Laura Kruisenga, COO with Kennari Consulting, works with clients to build their annual fundraising programs with a particular focus on events, communications, and staffing. Laura’s practical coaching style and results-oriented strategies help her clients set realistic goals and achieve measurable results. Laura has over 20 years of fund development experience and is certified in the use of several databases, including Raiser’s Edge and Giftworks. When she isn’t coaching clients, Laura enjoys traveling with her family, hosting theme parties, and serving in her church.
A virtual fundraising event can be just as financially productive for your organization as in-person one, but it takes additional planning and elements to ensure those goals are met. Clearly organizing your plan before, during, and after the event is essential in your organization’s virtual event.
Before Your Event
Reinforce in your messaging that participation in the virtual event is an opportunity to financially support the organization – this is still a fundraiser! In your communications, highlight the impact of the dollars raised and the current funding needs you have. This helps share more information on your programs, while highlighting the critical role donors play in meeting community needs.
Consider personally calling and reaching out to donors that gave at the event in previous years and make sure they have seen the info and are planning to participate this year. Some of these donors could also be good prospects for offering a match gift – consider that before calling and then make the ask when appropriate.
Plan ahead and establish a hierarchy of which staff or board members will call donors, blocking sufficient time on calendars so the space is there when it’s needed. You know it will be crazy the few days following the event, so plan now to save a little time for phone calls!
When sending invitations, consider your donors and think about what method will work best. It’s pretty unlikely that all your event donors are paying attention to all your emails, so you should probably consider sending at least some hard copy invitations as well. This also allows and reminds donors they can give before the event to help us start strong.
If you had donors mailing in RSVPs or writing a check at an event, mail them an invitation! We want to make it as easy as possible for donors to support us, and they are being inundated with electronic communications.
Lastly, communicate A LOT before the event. Once people have registered, they should receive multiple teaser emails.
For the two to six months ahead of your event, a monthly teaser email is likely sufficient. In the 30 days leading up to the event, send one or two emails per week. A day before the event, send a reminder email, and then again about an hour before your event begins.
You don’t have to include a lot of content; keep it simple and brief so they get the most important pieces.
During the Virtual Event
Make sure you aren’t just sharing video content – have a way for people to be a part of the event and interact. Engaged participants are much more likely to give. If you can’t have a live speaker component, make sure you are asking questions and encouraging comments in the chat so you get that community feel.
Have a few staff or trained volunteers lined up to manage (and contribute to) the chat and comment areas so people are getting real-time responses.
Ask regularly throughout the event. Rather than creating a program that leads up to an ask, ask routinely! Some participants may filter in and out of the program due to unforeseen technological issues or the other usual distractions. All participants should experience the opportunity to be asked and understand the impact of their gift.
When it comes to donation processes, make it very clear how people can give. Highlight the different methods verbally, on screen, etc (include a link to your donation page in the “Chat” box). Consider using a text to give option, and TEST your donation forms, to ensure the donor’s giving experience is easy and clear.
After Your Virtual Fundraising Event
Be ready to execute a clearly prepared thank you plan for those that support the event. Put some energy and creativity into how you will follow up with donors; record a fun video, mail a special gift (small, inexpensive – think bookmark, sticker, photo, etc), or email an additional photo update once you’ve spent the funds you’ve raised.
As with all fundraising strategies, there is no one size fits all approach. And you don’t have to do things perfectly the first – or second – or third – time you do it! Give yourself a little grace, and really focus on a few key things. There are incredible opportunities to engage additional people who couldn’t attend before, so use this to your advantage. A virtual fundraising event can be a great way to engage donors with your mission – and by applying a few key practices – you can raise just as many dollars at the event as well!
The need for virtual events shows no signs of slowing down. Enjoy this “Virtual Event Planner” to help you every step of the way!