In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, nonprofits everywhere are having to cancel their biggest revenue-generating events and take an entirely new approach to fundraise. As a nonprofit professional, you might be worried about the looming shortfalls in fundraising revenue and what that will mean for your organization.
While a lot is still up in the air when it comes to managing a nonprofit and getting things back on track, one thing is for sure—now is not the time to give up. In fact, there’s a lot that nonprofits can be doing at present to keep operations up and running amid the disruption.
One such idea is the implementation of virtual fundraising events. Nonprofit organizations have long understood the benefits of engaging supporters with fundraising events. Now, it’s just a matter of adjusting to the circumstances.
Whether you’re interested in transitioning an existing event into a virtual one, or starting from scratch planning an engaging online fundraiser, here are four of the best ways to capture your audience’s attention and boost registrations in no time:
- Plan unique and intriguing events.
- Connect with donors on an emotional level.
- Keep the momentum going with strategic communication.
- Raise the stakes with matching gifts.
Ready to get started? Let’s jump in.
1. Plan unique and intriguing events.
The best way to ensure a good turnout at your fundraising events, whether virtual or in-person, is to plan activities that your supporters will enjoy. Remember, not everyone likes the same types of events. To appeal to the highest possible number of participants, offer a diverse set of fundraising events.
Especially now, with the majority of the world’s population stuck inside for days on end, an appealing virtual event might be just what your supporters need!
Here are some of our favorite ideas to switch things up with virtual fundraising events:
- Virtual 5k: Although you can’t host a traditional 5k fundraiser right now, an adapted version can be a unique way for participants to get out of the house while raising money for a good cause. Simply encourage supporters to walk or run a set distance on their own and record their stats with a smartwatch or tracking app!
- Virtual auction: Both live and silent auctions are tried-and-true fundraising events for organizations everywhere. Now, you only have to take that auction to the virtual sphere! Collect items just like you usually would. Then, participants can bid online through a virtual auction catalog instead of at a physical location.
- Virtual gala: Hosting a gala can be a great way to engage with supporters who are looking for a reason to get spruced up, even if it’s just for a live-streamed event. But of course, the great part about a virtual gala is that attendees are also able to participate without dressing up at all!
Consider integrating your virtual event with a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign for even better results. This way, you can easily expand your network of support and reach a wider audience with the help of your dedicated volunteer fundraisers.
2. Connect with donors on an emotional level.
Not only should you focus on the appeal of the event itself, but also that of your organization as a whole. A great way to maintain that appeal is through building emotional connections with supporters.
With a looming recession ahead of us, you might be expecting significant drops in fundraising revenue during this time. That’s why it’s so important to emphasize donor retention.
Here are four simple tips to follow to strengthen donor relationships and convey the importance of each and every gift:
- Share success stories.
- Use pictures to illustrate impact.
- Emphasize the importance of donors’ continued support.
- Show your appreciation.
Remember, it’s more important to stay emotionally in-touch with donors during a pandemic than ever before. Many of your organization’s key supporters have likely been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis— whether medically or economically.
In other words, donors’ budgets are likely tight during this time. That means you’ll need to effectively demonstrate the purpose behind your mission and the emotional significance of each donation if you want to capture their attention and secure their support fully.
3. Keep the momentum going with strategic communication.
An essential aspect of planning and hosting a virtual fundraising event is the virtual outreach that precedes it. This effort is how supporters all over the world can hear about your upcoming event and decide to attend.
Thanks to effective digital marketing and communications tools, it’s easier than ever to get your message out into the world. However, this technology also introduces new issues having to do with breaking through the digital clutter and creating compelling messages that stand out.
Here are some of the best ways to boost your fundraising momentum and get your audience excited about your event:
- Send out targeted email blasts.
- Increase your social media presence.
- Be sure to remind attendees ahead of time.
- Keep your website up-to-date with event information.
Learn more about establishing a successful nonprofit digital strategy here, and then use your newfound knowledge to promote your upcoming virtual fundraising event!
4. Raise the stakes with matching gifts.
Did you know that many of your donors are eligible to have their gifts matched through corporate giving programs by their employers? And yet many eligible donors don’t know about these programs and how to take advantage of the opportunities!
Studies show that when donors know their gift gets matched, 84% report that they’d be much more likely to donate, and 1 in 3 donors suggests they’d make a larger donation. That’s because donors get the joy of knowing their gift is making twice the impact without having to reach back into their wallets.
Consider taking your fundraising event to the next level by leveraging the power of matching gifts. Encourage donors to quickly and easily search their employer in a matching gift database to find out whether they’re eligible!
For more information on how to leverage corporate philanthropy and matching gift programs with your organization’s events, see this comprehensive guide.
A critical characteristic of successful nonprofit organizations is the ability to adapt, and the current social and economic constraints are testing it. By bringing your best fundraising events to the virtual sphere, you can increase your reach and receive support from all over the world.
For more inspiration, check out our extensive guide of unique and exciting fundraising ideas to get started. Good luck!
Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE) and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations.