Once considered futuristic and cutting edge, virtual fundraising events are becoming a more and more common way for people to interact. And they don’t show any signs of slowing down.
Whether it’s a meeting, a family get together, or even a live musical performance, most people have probably participated in some sort of virtual event. If you’re planning to host a fundraiser virtually, you may be wondering how you can keep folks engaged enough to convince them to donate and follow through with your requests.
The good news is there are a few concrete things you can do to make your virtual fundraiser more fun and interesting. The key is to give your attendees quality content and encourage people to actively engage in the event.
1. Promote engagement before, during, and after the virtual fundraiser.
Building a buzz before the virtual fundraiser even starts will ensure that folks come into it excited and ready to participate. Use social media and the event website (if you have one) to give your audience a teaser of what they can expect.
Talk about the value of the fundraising event and how important their contributions are. Encourage folks to chat about what they’re looking forward to on the fundraiser’s social media page or website. Ask them to talk about what they’re looking forward to most and what they hope to learn. That way, people come into the event already excited.
During the virtual fundraiser, encourage people to post about how it’s going. You can challenge them to post a picture of how they’re attending the event. Some folks may be on a laptop at the beach, while others may have their cats lying across their keyboard!
Make the fundraising event feel more fun and personal. You could even take a poll or choose a winner for the “most creative setup.”
You could also have a fun little contest on social media by creating a hashtag for your virtual fundraiser and encouraging people to post about it using the hashtag. For instance, if you’re holding an event to raise funds for an elephant sanctuary, you could use a unique hashtag like “#savethetrunks2021.”
That way, whenever people post about the fundraising event using the hashtag, they’ll all be collected in one place. You can then look through the hashtag to see who posts the most and give them a small prize or a shoutout during the event.
Additionally, while the event is happening, you can regularly encourage or even challenge people to do things like sign up for newsletters or leave reviews and comments about the event once it’s over. That way, you can ask folks to follow through with things without making it a big deal. For instance, you could occasionally have a speaker say something like, “And don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter if you want to stay in touch and stay updated!”
2. Have fun and engaging content at the virtual event.
There’s nothing wrong with PowerPoint! It’s a great tool for presenting information in a clear and coherent way. But if you just show slides at your virtual fundraiser, you may end up with a few folks dozing at their screens.
Don’t worry. You can make your presentation more interesting and fun by breaking up the monotony.
Try incorporating content such as infographics, which break down larger concepts and data into a more interesting and more easily digestible format. For instance, instead of just listing out how your fundraiser can benefit a particular cause, you can break it down in an infographic to make it more compelling.
If you’re raising funds to conserve an endangered forest, you could break down what part of your budget goes to planting new trees, what part goes to posting signs and fencing to keep people out, and what goes to legislative efforts to protect the forest.
Be sure to include content that stimulates and engages your audience. Audio is a great way to do that. You can include music or interviews with people your virtual fundraiser can directly impact. Video is also a great media to include.
Show people clips of what the fundraiser is trying to do and support. Use video to give real proof of what your virtual fundraiser can benefit.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to be a little silly or funny if it’s appropriate! Try sticking some memes or jokes into your presentations. If people laugh, they’ll be more engaged.
3. Use passionate and engaging speakers.
You don’t necessarily have to be Tony Robbins or a stand-up comedian. But if you have folks in your organization who are passionate about their roles, have them talk about it!
If you’re raising funds for a no-kill animal shelter and you’ve got someone on your team who loves and cares for some of the animals there, have them talk about their experience.
Choose people in your organization who love what they do and are knowledgeable about the issue and have them say a few words about why they love it and what this fundraiser means to them and their work.
It’s also not a bad idea to bring in a professional. You could hire an event host or an MC to host and moderate the virtual fundraiser. They’ll be able to introduce speakers and engage with the audience in between sessions.
Check around for professionals you can hire for the fundraising event or tap into your internal resources and choose someone who’s really good at it. For instance, if you have a marketing specialist, they may be naturally good at hosting the event.
Another good idea is to bring in special guests. You could hire or ask someone who’s a big name in your industry to come say a few words about how important the fundraiser is. Bring in an outside specialist who can talk about how much of a difference your fundraising efforts can make.
You could even enlist the help of a celebrity. For instance, if you’re trying to raise funds for a new park, you could have an athlete from a local sports team say a few things about the importance of outdoor activities for kids. Having an outside speaker can help break up the monotony and convince people to contribute.
4. Include interactive features and games.
Who doesn’t love games? Set up a point system that rewards people for each virtual session they attend. Whenever they reach a certain amount of points, they win a small prize like a coffee mug, t-shirt, or a shout out on social media. That way you can encourage people to attend all of the sessions and reward them for it.
There are a number of ways you can “gamify” your virtual fundraising event. As people play along (a.k.a. participate), you get more engagement, they learn more about your fundraiser, and they get to win a prize. It’s a win-win-win!
You could also include small contests or trivia during the virtual sessions or events that people can win. Ask trivia questions specific to your fundraiser as a fun way to get people to learn more about your organization.
For instance, you could ask people when your group was founded, what your fundraising goal is, and what you hope to accomplish through your fundraising efforts (all of which you likely would have touched on during the presentations). People can input their answers and the folks who get it right can win a small prize or earn points towards a prize.
You could even make the quiz a little silly. If the question is “Who founded our organization?” the answers could include the real founder’s name (such as John Smith) as well as names like Ronald McDonald, Hercules, and Madonna.
There are also plenty of fun little contests and games you can include in the event. Since everyone is participating virtually, you could ask them to choose their funkiest or silliest background. Then you could have your team choose or take a poll to pick a winner.
People love having fun! A few games won’t distract from your overall message but will keep folks engaged.
5. Keep your virtual sessions short and include breaks in between them.
Stick to 30 minutes or less for each session. That’s long enough to present information clearly without losing your audience. If you need to go over a lot of information, try breaking it up into multiple sessions.
People are more likely to retain the information you’re giving them and stay actively engaged if your sessions are shorter and more digestible.
Allow 5-10 minute breaks in between virtual sessions so your attendees have time to get up, stretch their legs, grab some coffee, or use the restroom. You don’t want them to feel glued to their screens.
Short breaks allow folks to rest their eyes and brains, which will help them feel refreshed and more engaged when the next virtual session starts.
Your breaks don’t have to be dead air, either. You can keep the virtual event streaming and allow people who don’t need a break to interact with each other. It’s a great way to promote networking and build a community.
You could even encourage people to sign up for a newsletter or leave comments while they wait for the next session to start.
More on Virtual Fundraising Events
As virtual fundraisers become more common, people are becoming more comfortable and used to them. Which is a good thing! That means you don’t have to try so hard to get them to engage or convince them to participate.
All you need to do is give them interesting content and present it in an exciting way and they’ll get on board.
Keep in mind the overall goal of your fundraising event and focus your message on what you can accomplish with your attendee’s contributions. Once they’re clear on what your fundraiser can do, if you can keep them engaged, they’ll likely follow up with any action items you ask them to do.
What other best practices have you found work for your virtual fundraisers? Let us know in the comments.