Like many nonprofits these days, you might be facing a situation where you can no longer hold that in-person gala or other event you’ve been counting on to raise money for your organization. Instead of canceling, postponing or rescheduling the event, you do have another viable option — online fundraising.

By harnessing the power, reach and technical capabilities of the internet, you can host an engaging, fun event that allows individuals to attend from the comfort — and safety — of home. All they need is a web-enabled computer, smartphone or tablet to participate and make a donation to your cause.

Are you new to the world of raising money online? You probably have a lot of questions regarding how to stage an event that attracts donors and optimizes their experience. In this post, we’ll offer some advice that will help you succeed with virtual fundraising.

Communication strategies before the event

Your online fundraiser won’t be a success if no one knows about it, which means it’s imperative to get the word out to as many people as possible before the event. Implement a two-pronged, “inside-out” approach consisting of:

  • Internal communications: Begin by letting key stakeholders like your employees, volunteers, management team and board of directors know of your intention to hold an online event. Once you do, you’ll be able to deliver a unified message and rally the team to support the effort.
  • External communications: Once all internal stakeholders are aware of your intent to use virtual fundraising, you’ll be ready to communicate the change in plans to your donors. Depending on your situation, you can either contact donors individually or en masse to explain the reasons for the pivot — and how much you need and value their support for the event.

How to generate donor excitement for online fundraising

It’s possible that some donors may not be thrilled about attending a virtual fundraiser— they’ll miss the opportunity to meet and socialize with other attendees. But there are several steps you can take to overcome the resistance and bolster enthusiasm for the event.

Social media can be your biggest ally when you’re attempting to generate donor excitement. Use engaging, upbeat posts to promote the event and actively connect with donors. Include mission-minded photos, constituent testimonials and even a few inspirational quotes to reiterate the worthiness of your cause. Facebook Live is an excellent platform for reaching out to donors and enabling them to get to know the speakers in advance or hold informative Q & A sessions about the upcoming event.

Another effective method for generating excitement is creating a short email or text series using your donor email list. Structure each message to build the excitement level gradually as the event date draws nearer.

How to create the right atmosphere for the event

You want your donors to feel comfortable during your virtual fundraising event, and the best way to accomplish this goal is to consider the format that’s most likely to appeal to your unique donor group while still enabling you to make an effective presentation. For example, live streaming via Facebook Live, Vimeo or YouTube will work well if you want to hold raffle drawings or display items you’re auctioning.

If you’re looking to inject some fun into your event, you can implement some creativity to lighten the atmosphere. For example, developing an off-the-wall theme for your event can encourage donors to relax and enjoy it more.

How to connect and engage with donors during and after the event

You can implement various techniques to keep donors engaged. Finding an influential individual who has a connection with your organization and can speak at your virtual event should increase the interest of donors — as well as the dollar value of their donations. The effective use of slides that present compelling statistics helps donors understand how much you need their sponsorship. Holding a contest where you award a prize at the end to individuals who correctly answer a question about the event is another way to keep your attendees’ attention.

The conclusion of the event — while donors are in a giving mood — is an excellent time to ask them to make recurring donations, which is an option you should offer on your donation page. Make sure to follow up with an email to thank them for their participation and let them know how much you appreciate their ongoing contributions to your cause.

Contact GiveSmart to learn more

The GiveSmart software platform can help your nonprofit organization succeed with virtual fundraising. Contact us for more online success strategies and to request a custom software demo today.

Brandon Stec is the Director of Marketing at GiveSmart and an Indiana University graduate who's worked across sports and tech over the last decade. Brandon has sat on several boards of Nonprofits in Chicago and Kansas City. He resides in Chicago with his wife, son, and dog, Mango, and is a published author.
Brandon Stec