15 best practices for hosting virtual or hybrid fundraising events

 

Steve Bernat

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Like many activities, the onset of the pandemic abruptly put an end to in-person fundraising. Now in our new normal, while some in-person events have returned, the majority of nonprofit organizations and other fundraising groups have been forced to significantly pivot their efforts in order to reach new donors through the chaos, with many expanding to virtual or hybrid events. 

In its first annual report on fundraising best practices, the virtual fundraising platform RallyUp revealed trends that can help individual and small group fundraisers, nonprofit organizations and even enterprise CSR programs gain insight into what’s working and what’s not in the evolving world of fundraising. Here are 15 best practices that can help these groups bolster their fundraising efforts throughout 2022.

1. Harness the power of peer-to-peer fundraising.

More than 81 per cent of survey takers cite peer-to-peer fundraising as a significant contributor to their fundraising efforts. By empowering donors to reach out to their friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances not only helps boost donations, but it’s a great way to attract new donors and get them engaged in a cause. Give participants their own customizable fundraising pages and encourage a little friendly competition to see who can raise the most funds to boost effectiveness even further. 

2. Show donors their impact through video success stories

Create more video success stories. Donors love to see the ‘feel good’ result of their giving, and video success stories are dramatically more effective than blogs. Two-thirds (67 per cent) of survey participants report that videos of success stories are the most effective way to show donors their contribution is having an impact. Reports showing how the money was spent (55 per cent) came in second, and blog posts of success stories (41 per cent) rounded out the top three.

3. Continue to use email as a key part of your marketing strategy

It’s easy to write email off as online marketing options and advances flourish, but it’s still an extremely effective tool. If you don’t have an email list, consider starting one for future fundraising. ​​Email marketing still leads the pack as the most effective marketing tool for nonprofits with 76 per cent of respondents considering it the most effective online fundraising tool, but organic social media is nipping at its heels with 67 per cent counting it among the most effective marketing tools.

4. Make it a priority to educate your staff and volunteers—and maybe yourself—on technology 

You can do this by carving out time dedicated to learning and understanding the systems and options. Reduce the number of technologies to juggle by choosing do-it-all solutions where possible. A lack of technical knowledge and skills are an obstacle to fundraising efforts for nearly half of participants (46 per cent). The next most cited technology problem is the time it takes to comparison shop for a solution to each problem they need to solve.

5. Embrace virtual fundraising 

Even if you maintain a robust in-person component, virtual activities brought about in response to the Covid-19 pandemic are here to stay. The pandemic has caused organizations to hold more virtual events (56 per cent) while struggling with fewer volunteers (49 per cent). Only a fraction (12 per cent) raised more money during the pandemic. Because staffing is a problem, rethink volunteering to entice online supporters to support virtual fundraising. 

6. Give yourself time to plan

Start planning as early as possible, but don’t abandon participation if you need to use a short runway. For 2021’s GivingTuesday, most fundraisers put their campaigns together late in the game, with 28 per cent starting with less than three months left, 17 per cent with less than a month, and five per cent with less than a week.

7. Use metrics to measure success

The number one metric fundraisers used to gauge their success is the amount of money raised. However, the second most important is the number of new donors.

8. Show donors progress towards a goal

Select a fundraising solution that shows a progress bar (most do) and updates it in real time as donations come in. Over 90 per cent of survey participants think it’s important to show donors their progress toward a goal. For example, a meter or progress bar showing $7,000 of $10,000 raised.

9. Reach more donors by including in-person and virtual activities in your efforts

Survey takers noted that in-person events raised the most funds, followed by raffles, auctions, crowdfunding, and virtual events. Where possible, include in-person events as a part of your annual fundraising strategy. Consider combining in-person events with virtual event technology to expand your reach to new donors and maximize the total funds raised. Engage donors throughout the year with smaller activities that could be in-person, hybrid, or virtual, such as raffles, auctions, a-thons, and crowdfunding. 

10. Start your social media efforts with Facebook and Instagram

​​Facebook dominates as the most effective social media platform for fundraisers surveyed, with 87 per cent of respondents marking it among the most effective social media platforms for fundraising, with Instagram in second place (49 per cent), and Twitter in third place (19 per cent). Facebook and Instagram produce the best results for most people surveyed, so start with them if you have no other insight. However, you should go where you have donors, connections, and savvy. For a given person or organization, that could be Snapchat, Tik Tok, or something else entirely. 

11. Refine your marketing strategy

Fifty-six per cent of survey takers pointed to better marketing as the #1 change that would increase the total amount of funds raised. Develop your marketing strategy alongside your events and activities. Deciding how you will promote a raffle is just as important as deciding to hold the raffle. The smarter you promote, the more funds you’ll raise with limited resources.

12. Add a virtual component to in-person events

As you return to holding more in-person events, leverage the effort by making it a virtual event as well. Advanced hybrid technologies offer live streaming with interactive games (flash auctions and raffles, paddle raises, trivia contests, etc.) to boost donations and create community. Eighty-seven per cent of respondents are likely or very likely to return to in-person events when the pandemic is no longer a consideration. Comments predominantly point to reasons such as personal connection, community, and fun.

13. Keep the momentum going with regularly scheduled events

When running virtual events, consider taking advantage of the ability to raise funds not just during the event, but also beforehand. Fundraisers like raffles and auctions can begin months before the event to keep donors engaged and giving. Those unlikely to return to hosting more in-person events when the pandemic is no longer a consideration are embracing virtual events. The top reasons are because virtual events can be run with less staff and volunteers (63 per cent) and they offer lower up-front costs (54 per cent).

14. Consider incorporating GivingTuesday into your annual fundraising efforts

Well over half (59 per cent) of survey-takers said that GivingTuesday is a significant part of their annual fundraising efforts. As the movement continues to grow, individuals and organizations that are not participating in GivingTuesday fundraising should consider harnessing the momentum of the global generosity day. 

15. Offer opportunities for interaction

Embrace human connection and create more games and activities that get people interacting with other people. One thing many have taken away from the pandemic is they love connecting with other people. So give them even more than you did before the pandemic. For those likely to return to hosting more in-person events when the pandemic is no longer a consideration, the main reason is to make more money as virtual events had raised fewer funds.

It’s hard to know when in-person events will return in full swing, but luckily online fundraising options have expanded to allow fundraisers to reach donors in these challenging times. Going forward, nonprofits and individual and group fundraisers will have more options for engaging with new donors and garnering support for their cause. Consider implementing these best practices in 2022 to make it your strongest fundraising year ever.

Steve Bernat is the CEO and Founder of RallyUp.


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