Best Practices for conducting Virtual fundraisers
Notes from a conversation with members of the Donorbox team
As a virtual events platform, Airmeet’s goal has been to empower communities to engage with each other in a meaningful way. And what can be more meaningful than a community coming together to raise funds for a cause close to their heart.
In order to help our community plan and execute effective virtual fundraisers, we hosted Jena Lynch and Cara Augspurger from the Donorbox team last week. During the hour long online session, we discussed actionable strategies on conducting effective virtual fundraising campaigns and events.
It was an event packed with loads of information and wisdom. The panelists covered the entire journey from planning the fundraiser till the post-event thank you mail.
In the subsequent paragraphs I will cover the following major aspects of virtual fundraisers that we discussed — pre-event planning, marketing communications strategy, importance of story-telling, live-event management and the post-event follow up.
Towards the end, we will also cover the key questions asked by the audience — best time to hold a fundraiser and the key elements of the most successful fundraisers.
To conduct an impactful and effective virtual fundraiser, being well prepared is of utmost importance.
Here are some key elements of the pre-event event planning phase:
1. Marketing Communication Strategy
Your outreach to our existing and potential donors should start well in advance. Outreach is crucial both to get your existing donors back as well as encourage new donors to join your case. Make sure to have:
- Clear & consistent messaging every time you do an outreach.
- Follow-ups — These are crucial to create better brand recall among your audience. (Cara talked about the rule of 7 — This rule states that it takes an average of seven interactions with your brand before a purchase will take place.)
- Leverage Multi-channel communication — You should use different channels of communication such as email, social, print, website etc so that you can find your donors where they are most likely to be spending their time.
- Clear Segmentation —Its important to identify your target audience and tailor the communication depending on how engaged they are with you. Sending the same message to everyone will lead to poor response rates and a disengaged donor base. (For example — somebody who has donated once to your charity should not receive the same initial communication as someone who has previously donated to your event)
Refer to the following guide on Donor Communication best practices created by the Donorbox team for more details: Link to guide
You should leverage the pre-event communications to run donor acquisition campaigns to get maximum number of first time donors associated with your cause.
Having Clear Goals & Metrics
What gets measured gets improved — Peter Drucker
Its important to have clear goals associated with the fundraiser which can provide clarity to your team members & donors and galvanize everybody into action.
For example — Are you raising funds for a specific project? Or because you are short of your annual fundraising progress.
Its helpful to set a clear fundraising target for your event. This will help you engage with your donors better.
Further, putting systems in place to measure things such as — number of new donors registered, social media views garnered, donations pledged etc will help you see how successful you are in your fundraising efforts. (It also helps course correct if your efforts are not having the desired impact)
Kind of speakers to choose
Identify people who are passionate about the cause and can inspire others to donate for the cause. Having speakers who can build an emotional connect with the people can trigger a lot more donations for an event and help you reach your goal faster.
Having a landing page for your event
This is the page to which you will point all potential registrants to. Having a landing page will create a higher recall value for your event and make it easier for people to understand the specific purpose of the event. This will help increase the eventual registration count.
Identify Timing and Duration of the event
- It should be held at a time when its convenient for most donors to join. Thus, you need to be mindful of the different time zones.
- Length of the event: You need to be mindful of “Webinar fatigue” which all online participants are facing these days. Thus, the length should be appropriately decided.
Getting celebrity donors onboard
If you can get influencers or celebrities to support your cause, it can act as a big boost in the run up to your virtual fundraiser. If they pledge to support your cause, you can share the same on your social media channels and in your marketing communication. Further, request them to share information about their donation on their social media channels. This has the potential to amplify your outreach efforts and get more donors interested.
If a celebrity speaker/influencer is willing to spend time during the live event to interact with the audience, try to make them a part of your event schedule.
It won’t be possible to showcase everything live during your virtual fundraisers. Thus, its important to have some recorded content ready as well which can show your organization at work and also tell stories of people who benefitted from your work.
The recorded content can also be leveraged independently of the event, to get more people associated with your cause.
Live Stream the event to Social Media
Consider livestreaming certain sections of your event to social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc. This will help you get more get more engagement and potentially reach out to more donors. (On most virtual event platforms, setting up a live stream is fairly straightforward)
Live Event Management
During the live event, the panelists highlighted the following factors to be kept in mind:
1. Instant gratification to donors
Donors who are donating to the event must be made to feel special. You could provide them an exclusive virtual background or badges that differentiates the donors.
I have observed that organisers often make a live announcement during the event whenever a large donation is made. This helps spur more people to donate.
2. Prioritize audience interaction
The people who are participating in the event should feel heard.
- Chat Moderation: Assign someone from the team to moderate the chat and engage with the people participating there.
- Encourage people to ask questions and take up these during the course of the event.
3. Importance of Storytelling
Jena shared a formula for maximizing the donations received:
Urgency + emotional attention = conversion
Urgency means “why it’s important to donate now”. Emotional attention means tug at the heartstrings to make donors feel empathy for your cause.
For example, you may be a charity working to end hunger. Your messaging could be — donate to help us feed the poor. While the cause is appreciable, but to make it more powerful, story-telling needs to be weaved in. For example — i) Can you tell the story of on child/family that was benefitted. ii)Can you visually showcase what you accomplished in the past and what can you accomplish going forward with the funds received.
If you have to maximize donations received, storytelling must be weaved into the narrative. The kind of speakers you invite, the recorded content you show, should be such that inspires people to donate for the cause.
4. Maintaining a community feeling
With people coming together for a cause close to their heart, its important to generate a feeling of community and belonging.
- You need to pre-plan time into the event schedule for audience members to engage and interact with each other.
- Invite people from the audience to share their stories with everyone else.
In this regard, choosing a platform that helps attendees easily network with each other can help you elevate the entire event experience.
Once the event is over, make sure you follow up with your supporters and inform them about the progress made.
- Send a Post-event thank you email to show appreciation for all your donors.
- It would be useful to send a Post-event survey to the participants along with the thank you email. The feedback received can be used as testimonials and for making improvements to future fundraisers.
- Make your event recording available on social media platforms to help spread the message among a wider audience.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the best time to hold the fundraiser?
Steer clear of the year end since maximum fundraisers are happening at that time. Ideally, you should choose a day that’s special for the organization or the cause you are promoting. Awareness days and observances are a great day to fundraise. You can check out the Giving days calendar to see if there is a day that aligns with your organization’s mission.
2. How can a new organization start inviting people for fundraiser?
Always start from your internal network and then move outwards. Identify your board members, key volunteers, biggest supporters and then leverage them. Ask them to invite their network. Give them talking points and additional information that can promote your organization. If they can tell their story that why your cause/organization matters to them, it will have a real impact on others.[Social proof is very important and word of mouth reference works better than any other form of marketing]
3. What are the characteristics of the “Most Successful Fundraisers”?
- These are an All in effort with buy in from staff, support and board.
- They have ample preparation time.
- There is continued engagement with donors — before, during and after the event.
- Clear & consistent messaging through omni-channel communication.
Organizing a successful virtual fundraiser is a challenging endeavor. It is a collaborative effort and requires whole-hearted support from the entire team.
As you move forward on the journey of organizing virtual fundraisers to support causes close to your heart, we hope that the above tips can help you make your event a grand success.