By Courtney Brady, Senior Consultant and Event Specialist

Courtney Brady, Senior Consultant

The fall event season is upon us. Many of you are facing the tough decision to cancel your gala or other event because of COVID-19.  Yes, you can go virtual and still raise money. But where do you start?

Going virtual does not have to be overly complex and intimidating.  We have a few tips to get you started that will help you preserve your commitment to your organization’s mission while adapting to the current environment. 

Events should never be the primary method of fundraising because the relationships they create are often transactional and short-term.  However, when part of a comprehensive fundraising program, events can build awareness and generate energy around a cause. 

You don’t have to create the ultimate online extravaganza to be successful.  Keep it simple.  Focus on highlighting donor impact and your fundraising goal.  In the end, it is important to be succinct.  Get right to the point, communicate what you need, and make the ask because donors are giving. 

Here’s how:

  • Engage your board and top donors in a conversation about how to move forward.  Use a survey and individual calls to ask how a virtual event can work for your organization.  Seek advice, share your plans, and ask for gifts.  Engaging your sponsors and top donors throughout the planning process makes them more invested and more willing to give.
  • Stay mission-focused.  A gala, like all your events, should focus on communicating your story and inspiring your donors.  Your virtual efforts should stay just as mission-driven.
  • Determine what makes your gala or event unique and adapt that to your online platform.  Are there annual performers, speakers, dancing, auctions, or stories that you can still share in your virtual platform?  Get creative and come up with ways to incorporate these elements virtually.
  • Increase communication with all your constituents and even the greater community so they know what your needs are and where they can help.  Share your plans for going virtual and include plenty of time for people to engage at their own pace/timeframe. Record videos and performances for future viewing on your website and social platforms.
  • Consider a multi-day event.  Online fundraising can take place for more than just one day or evening.  Build in a sense of urgency or excitement that will get attendees to check back day after day.
  • Use technology to encourage interaction.  No matter which platform you choose for your event, make sure that your audience can interact (with you, with each other, and with your organization).  Host an online auction with live updates.  Ask questions attendees can answer in a Zoom chatbox or conduct a live poll during a live stream.  Give peer-to-peer fundraisers the option to join teams and build some friendly competition.  Host breakout rooms that take the place of dinner “tables” that can be sold to sponsors and used to chat during the event.

Are you taking your fall event online?  Let us help.  Schedule a free 15-minute strategy session with a Winkler Group senior consultant and you’ll have ideas and strategies that work for you.  Schedule your session HERE.

The generous will prosper: those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
(Proverbs 11:25)

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