraising events. The best option for your organization will depend on its intricate needs. For instance, video-conference-based events might work for one situation, while movie watch parties can be ideal for another. The trick is to increase engagement and make people feel like part of a community. If you are looking for ideas for your next virtual event, here are five ideas worth trying:


1. Peer-to-peer Fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising allows you to leverage the personal networks of your key supporters to reach your goals. Essentially, you will have to pick a few volunteers to help you out. These supporters will personalize and share their own fundraising pages online with their personal networks. This allows them to not only share their story in a way their network understands but also connect it to your cause.


The fact that people are highly likely to support a cause when it is suggested by someone in their circle will work in your favor. Besides, you also get to engage with your main supporters more with the promise of gaining more. Something as simple as having these supporters post about your cause on their social media profiles will go a long way.


2. Live Streaming

Live streaming your event can be a great way to increase engagement with a virtual audience, but it all depends on how you plan the event. There are multiple live streaming platforms you can use today, from Zoom to YouTube. Ensure that you create chances for engagement with your audience throughout the live streams. For instance, you can give them a chance to ask questions or raise concerns in the comment sections.


The fact that you will be doing it all online creates a lot of opportunities to add sponsors to your event too. You can add sponsors’ content as a backdrop, through links, or by giving them a chance to speak in the events. However, live streams need to be succinct and to the point, especially considering today’s shrinking attention span. Be sure to cut away all the fluff from the live stream.


3. Virtual Galas

Galas have been great tools for raising funds for a long time. You can move yours online with little hassle, thanks to modern fundraising tools. Peer-to-peer fundraising, live streams, and virtual auctions could all help make your event a success. The trick is to:


Have supporters share information about your event with their network.

  • Let employees share first-person stories about their experience working towards achieving your cause.
  • Share photos and videos of successful projects.


As for the virtual action, you can choose to either conduct a live bidding event or showcase all items and let attendants bid on them over a few hours. There is a diversity of apps and tools that can help make your silent bid a success.


4. Host a Virtual Race

How to Prepare for a Virtual Fundraising Event for the First Time

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Bikeathons, walks, and 5k runs are great at promoting a cause while also making attendants feel that they are part of a community. You don’t have to have your donors in the same location for such an event to be successful. Why not host a virtual race? Set a date for the virtual race for which people can either pay an entry fee or not.


Everyone will run, walk, or ride a bike in a location of their choice – they just have to share data on the number of miles they did. At the end of the event, have people post their records at a central platform where you can congratulate the leaders. Allowing people to chat on the same platform will increase engagement. You should also use the period at the end of the day to talk to the attendants and have people donate.


5. Host a Virtual Movie Night

Does your target donor demographic love movies? They shouldn’t have to watch them alone. Virtual movie nights could help you raise funds, especially among the Gen Z donors. With many online movie streaming and social media sites allowing watch parties, doing this can be easy. Even better, you can always have people chat in real-time for more engagement.


Start with Thorough Preparations

Virtual fundraisers aren’t something you can wake up and do in a single day. You need to plan every part of your fundraiser with an eye for detail and have a backup plan in place in the unfortunate situation that technology lets you down. From choosing the best tools to use to picking the best colors for digital art, every minor detail matters. For instance, you need to understand your target demographic. What might work for Gen Z donors might not have the same appeal to millennials or older generations.


If you are hosting a virtual auction, you will need to pick an ideal site, buy the relevant items, take photos, and pick starting bid prices. In the case of peer-to-peer lending, you will need to pick an ideal platform, choose supporters, and guide them towards personalizing and sharing their fundraising pages. Keep in mind that strategies that work for one organization might not work for yours – customize a fundraising process for your own organization.


Market the Event Wisely

Marketing plays a center-stage role in the success of your fundraising event. You need to create content and posts that engage with the target audience without having them wander off from your message. Ideally, you can share all types of content, including video, pictures, blog posts, and emails. Be sure to include information like:


  • The event date
  • Key speaker bios
  • Brief details about the event
  • Unique selling points
  • Sponsor information


While email newsletters are helpful in engaging existing supporters, social media can be instrumental in attracting new supporters if you avoid common mistakes. Start by creating eye-catching posts that will lead the audience back to the registration page. You can then have your key supporters share the posts with people in their network.


Gamify the Event

Gamification is a great way to increase donor engagement. Games tend to cause intrinsic motivation, which could help increase your donation volume. Ideally, donors will feel like they are competing among themselves. Some gamification elements will also make donors feel proud of what they have accomplished. The best gamification elements to add to your event will depend on your audience. Some great examples include:


  • Leadership boards – this will show donors leaders in the donation and motivate them to donate more
  • Badges – donors can get specific badges for achieving something like hitting a specific milestone or donating to your cause a couple of times
  • Donation thermometer – this will help donors track how much their donations are impacting the success of your cause
  • Countdown timers – these will create a sense of urgency for donors to make a bid or contribute to the cause


Measure and Adapt

The fact that KPI monitoring tools are a staple of virtual fundraising events makes it easy to track common metrics. Be sure to collect data about the successes and failures of your fundraising event. With the right assessment, you can come up with ways to further streamline and improve your fundraising event. Something as simple as an online survey could help you understand the parts where you missed the mark. Most importantly, be sure to apply these changes between fundraising events to increase success rates.



Katie Tejada is a writer, editor, and former HR professional. She often covers developments in HR, business communication, recruiting, real estate and finance, but also enjoys writing about travel, interiors and events.

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