Jan 18, 2021
Strategies for virtual fundraising success
If you’re considering virtual fundraising for the first time, you’re not alone. Online giving has seen a recent explosion in the nonprofit world, and it’s been on the rise for several years. Nonprofits’ online revenue increased by 10% in 2019, and donors gave 11% more online gifts. Plenty of online benefits are attracting record-breaking donations and attendance. Yours can do the same.
Here are some of our top online fundraising ideas, with examples of successful virtual fundraising events from GiveSmart users and nonprofits like yours:
1. Have a low barrier-to-entry offering for new donors
Your virtual fundraiser is bound to bring in a different crowd from your usual gala attendees. Virtual is more accessible. Instead of paying for a meal ticket, dressing up and going out for the evening, attendees can join in from home. It’s up to you to decide whether attendance is free or if guests can buy an “event in a box” or ticket to attend. Either way, anyone with internet access can join in.
You’ll likely see a lot of first-time attendees and donors. Some may not have a lot to donate or aren’t ready to give large amounts. Offering some low-commitment opportunities can encourage them to give what they can. It lets them feel good about contributing to your mission. Some auction prizes can have a lower starting bid. You might also offer raffle tickets, which are more affordable than the virtual auction. Check out our recent webinar for some virtual fundraising tips for the best items to auction off.
One of our favorite examples of this technique comes from our GiveSmart user, the CHOC Children’s Foundation. They held their Glass Slipper Guild Virtual Gala in July. The nonprofit offered four giving opportunities throughout the month, starting with a raffle and a selection of buy-now items. These low-risk contribution opportunities let donors give in small increments or win a guaranteed prize. The CHOC Children’s Foundation also offered a silent auction followed by a Premier Auction, each with varying minimum bids.
Their fundraiser was a great success. Since it all occurred online, they were able to extend their giving event to 15 days. By providing different opportunities for giving throughout the event, they attracted new supporters who may not have otherwise attended or felt comfortable giving a large donation.
2. Use LinkedIn and Instagram to promote where appropriate
Social media is a fantastic tool for nonprofits looking to boost their attendance for a successful virtual fundraising event. Be sure to share your event details on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. While all these tools will spread the word to your followers, Instagram and LinkedIn offer some unique elements to promote your upcoming event.
The average nonprofit gained 42% more Instagram followers in 2019 than they had in 2018. This platform is an excellent tool for raising awareness for your fundraiser by reaching an audience of people who believe in your mission. Make Instagram Stories or challenges part of your virtual event by offering a prize to a lucky winner who uses your event hashtag or mentions your handle.
Meanwhile, LinkedIn is a great place for volunteers, board members, staff members and donors to connect with their networks. LinkedIn even has a suite of tools for nonprofits. Posting campaign videos and links to your virtual gala website can extend your reach to your professional network and those of your volunteers and staff members.
Unlike on Instagram, LinkedIn likes, reactions and shares push your post and event details to your engaged viewers’ networks. This site can also be a fantastic tool for connecting with corporate sponsors in your area and the employees involved in making corporate giving decisions. All of these tactics can boost event awareness and the number of donations you receive on event day.
3. Share your videos on YouTube or other streaming services so people can feel part of the experience
Video is an incredibly engaging platform for many reasons. It allows nonprofit leaders to connect with their audience face-to-face, even from far away. It’s also an excellent tool for promotion since it enables nonprofits to build trust and excitement quickly. A Google study confirmed 57% of viewers donate after watching an online video. Livestreaming the event is a fantastic way to let others in on the experience, even if all the donations are happening through your online platform.
Video promotions leading up to the event can also drive engagement. That’s what the nonprofit Community Sailing of Colorado did with their virtual event website and video-based heads or tails competition. They filled their homepage with videos from well-known sailing community members and people demonstrating the impact of the nonprofit’s work. The success they had taking their annual heads or tails competition online through funny, engaging videos shows the power of video in virtual fundraising.
In-person, the game is a pay-to-play fundraiser. Guests guess whether a coin will land heads or tails and get eliminated one-by-one until there’s one player left. The winner receives a prize. When hosting it virtually, the nonprofit sent out daily coin flip videos leading up to the event. Players placed their bets online and were greeted with a hilarious coin flip video each day from celebrities in the sailing world. The event raised more money and had more participants from around the world than their in-person events.
4. Pre-promote and have a post-campaign or event follow-up offering
One of the major advantages of running your fundraiser gala online is that it can last more than one day! Virtual fundraising best practices dictate a buildup to the event to increase awareness and donations. With a long lead up to the main event, you can pull more donors and fans into the fold each day. You can even grab the attention of people who aren’t available the day of with smaller giving opportunities and engaging content.
On the post-event side, you can make more appeals to those donors who missed the event or want another chance to give. Some great opportunities here include a post-event raffle or last-minute auction. Your organization can leverage any unsold auction items. It’s an excellent opportunity to say “thank you” for the outpouring of support and use one last chance to meet your fundraising goals.
We saw an excellent pre-and post-promotion strategy from GiveSmart user Huntington Christian School. They used many channels for promotion. Their main website directed visitors to their fundraising site, where they encouraged even more gifts with donation matching. They even created an Instagram account dedicated to their virtual benefit.
Their campaign also included a virtual spirit week, encouraging students to share pictures and show their school pride. Their post-campaign giving opportunity offered more chances to give. They had a post-event raffle, a collection of buy-now items and an online iteration of their sealed bidding tradition.
5. If it works once, do it again
Our clients who run more than one campaign raise an average of 50% more per year. Numerous nonprofits see fantastic turnouts and impressive donations from their virtual fundraisers. For many, donor retention rates maintain stability or even get a little bump from an extended online reach. Your audience wants ways to get involved. They’re looking for ways to have fun while supporting their favorite causes.
Virtual events are also a little easier to plan — there are no venue rentals or catering to coordinate. If you were successful once, your nonprofit could jump back into a second event quickly. Some organizations can only plan one annual gala. Virtual fundraising can be an opportunity to turn that into quarterly or even monthly giving events.
That’s what the McKenna Claire Foundation did with their virtual wine tasting event. Their May Wine & Shine event offered attendees three hand-picked wine bottles, some virtual music and an update from one of their researchers. The event was such a success that it was back by popular demand two months later in July. Their second event had some new wines to share and even more virtual music.
Find virtual fundraising success with GiveSmart
Virtual donation drives and galas are new territory for many, and they offer an opportunity to exceed your fundraising goal. You can run a successful campaign and connect with your community using online events.
Virtual fundraising is easier with the right platform. That’s why we built GiveSmart, a virtual fundraising and event tool for nonprofits. Our tool lets you develop an engaging event website and livestream your virtual event. Run online auctions, fundraising games, text-to-give campaigns and more from the intuitive GiveSmart platform. You can even access reporting to track your event’s success.
To learn more about GiveSmart, request a demo today. Need more virtual fundraising advice? Browse our #OutsidetheRoom resources and webinars for more insights from fundraiser developers like you.