Was your event canceled or postponed due to COVID-19? Are you looking for a more engaging way to raise money online during these times of social isolation? Have you already decided to go virtual but don’t know which platform(s) to use?
If that’s you, here are seven easy steps every nonprofit can take right now to move any event to virtual:
- Step 1: Choose the format
- Step 2: Select a platform
- Step 3: Plan
- Step 4: Promote
- Step 5: Rehearse
- Step 6: Go live!
- Step 7: Follow up
Step 1: Choose the best format for your virtual fundraising event.
Before we jump in, let’s start with some simple definitions. When thinking about “going virtual” with your event or fundraiser, there are two main options to choose from:
1. Live stream event: A digital event hosted online. Just like physical events, live stream events can include ticketing, registration, and donations before, during, and after the event itself.
- Perfect for: recreating a live event experience, such as a gala, auction, day of service, or even a dance marathon!
2. Fundraising campaign: A time-limited online fundraiser hosted on a campaign landing page.
- Perfect for: a wide range of use cases, including telethons, peer-to-peer, DIY events (a-thons), and birthday fundraisers.
Depending on your goals, you may even want to incorporate elements of both! And why wouldn’t you? Fundraising campaigns are highly effective. When thinking about whether or not you should live stream your event, consider this:
- U.S. adults spend nearly 6 hours per day watching video content
- Live videos are viewed 10 to 20 times longer than pre-recorded video content
- Video content is 39% more likely to be shared compared to other mediums
At Givebutter, we call these kinds of events “Live stream fundraising events” because they combine the best of real-time events with the power of an online fundraising campaign.
Once you’ve settled on the format for your virtual event, it’s time to choose a platform.
Step 2: Select a streaming platform.
You may have decided that all your event needs is a fundraising campaign, in which case all you have to do is set up a fundraising page, follow best practices, and you’re ready to go! But assuming you’ve decided to move forward with a live stream component for your virtual event, there are three types of virtual event gateways that you will need to consider:
- Free (public) – Tickets are optional or non-existent. A URL link is shared publicly.
- Honor system (semi-private) – Relies on an unlisted URL sent after registration. This URL can technically be shared with anyone, so you can’t guarantee a URL is only being used by those who register or pay
- Pay-per-view (private) – Involves some form of authentication to ensure tickets can only be redeemed once. This is the most complex and expensive option to set up.
If you are repositioning your physical event as a digital event, you may be inclined to think a private digital event is the best way to go. After all, this is likely how your in-person event was going to work! Individuals pay for tickets and receive as many tickets as they pay for, but their ticket can’t be shared. However, while it might seem counterintuitive, making your event pay-per-view could be a huge mistake. In a world where you are competing against the latest Netflix or Disney+ show for your supporter’s digital attention, a paywall is the last thing you want to have.
As a general rule of thumb, virtual fundraising events should always be public or semi-private. Not only are free virtual events typically much simpler and less expensive to set up than private virtual events, but it will enable you to achieve a far superior reach, opening you up to a whole new set of donors. Combining the two can be a very powerful force for digital giving.
Taking this into consideration, here are five excellent platforms you can use to live stream your event:
- Facebook Live (free) – Facebook is the easiest platform for live stream beginners. In a matter of minutes, any individual or organization with a Facebook account can log in and start streaming.
- YouTube Live (free) – YouTube Live is very similar to Facebook Live, however, it is generally considered to be more agnostic as a social media platform since no account is required to view its content. When it comes to streaming, the only major difference in terms of ease of use is the 24-hour window that YouTube occasionally requires for account verification. So, be sure to test out the platform well in advance!
- Zoom (free+) – Zoom has taken the world by storm with its high-quality video conferencing, webinar, and event streaming software. Perhaps the best feature of Zoom is one of the least well-known. You can stream Zoom directly to YouTube Live and Facebook Live without any additional technology, fees, or overhead required. In terms of functionality, flexibility, reliability, and affordability, Zoom provides by far the best experience for live streaming. Zoom offers a fairly robust free tier (plus discounts for education during COVID-19), and paid plans start at $14.99/mo.
- Vimeo (paid) – Experienced digital event organizers turn to Vimeo for their state-of-the-art live event broadcasting software. Vimeo users can send live video broadcasts to many different streaming platforms simultaneously and take advantage of their state-of-the-art, studio-like experience built for more advanced use cases. Plans start at $75/mo.
- Twitch (free) – Does your event involve video gaming or e-sports? Twitch is a massive live streaming platform for games of all kinds, and its 140 million monthly unique viewers have helped raise over $130 million for charity since 2011. One such bi-annual event, dubbed Games Done Quick, has raised over $22 million on the platform. While Twitch is a relatively niche platform for nonprofit virtual events, it’s certainly one you should keep on your radar.
Step 3: Plan event logistics.
Planning live event logistics isn’t unlike planning for in-person events. You’ll still need a budget, timeline, goals, platform, equipment, a website landing page for registration/donations, and so on. On the other hand, you can nix all of the additional expenses like the venue, decorations, flowers, signage, food, and drinks!
Consider how you’ll engage your audience during the event. The most successful virtual events typically:
- Keep things fresh as much as possible to grow and maintain excitement.
- Follow a script and quickly switch between speakers.
- Play pre-recorded videos in-between speakers and sessions.
- Regularly encourage participation via the chat or supporter feed on your fundraising page.
- Include a surprise or two, such as a guest appearance or live performance.
- Play upbeat music during any downtime, such as the beginning and end of the event.
Additionally, here are some useful resources for your event preparation:
- How to Live Stream Successfully: A Preparation Checklist for Marketers — HubSpot
- Best Practices for Hosting a Digital Event — Zoom
- Making the most of Facebook Live — Facebook
Lastly, it’s critical that you invite as many community leaders and/or notable figures to participate in the event as possible. Not only will doing so help make for a fantastic event, advertising that “so and so” will be joining can make a world of difference when it comes to event promotion, which we are discussing next!
Step 4: Promote simple step-by-step guidelines for supporters.
Because this is a live stream fundraising event, you’ll need some method to collect donations from your attendees as well as those who can’t attend. Not only is the fundraising platform logistically important for this reason, but it can go a long way in helping with your event promotion as well. Platforms like Givebutter can allow for individual and peer-to-peer fundraising to exist alongside traditional event ticketing, which will enable you to raise even money before, during, and after your event actually takes place.
Read: The ONE thing you need to have in your next online fundraising campaign — Givebutter
When you’re ready to start promoting your event, be sure to share your campaign page, run Facebook ads, and email all your contacts – of course! But remember, your supporters are the most important form of promotion for live events. Many nonprofit CRMs, such as Bloomerang, offer step-by-step communication guidelines and email templates to schedule communication so that supporters can easily promote your nonprofit’s event and raise awareness. By empowering your supporters with features like team fundraising, sharing your event, and raising funds can begin to take on a life of its own.
Step 5: Rehearse the event with your team.
Even if this isn’t your first live stream, it’s still smart to rehearse your event to ensure your video, sound, internet connection, and backdrop are in order. Many virtual events don’t start exactly on time for this reason, as you’ll want to make sure all the right pieces are in place. That’s okay! Just make sure to communicate this to your audience as folks start tuning in, and prepare for these different scenarios during rehearsal. Most live-streaming platforms have the option to make the stream private or unlisted, so you should be able to run through the entire experience without broadcasting to the world.
One of the best ways to ensure your event runs smoothly is to delegate moderation, which is probably the most important role during your rehearsal and live event. Put at least one person in charge of making sure the script is being followed, and have a backup moderator just in case there are any unforeseen technical challenges. The backup moderator can also stay active in the chat or comments and engage folks with additional information. For your rehearsal, be sure to ask a few volunteers to join as viewers to help simulate these kinds of live interactions.
Step 6: Go live!
This is your moment. Own it, be loose, and don’t be afraid of mistakes. They are inevitable. This is a live video, after all! And your supporters will be excited to join you for this brand new fundraising experience. Since this is a virtual event, and the normal opportunities for in-person interaction are limited, it’s critical that you drive real-time interaction and audience engagement as much as possible throughout. The good news is that your participants are eager for that interaction, as well.
Donor recognition and appreciation are critical for any successful event – wherever, whenever. So, don’t forget to say ‘thank-you’ to all of your faithful supporters for raising money for your mission! Now more than ever in these uncertain times, two little words – ‘thank-you’ – have never been more important to donor engagement. Remind supporters how much your mission needs them, how valuable they are to your recipients, and how much you love them having them in your community!
Step 7: Follow up, say thanks (again), and ask for one last donation
Don’t forget to survey all donors and event attendees for feedback on your virtual fundraising efforts. If your nonprofit CRM includes a form feature, save your time and use it! That way, your survey data automates into your CRM. If not, free survey platforms like Google Forms, Survey Monkey, and Typeform may be good options. Plan a video call with your key event organizers and take note of lessons learned. Don’t forget to call board members and key major donors to solicit feedback and build engagement. Most importantly, keep fundraising open for at least 2-3 days after the event for last-minute donations. Nonprofits we work with frequently see their total funds raised increase by 20% or more by simply making one final ask after the event is over.
Virtual fundraising event ideas
- Galas: speakers, silent auctions, raffle tickets, musical performances, and videos.
- Endurance a-thons: run-a-thons, walk-a-thons, and ride-a-thons are some of the most popular.
- Gaming events: video games, board games, apps – lots of options for game nights.
- Culinary competitions: Cook-off, anyone? Once all the food is made using the select ingredient, everyone can vote on their favorite dish by donating.
- Scavenger hunts: family-friendly and can easily be done around the home right now! (You have two minutes to find a purple sock!)
- Birthdays: People of all ages are hosting virtual birthday parties right now, why not ask your supporters to raise money for your charity during them?
- Themed: dress as (fill-in-the-blank), dance to (fill-in-the-blank) song, battle of the bands, and trivia nights are fun ways to raise more for your fundraising campaign.
Need more fundraising idea inspiration?
See how one of the largest faith-based nonprofits in the country pivoted to a virtual fundraising event amid fundraiser cancellations due to COVID-19 – raising an all-time high in their first online event!
Start hosting your virtual fundraising event now on Givebutter ?
Just two weeks after hearing about the first nonprofit fundraising event that may be canceled due to COVID-19, Givebutter announced the launch of Livestream, a new product built specifically for virtual fundraising events. With Livestream, nonprofits can sell tickets, stream events, and collect donations – all in one place, all in real-time, and all online. Virtual events on Givebutter are able to live stream video from any of the major providers (Youtube, Facebook, Twitch, Vimeo, Zoom) right on top of a fundraising page, and watch as their community comes together with supporter feeds, goal bars, and donations that light up without ever needing to refresh the page. Best of all, Livestream is completely free forever and included with every Givebutter account.
Sign up free and start promoting your virtual event in minutes!