Production Tips and Best Practices for Virtual Fundraising
In many ways, virtual fundraising events are so much easier than their in-person counterparts. You don’t need to worry about finding a venue, organizing catering, or spending so much money on both of the above that there’s nothing left for the charitable cause you were trying to raise money for. But you do have a fresh new set of considerations related to the technical elements for your livestream — so we’ve compiled a few production tips and best practices for nonprofits to follow.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, so we’ve included a variety of options that range from accessible to professional. But whatever route you take, there are three principal elements to consider: production hardware and software (the technical stuff), pre-recorded videos (most shows have some), and rehearsals (for on-site, hybrid, and fully remote).
Let’s go through each one in turn.
Production Hardware and Software
Being told to figure out which production hardware and software they need is enough to instill fear into the hearts of many nonprofit teams, especially if they’re starting from scratch and have never held a virtual event before.
But while it’s always tough to get your head around something for the first time, you’ll fare better after that initial adjustment. Here’s a guide to some of the main queries we hear from those we work with.
Professional Livestream Crew vs. DIY
Is it worth splurging the cash on a professional livestream crew who’ll handle everything for you, or should you try to do it all by yourself? For most people, the answer is going to be somewhere in the middle.
Here’s an idea of the costs you could face:
- Complete DIY: $20 to $30 a month
- Create your own content but hiring a livestream crew for the day: $2,000 to $3,000
- Full professional production: starts at $5,000
- Remote tech director: $1,000
What’s a remote tech director, you ask? A professional who will manage the livestream and production software remotely, which is a more affordable alternative to hiring a livestream crew to come to your premises. We recommend going for either of these two options.
The complete DIY approach is certainly possible, but it’s a huge undertaking, and you’ll need to get to grips with a lot of software and hardware. Meanwhile, a full professional production team will handle everything for you — this is probably excessive for most organizations, but sometimes, time is money.
If you’re handling some of the production yourself, you’ll need to know which software you’ll use for livestreaming. Professional platforms include:
- Livestream Studio
- Blackmagic Design ATEM
YouTube is the easiest option and also has the least delays, which is very important for something like a live auction; Vimeo is another option, but has a latency of around 20 seconds. However, if your event has no live interaction with the audience, you don’t need to worry so much about these delays.
If you want remote guests, you’ll also need to use software that enables this. Choices include:
- Vmix Call
- Livestream Studio Remote Guest
Zoom might sound tempting since everyone knows how to use it, but unfortunately it’s very limited and often doesn’t integrate well with other software.
Ultimately, fundraising events are all about donations, so this isn’t something you have afford to overlook.
Traditionally, this has always been done with the help of tools like QR codes, hyperlinks, or PayPayPal buttons, but these require guests to leave the virtual event temporarily. As an alternative, Paybee has a feature that allows integrated donations, meaning donors don’t need to move to a third party.
Webcams vs. Professional Cameras
Once you’ve got the software sorted out, it’s time to move onto the hardware. What level of production do you really need?
It’s true that broadcast-level cameras help to give a more “premium” look to an event, which is sometimes expected by sponsors and can impress guests so much that they want to keep coming back. But it’s not strictly necessary — webcams can look decent in good light.
While guests may put up with poor-quality visuals, audio is critical for a virtual event. Your audience needs to know what’s happening, and if the sound is out of sync or they can’t hear, they’ll want to leave.
Here are your options:
- Traditional broadcast audio — lavs, booms, podium mics
- Computer options — Bluetooth headphones so you can hear everything while recording, USB mics (relatively affordable)
- Voiceover options — phones can work in a quiet atmosphere, professional mics
Cleverly used computer and voiceover options can go a long way, so you don’t necessarily need to go for traditional broadcast audio. For instance, as a go-between, you can plug a professional camera (i.e., a DSLR or mirrorless camera) and use a Cam Link to connect it to your PC.
Pre-Recorded Videos for Playback
Most virtual events involve playing pre-recorded videos at some point. This might sound easy enough, but you’ll still need to do some careful preparation.
Firstly, widescreen is the way. This is the format you’ll be broadcasting in, so avoid vertical videos where possible, which result in black sides on the screen.
As for resolutions, 720p and 1080p are the most common for a traditional livestream, and most streaming services support this. If you want to try 4k streaming, you should work with a professional — don’t try to DIY this one.
And remember to design your graphics to match the resolution you select. If you want your logo in the corner of the screen, you also need to design files with transparencies (but this is easy to do with free programs like Canva).
The concept of rehearsing a virtual event might seem strange at first, but when you think about it more, you’ll realize it makes sense. When you’re using technology, there are so many things that can go wrong!
On the day of the event, go through a full rehearsal of lights, sounds, and remote guests (or someone acting as a stand-in if necessary). You don’t necessarily have to do everything in the right order, but make sure you go through the motions with each element — the most important things to focus on are transitions and ensuring everyone knows what their role is.
Zoom is good for talking through what will happen, but don’t use it for the actual rehearsal — go for the actual platform instead. You can set up dummy accounts beforehand to ensure you’re familiar with the software.
Now, let’s tie everything together with a few final tips about what you can do behind the scenes to prepare for your event and ensure it’s a success.
Firstly, make a “run of show” to detail exactly what happens at each time; this will be your template to guide you from start to finish. We recommend putting this in Google Docs so everyone can access the latest version at all times. Color code everything, but make sure you’re consistent.
Put all your digital elements and files on a cloud application (like Google Drive or Dropbox) too, and test everything ahead of time.
Also, think linear. Humans like to jump from task to task, but to make sure your event flows nicely, you need to think more linearly. The run of the show should help with this.
Assign roles within your organization as if you’re a broadcasting company — you need somebody to handle audio, someone to take charge of visuals, and so forth. Don’t just assume that everything will fall into place naturally.
Finally, try every button yourself on every software you’re using. It’s not enough to just have a vague idea of how the basic functions work — you have to know everything inside out. Assume that something will malfunction at some point and make sure you have the technical knowledge to keep serious problems at bay. You can find anything you need to know about how software works online, so there’s no excuse to not be informed.
The Show Must Go On
It’s daunting to get to grips with new software or hardware for the first time, never mind multiple software platforms and pieces of hardware simultaneously. But once you know the software inside out and have the run of the show nailed, there’s no reason for you to be nervous. We’ve watched so many nonprofits make the leap and be shocked by the results.
But to ease the process along, it certainly helps to have the right software. A dedicated platform like PayBee has all the integrations and features you need to make your fundraising event a success, whether you’re going DIY or hiring a full production crew. And even better, you can try it out using our free demo first. What do you have to lose?