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How to Overcome Common Challenges of Marketing and Hosting Your Nonprofit Virtual Fundraising Event

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the nonprofit community to deal with many challenges — but in the process of adapting to the changing world, nonprofits everywhere are now enjoying more fundraising opportunities than ever. With traditional in-person fundraisers becoming impossible to host in 2020, virtual event technology has taken a massive leap forward, making it possible for supporters of nonprofits to interact and donate online.

Even today, as in-person events become more possible, virtual events are changing the way nonprofits do fundraising. Not only do we still offer virtual fundraisers and online events like concerts, we also combine traditional fundraisers with virtual technology to offer hybrid fundraising events that allow hundreds and even thousands of people to interact in-person and online.

With all of these opportunities, however, comes some new challenges. People these days suffer from “virtual fatigue” thanks to the endless Zoom meetings they need to attend at work, making marketing a nonprofit virtual fundraiser an issue. Virtual events may also reach more people than traditional fundraisers, but keeping that huge audience engaged has been an issue for many fundraising events. Finally, a bigger support network means more people to follow up with, which causes logistical problems.

Fortunately, virtual event technology is up to the challenge of addressing many of these new nonprofit fundraising problems. Let’s take a closer look at some of the current issues faced by nonprofit event teams, and how to meet these challenges.     

Challenges of Marketing Your Virtual Fundraiser

There was a time when the sheer novelty of a virtual event would motivate plenty of people to attend your online fundraiser out of curiosity. Unfortunately, in today’s world, virtual events and meetings have become commonplace — to the point where the term “virtual fatigue” is now used to describe the reluctance some people have developed for attending another online event.

This makes it difficult to make your event stand out from all the other virtual galas and online fundraisers on the Internet. Unless you can show how fun your virtual events are to attend — and communicate this to a large number of people — your attendance rates could suffer.

How to deal with these challenges

One of the great things about the Internet age is how easy it is to share your message with lots of people. Social media and email have made finding and reaching out to a large audience much more manageable. Plus, the fact that your guests can attend your virtual fundraiser from basically anywhere makes the online community a much more viable audience.

That being said, you do need to create an excellent digital marketing campaign to attract any of these people. Start by learning where your target audience gathers online. Do they prefer Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Simply posting online ads for your fundraiser on any social media channel isn’t an effective channel. You need to focus on the type of social media that resonates most with your donors and supporters.

Do you have an e-newsletter with a large email mailing list? If not, you need to start collecting email addresses from your current supporters and all the guests at your fundraising events. Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective forms of digital marketing, with some studies finding that you receive an average return of $36 for every $1 you invest. Advertising your virtual fundraiser in your e-newsletter is a great way to generate interest and get people to start sending RSVPs to your event.

Then there’s the type of marketing content you need to produce. If you have videos of your previous virtual fundraisers showing how much fun people had, be sure to show clips of this in your social media. Advertising a popular event like an online concert or a live auction with highly-desired items can also be a major draw. You can even show behind-the-scenes photos and videos of your event team preparing in your e-newsletter and social media posts, keeping your event alive in the public consciousness until you’re ready to open.

One excellent way to market your event is to offer fun activities before the actual fundraiser starts. For instance, you can run a silent auction for several days or even weeks before the day of your virtual fundraiser. Silent auctions are held completely online and allow people to easily post their bids via mobile device. Since these people are already technically participating in your event, they’re much more likely to show up to your actual virtual fundraiser and take part in all of your other activities.

Of course, to manage your marketing campaign, you’ll need an effective online platform. PayBee’s software makes it easy for you to manage your social media posts and email marketing campaign. You can also build silent auction campaigns with the PayBee platform, allowing your event planning team to control everything from one easy-to-use resource.

Challenges of Hosting a Virtual Fundraising Event

By now, you’re likely familiar with the two main draws of virtual events — low cost and more space. Virtual fundraisers only require a reliable online platform, internet connection, live stream set up, and Content Distribution Network (CDN) to offer a live streaming event. Compared to the expense of renting meeting rooms, dining halls, and a full event staff, the savings in cost can be remarkably high.

Then there’s the advantage of holding your fundraiser in a virtual space. Many online fundraising platforms can accommodate hundreds or even thousands of supporters who can sign in from any part of the world with internet service. That’s an amazing support network of people ready to donate to your cause and fund your programs.

On the other hand, having to deal with hundreds or thousands of online guests can be a daunting task for your event team. Since they’re attending virtually and not in-person, there’s the risk that your guests will become distracted from your online event. Other online activities (like computer games and work-related tasks) may lure them away from your fundraiser. And since they’re still physically at home, family members and friends can pull them away from their computers and your fundraiser. Having a lot of fundraising attendees won’t mean much if your guests aren’t paying attention to your event.   

How to deal with these challenges

Just like an in-person fundraiser, virtual events need to be engaging for all of your guests. Plan to keep your audience members regularly stimulated by your online content.

How? Plenty of ways. Online platforms like PayBee, for instance, make it easy to build activity campaigns like live or silent auctions, raffles, trivia games, and other fun activities. Not only will these activities keep your guests focused, they’re also all good ways to encourage them to donate to your cause.

Many people also attend fundraisers to network and interact with others. This can be an issue with virtual events since your guests aren’t physically together, making face-to-face communication a challenge. Even so, live chats and video conferencing do enable virtual guests to socialize and remain engaged with your event.

Choosing the right people to emcee your event is also vital. You’ve probably already seen a big difference at in-person fundraisers when your master of ceremonies is an experienced speaker who knows how to “build hype” with your audience. It’s the same with online fundraisers — although here, your emcee needs to have some extra skills. Knowing how to act in front of a camera and connect with guests across a virtual space is essential. It can also help to have volunteers regularly monitoring chats and letting the emcee know where their attention should be focused.

If you’re planning on offering a live auction, investing in a professional auctioneer is also important. Many auctioneers, such as Emily Quinn (aka “Auction Emilly”), have become very adept at generating excitement among online audiences and encouraging more people to place higher bids. All of this results in more revenue for your nonprofit, so a professional online auctioneer should be considered a necessary expense.

One popular option that retains the advantages of virtual fundraisers while also bringing back the face-to-face appeal of traditional in-person fundraisers is the hybrid fundraiser. This type of fundraising event is held both online and at an in-person event venue, giving your audience members different options for how they want to participate. While hybrid events are technically a single fundraiser, they offer separate experiences for your in-person and virtual audiences, and it helps to have different event staff teams to accommodate each set of guests.

Your event planning team will have to decide whether or not an in-person, virtual, or hybrid fundraising event is right for your nonprofit. Each gala comes with its own set of advantages (and challenges), so it pays to learn how to successfully get the support you need to manage each one before committing to anything.

Challenges of Following Up with Your Virtual Event Guests

Contrary to popular belief, fundraisers don’t just end after your guests have left and all donations have been collected. Fundraising events are also about expanding and strengthening your support network — meaning you need to keep in touch with your guests on a regular basis so they keep supporting your nonprofit and donating to your cause.

Naturally, this is challenging in a traditional fundraiser, but when your virtual fundraising event starts attracting hundreds of audience members, the logistics of all of this can be even more difficult. Sure, it’s nice being able to collect donations from a wider pool of supporters — but if you want that revenue to keep coming in, you’ll have to find a way to keep those newcomers aware of your nonprofit’s activities between fundraisers too.

How to deal with these challenges

Once again, virtual event technology can help by not only organizing your larger guest pool but also automating the follow-up process.

As guests RSVP to your fundraising events, for instance, online platforms like PayBee require them to provide their names and contact information for your database (along with any other pertinent personal information you might require). This makes it easy to connect with these people before and after your event. You’ll also be able to contact guests who still need to pay any pledged donations or winning auction bids, ensuring you receive all your money. And since PayBee automates most of this process, you won’t have to worry about keeping track of a lot of guests.

One great way to keep establishing a good relationship with any newcomers is to give them the option to add themselves to your email mailing list. That way, you can continue updating them on any of your nonprofit programs, success stories — and upcoming fundraisers. This is an excellent way to keep your nonprofit organization in the minds of more people, which not only helps you promote your virtual events but also builds your overall brand.

Finally, online platforms like PayBee also keep records of your virtual event activities, enabling your event planning team to learn from them. For instance, you’ll be able to tell at a glance how many people attended your live auction and how long they spent participating in each activity. This sort of information is very valuable in determining what type of events your audience prefers — so when the time comes to host your next virtual fundraiser, you’ll know exactly what to plan for.  

Final Thoughts

Virtual fundraising events come with plenty of benefits for your nonprofit organization — and knowing how to successfully plan, market, and host your virtual event will ensure you enjoy all of them. Invest in a user-friendly online fundraising platform like PayBee that will help you prepare for your fundraiser and advertise it to the right groups of people. Hire professionals who are skilled in dealing with an online audience.

Above all, take advantage of the virtual space you have to work in. Virtual fundraisers aren’t the same as in-person events, but they do come with their own perks for helping people network and offer fun events that supporters across the country or even the world can enjoy simultaneously online. Once you realize how your donors and supporters prefer to interact online, you’ll be in a better position to give them the experience they want. And that will just continue to improve your nonprofit’s finances and reputation.

Tags
Fundraising
Hybrid Fundraising
Nonprofit Fundraising
Nonprofit Tips
Nonprofits
Online Fundraising
Technology
Michael Jung

Michael-Jung