Use Virtual Tools to Form a Stronger Connection With Donors
Virtual events are quickly becoming a necessary form of fundraising for charities and nonprofits. These online galas are less expensive to produce than in-person fundraisers and don’t require the usual logistics involved with renting a banquet hall or dealing with a large staff. In addition, virtual fundraising events can attract large numbers of supporters who find it more convenient to attend nonprofit events in a virtual space and donate to your cause.
That said, virtual events need to be more than just fundraisers to be successful. People come to virtual galas expecting a well-organized event that takes their needs into consideration. You also need to effectively connect with donors and supporters — especially new ones — if you want to count on their continued support. This means you need to produce an educational and entertaining event that your attendees will remember long after the gala is over.
Let’s look at some of the key aspects a successful virtual event needs to be built around. We’ll also offer some additional resources to help ensure your next virtual gala runs smoothly and provides your organization with the results you want.
Hybrid Events are Here
As we enter 2021, virtual events are evolving into a new form of online gala known as hybrid events that blend live and virtual galas. This allows some people to attend in-person (thanks to increased vaccinations and lowered restrictions) while the rest of your audience attends virtually. Hybrid events offer you the best of both worlds since they grant the ability to socialize and interact in-person while still retaining the limitless meeting space offered by online galas.
In order to effectively produce a hybrid event, you need to consider the needs of both your in-person and online audience. Remember, you’re essentially offering two experiences in one event and don’t want to make either audience feel they’re being left out because of the way they’re attending.
This means making sure you schedule the event to make it convenient for all your attendees. Consider the different time zones your virtual audience might be in and offer easy ways for them to attend. For instance, you might consider offering pre-recorded content so they can view your event at a time of their choosing. You can also schedule live-stream coverage at a time when the majority of your in-person and online audience is available.
You’ll also want to make sure your online activities are interactive and enable your virtual attendees to participate alongside in-person attendees. This may require arranging for two teams — an in-person gala staff and an online production crew — to manage your event so both of your audiences receive proper attention. The logistics of getting both teams to work in tandem can be challenging, so it’s vital that you arrange for plenty of rehearsal time so everyone knows what they’re doing.
You may have heard about all the different entertainment options you can offer with a virtual event. From online auctions to live-stream concerts, the variety of ways you can engage your supporters is virtually limitless. Make sure to choose entertainment that appeals and connects with your specific attendees. Also, keep in mind that after a full year of Zoom calls and meetings, virtual fatigue is a very real issue for online guests, including your supporters. To make sure your guests remain energized, aim to create interactive entertainment and limit your virtual event to under an hour.
Some of the most effective types of virtual event entertainment include:
- Concerts: Live-stream or even pre-recorded concerts can be a big draw for supporters who like high-energy entertainment.
- Live and silent auctions: Charity auctions are a popular standard in fundraisers, and PayBee’s online platform makes it easy for you to set up multiple auction campaigns.
- Virtual dinners: Did you know you can arrange for catered dinners to be delivered to your supporters so all of your donors can chat online and enjoy a virtual dinner?
Making Real-Time Decisions
Although virtual events don’t require the same type of staff you’d use at an in-person fundraiser, you do need a support staff to help you make real-time decisions during your virtual gala and ensure your attendees experience a well-run event. We've found that investing more resources into the preparation and production aspect of your event tends to pay off through both greater donations and a more memorable experience. Key areas to focus on include:
- Production staff: Virtual events need someone who can decide in real-time when to switch from pre-recorded content to live content or alter how your audience views the online event.
- Tech support: From handling issues with live-streaming to offering attendees assistance with technical questions, a good tech support team makes sure a random glitch doesn’t ruin your event.
- Virtual host: Emcees and online auctioneers help generate and sustain your event’s energy — so make sure to employ a professional who keeps your audience engaged.
Connecting with Donors
A good virtual event doesn’t just ask potential donors for their financial support. It lets those attendees know exactly how their support will impact their community and make a difference. Doing this not only increases the chances that you’ll receive more donations — it’ll make it easier for your supporters to communicate your mission to others and maximize your organization’s brand awareness.
Nonprofits and charities use many different methods to connect with donors and communicate their mission. Some school-related organizations find it very beneficial to offer a short slide show illustrating the students and communities being helped by their programs. Professionally-produced short videos of dogs and cats receiving care are also very effective for animal rescue programs.
Regardless of what your organization’s mission is, however, it’s important to be honest with your attendees about your mission and its goals. Educate your supporters about your work but also appeal to their emotions.
Emotion drives people to action more effectively than intellectual appeals. This can mean personalizing your content by focusing on a single individual or community being impacted by your group rather than offering a collection of statistics. It often means generating some discomfort in your attendees by showing them examples of the social injustice you’re attempting to battle.
Emotional appeals help keep your organization at the top of your attendees’ minds after your event is over. They encourage donations. And they help forge genuine connections between your group and your new supporters.
It’s also important to offer positive emotional feedback in your communication with supporters. Show your donors tangible examples of the effect their support has on the community. Remind them about the social injustice they’re battling. All of this encourages supporters to give more generously and offers incentive for continued communication.
Join Us For a Continued Live Webinar Discussion
PayBee will be hosting a free webinar, “Fundraisers: The Next Frontier” on Monday May 10, 2021 that discusses the different types of challenges and solutions in both virtual and hybrid events. You’ll hear advice from auctioneer/emcee Mike Hogan, who’s raised over $250 million dollars for nonprofits, and PayBee co-founder Nidhi Doshi on how to connect with your audience and build a bond with your donors virtually. Registration is currently open, so sign up and learn about all the options available for your virtual event.