The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a massive shift in the day-to-day operations of nonprofits across the globe. Social distancing guidelines have transformed everything, including the fundraising landscape.
As a fundraising professional, you've likely experienced these drastic changes yourself. While it may be easier said than done, it's important to not let it throw your efforts off track. Instead, you'll need to adapt to the circumstances in order to manage the crisis. Virtual fundraising events are a fantastic way to do this!
Maybe you're entirely new to the virtual fundraising landscape. Or, you're already experimenting with your digital strategy and are just in search of some fresh ideas. Either way, it's important to brush up on the best practices and develop an actionable strategy.
Ready to learn the ins-and-outs of a successful virtual fundraising event and get a few event ideas along the way? Let's jump in!
What is a Virtual Fundraising Event?
A virtual fundraiser is an event or campaign that takes place entirely online. It enables supporters to interact with your team and financially support your mission from anywhere, including from the comfort of their own homes.
Here's a brief look into some of the benefits that come with hosting virtual fundraising events:
- You can expand your audience beyond only people who can attend your events in person.
- They're incredibly convenient for supporters, especially if they take place over several days.
- They aren't as logistically complex as physical events, so they can be planned and executed quickly.
- There's very little overhead which makes them very cost-effective.
Just remember that these fundraisers are made possible by dedicated fundraising technology, so take time in choosing the right fit for your organization.
Virtual Fundraising Ideas
At the core of any successful campaign is a strong, compelling idea that appeals to your supporters' interests. Explore the following great virtual fundraising event ideas that can help your organization keep revenue flowing and supporters engaged despite social distancing guidelines.
Live and silent auctions have been an effective nonprofit fundraising method for years. Now, with intuitive virtual auction software and mobile bidding tools, you can move your live auctions to the virtual space quickly and seamlessly.
To get started, you'll need to select a platform to host your event. Leading up to your auction, you should plan it from end-to-end and actively market it to stir up excitement. Once the bidding window opens, bidders can browse and bid on open items.
For the best results, live stream during your event to spark motivation and better connect with your audience. The best tools will enable your guests to access your live video directly in the mobile bidding app or web interface.
No matter which approach you take, be sure to invest in the online auction software that best suits your needs, so you can streamline your event and allow bidders to access your auction from the comfort of their own homes. Some providers offer customizable packages, so you can tailor your plan. That way, you won't miss out on important features your team needs, but you also won't pay for extra features you'll never use.
Crowdfunding is a technique that enables organizations to harness the power of social sharing and personal networks. With these campaigns, you have one main campaign page that your donors, volunteers, and other advocates share with their family and friends online. By building a single, comprehensive fundraising page, you can funnel all prospects and eliminate the need to pursue each of them individually.
While anyone can host a crowdfunding campaign, mission-based organizations tend to find the most success. Because they tend to proactively employ effective crowdfunding best practices, the average amount a nonprofit crowdfunding campaign raises is $9,237, making it a wonderful fundraising opportunity for nonprofits.
By using a crowdfunding platform, you can get up and running quickly, so you can spend more time marketing your fundraiser and securing donations.
However, don't choose an online fundraising platform blindly. The place you choose to host your campaign should, without question, match the needs of your nonprofit. Once you've selected a platform you can trust, you can comfortably take the time to craft a compelling page that includes powerful imagery and captivating stories about your mission to drive donations.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a multi-tiered approach to crowdfunding. It empowers your supporters to raise money on behalf of a cause they care about. All you need to do is recruit a team of passionate volunteer fundraisers and encourage them to personalize and share their individual fundraising pages. These personal fundraising pages will enable them to express their stories and connect their own values to your mission.
Not only will you raise more funds, but you'll further supporters' engagement and grow their connection to your cause. Plus, peer-to-peer fundraising is a fantastic way to expand your supporter base because you'll be exposed to your volunteer fundraisers' personal networks. After all, individuals are much more likely to engage online if someone they trust is advocating for your cause. Even if they're unfamiliar with your work, they can still form a connection to your cause.
Explore some of our top peer-to-peer fundraising ideas to spark inspiration and put together a campaign that appeals to your unique network of supporters.
Nonprofits have hosted galas for quite a while now. Thanks to innovations in technology, you can now shift your galas online! Ideally, you should consider streaming video, hosting a virtual auction, and using a peer-to-peer approach to marketing.
Consider the following to set your virtual gala up for success:
- Encourage supporters to share your virtual fundraising event with friends and family.
- Have volunteers or staff members share firsthand stories about your work and its impact during the event.
- Share photos and videos highlighting the behind-the-scenes work your organization does.
- Sell products to boost revenue, such as apparel branded to your organization or snacks like cookie dough or popcorn.
As for the auction part of your virtual gala, you may choose to present items one at a time and do live bidding or present every item and give attendees a few hours to place their bids. Virtual auction software and mobile bidding tools make this possible by allowing guests to quickly bid on items.
Though you may think it'll be challenging to match the excitement of an in-person gala, many virtual galas exceed their expectations. All you need to do is get creative and cater it to your audience!
If you're searching for more fundraising ideas to try online, explore our list of top virtual fundraising event ideas. You'll find creative ideas that will engage your audience and drum up support for your cause—even during trying times.
Best Practices for Virtual Fundraising Events
Online fundraisers are undoubtedly a great option for nonprofits. How can you make the most of your virtual events, though? Let's take a look at some best practices to maximize results.
Planning a virtual fundraising event isn't something you can put off until the last minute. Just like any other fundraiser, you'll need to actively prepare for your virtual event well in advance.
Each event comes with a unique set of preparation steps. For instance, if you're hosting a virtual auction, you'll need to set up your event site, procure items, take photos, and determine starting bids among a handful of other things. If you're hosting a peer-to-peer fundraiser, you'll need to choose a dedicated platform, recruit volunteer fundraisers, and have them personalize and share their own fundraising pages.
No matter what virtual fundraising event you host, preparation is not something you can skip out on.
With whichever virtual fundraising event you host, effectively marketing it is essential for sparking interest and encouraging people to sign up. Start by creating an attention-grabbing event page that entices people to register. Keep people from wandering away by incorporating relevant videos and pictures in addition to essential details, such as:
- Time and date(s) of the virtual event
- An agenda
- Speaker bios
- Sponsor information
Then, share this page with your supporters. While emailing is great for spreading the word among your existing audience, you'll reach more prospects if you take to social media. Draft up an eye-catching post that links back to your registration page. Then, rely on your loyal supporters to share it with their family and friends.
Nothing sparks motivation quite like a little friendly competition. Gamification makes virtual fundraising events much easier to engage with supporters before, during, and after the actual event. Get creative and keep your audience in mind. Knowing what sparks their motivation is key here.
Thanks to professional-grade tools at affordable prices, any organization can add gamification to their virtual fundraising. Here are just a few options that might help drive participation:
- Leaderboards - Showcase your top volunteer fundraisers, donors, or bidders with leaderboards. Participants will be motivated to compete and claim the top spot.
- Fundraising Thermometers - With a visible tracker, donors are able to see the impact their donations are making—especially since thermometers automatically raise as donations flood in.
- Countdown Timers - With online events such as virtual auctions, it's a good idea to incorporate a countdown timer to create some buzz and encourage participants to submit their last-minute bids or donations.
The premise behind gamification is that users are motivated by the game dynamics and are highly likely to engage with the mechanics that appeal to them. Learn what works for your audience and refine your approach as you go.
One setback presented by virtual events is face-to-face interaction. However, live streaming resolves this issue altogether. When paired with an event, guests can attend and participate in your fundraiser from the comfort of their own homes and be just as engaged as they would at an in-person event.
Consider these ways you can incorporate video streaming into your next virtual fundraising event:
- Host a kickoff stream where you celebrate the launch of your campaign and amp up excitement.
- Feature videos throughout the campaign with important announcements and updates on progress to keep energy and motivation high.
- Stream during the event. Even if your virtual fundraiser doesn't need a face-to-face element, this extra element can go a long way in engaging your audience.
- Host a finale stream where you announce top bidders, fundraisers, and donors and ultimately celebrate your success.
Finally, use a live streaming system that incorporates both the video feed as well as a bidding or donation interface. Systems like Handbid Live allow this to happen seamlessly, letting bidders and donors to securely bid or donate while the live stream feed plays.
Do everything you can to match the level of interactivity that comes with in-person events.
How Can Virtual Fundraising Software Help?
At any point, disruptions of any kind can happen, so you'll need the ability to move your events online with only a moment's notice. Navigating the landscape can be challenging though—especially if you're new to the virtual fundraising sphere. Luckily, innovative technology simplifies the process and makes digital fundraising possible for organizations of all sizes!
Dedicated fundraising software like Handbid does all the behind-the-scenes work, so you can focus on spreading the word about your virtual fundraiser. Even with the current pandemic, your donors are still ready to support your cause. You just need to give them the tools to do so.
With Handbid on your side, here are a few of the features you'll gain access to that will help you grow your virtual fundraising events to new heights:
- Online auction software. Quickly set up our system, and plan your online auction from start to finish. Our fully-automated virtual auction software supports ticketing, registration, automated check-in, bidding, donations, payments, and item distribution. Virtual fundraising has never been easier!
- Mobile bidding apps. Users can engage wherever it's most convenient for them with our easy-to-use mobile bidding apps for Apple and Google OS. Your less tech-savvy supporters do not have to download an app and can instead easily participate using a web interface on their mobile phone, table, or computer!
- Live Streaming. Create that live stream auction experience for bidders and donors all from a single interface. Users can securely donate, and you can be assured that their information and identity is accurate.
- Peer-to-peer fundraising and crowdfunding tools. Expand beyond auctions through our interactive peer-to-peer and crowdfunding tools. Built with our attention to quality and user experience in mind, you can easily reach constituents and secure their support. Plus, our user-friendly manager interface makes it easy to get up and running with your next virtual fundraiser!
- Gamification. Provide fun and interactive ways to fundraise online with our gamification tools. Use donation thermometers and spark some friendly competition with leaderboards showing top fundraisers and top teams. Then, get creative by using our unique puzzle project that shows your mission coming alive. Donors will love seeing the difference they're making!
Whether you're looking to host an engaging online auction, peer-to-peer fundraiser, or crowdfunding campaign, Handbid's got you covered—both now and beyond the pandemic.
Take your fundraising online with Handbid's software. See how our tools can help you maximize revenue and engagement with your virtual fundraising events and provide long-term value for your team!
With each passing day, more fundraising events are being moved online. With the exploding popularity (and necessity!) of online fundraising, this approach has quickly become a staple of successful nonprofit fundraising, and it's not hard to see why.
While nonprofits have been experimenting with virtual fundraising events for a while, interest has been surging due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting social distancing guidelines. It's convenient for both nonprofits and donors, and shifting your efforts to the digital space enables advocates to continue supporting your cause despite these regulations.
Not only will incorporating virtual fundraising events into your strategy lead your organization through this crisis, but this will also set your team up for long-term success.
The fundraising landscape has rapidly shifted, especially in light of the recent pandemic. Make sure you're on top of it and able to sustain operations using the engaging fundraising tactics covered in this article.
To continue your research and set your virtual fundraising events up for success, check out these helpful resources:
- COVID-19 Online Fundraising Resource Center. We've assembled a resource center to help your organization get on a path for moving forward. Explore these helpful webinars, podcasts, resource guides, and more for guidance and inspiration.
- Nonprofit Auction Software: Best Practices and Top Providers. In this guide, learn how nonprofit auction software can help you maximize your fundraising and sustain operations—both during and after the pandemic.
- 20 Virtual Fundraising Ideas During COVID-19. Just because your event is online doesn't mean it has to be less engaging. Spark inspiration for your next virtual fundraising event with this list of interactive ideas.