Thursday, January 21, 2021

Rethinking Your Fundraising Events in 2021: A Crash Course

COVID-19 has changed so many aspects of our lives – including how we fundraise. Tried and true methods of raising money and reaching donors have to be reimagined for this new, virtual world. Nonetheless, your mission remains the same (and important as ever).

The good news? You can reach your donors and your fundraising goals with virtual fundraising events.


Maybe your nonprofit hasn’t tapped into the power of virtual fundraising events. Or maybe you have but you’re looking for fresh, innovative ideas. Either way, we’re here to help!


Successful virtual fundraising events come in many shapes and sizes – and their flexibility enables nonprofits to customize and launch virtual events that fit their unique needs. You know your donor base best, so use this guide to find the virtual mold that fits your mission and community best. And then let the virtual fundraising begin!


We’ll cover the key steps to rethinking your fundraising events in 2021: 


  1. Understand the range of virtual fundraising events

  2. Update your event goals

  3. Review your nonprofit’s toolkit

  4. Make sure your audience is on board

  1. Understand the range of virtual fundraising events

With the advancement and growing popularity of fundraising technology and virtual tools, the stage is set for a boom in virtual fundraising events in 2021! The key is to make your virtual events stand out to your unique audience and find ways to engage them from start to finish. To help, we’ve gathered our favorite online fundraising ideas.

Virtual Auctions

Taking your nonprofit’s charity auction virtual has a few major benefits. These virtual events are highly flexible, engaging for audiences, and typically less resource-intensive to plan than in-person auctions.


You’ll need the perfect range of auction items, mobile bidding and/or live streaming software, and a plan for spreading the word to donors. Bonus points if you combine your virtual auction with additional live-streamed events or peer-to-peer fundraising elements!

Virtual Galas

Adapt your annual gala to take place virtually! Virtual galas and other live celebrations bring supporters together for an interactive program that highlights your mission and asks for support.


Use live-streaming software and virtual fundraising tools to plan and host your gala. Schedule a complete program of ceremonies, speakers, videos, entertainment, live appeals, and mission moments to keep attendees engaged. Incorporating a virtual auction is never a bad idea, either!

Virtual Peer-to-Peer Event

Hosting a virtual run, walk, ride or other on-the-ground event is a powerful way to bring people together, remind your supporters that they make a difference, and educate and inspire people about your mission. And it’s an effective way to raise dollars for your cause!


Taking your peer-to-peer fundraising virtual allows you to engage participants and supporters online, in fun, new and creative ways that motivate, and if executed correctly, can drive more fundraising.

Virtual Livestream and Fundraising Appeal

Virtual events and live stream programs are here to stay! The power of multi-media allows nonprofits to build connections with remote donors and humanize your mission, no matter where your supporters are.


Storytelling is essential here. As you tell your attendees about your mission, make your story their story. A high-quality event will communicate the most important messages at the right time throughout the event – ultimately, driving more fundraising activity and proceeds to fuel your mission. 

  1. Update your event goals

In order to host a successful campaign, you’ll first need to determine what success means to your

organization. It’s important to qualify and quantify exactly what you want to gain from your

virtual fundraising event, as that goal informs your planning strategy.


It’s important to note that goal setting may look different in 2021 depending on your limitations and

broader engagement or fundraising strategies – and that’s okay! It’s important to start early in the

planning process to keep any event team focused and on track.


To find the right monetary goal, you’ll need to look to your larger fundraising strategy and figure out

where an event could tie in. Whether it’s your first event of the year or your last, see where you are

to your annual goals and what progress still remains. That will guide your fundraising goals for your

online fundraising campaign!


In addition to raising money, you might also use a fundraising event to facilitate other goals, such as:


  • Acquiring new donors.

  • Promoting your cause or gaining publicity.

  • Stewarding existing donors.

  • Engaging prospective major donors.

  • Growing reach through Ambassador fundraisers.

  • Increasing average donations per supporter.


No matter what your goals are, make sure that you have a way to quantify them. If you don’t have a

metric for success going in, you can’t measure how well you did or improve your strategies going

forward. It’s all about progress!

  1. Review your nonprofit’s toolkit

Now that you know what you’d like your event to accomplish, you’ll need to review your nonprofit

toolkit to ensure you have the right technology to get the job done.


An increase in technological advancements has made it possible for nonprofit organizations of all

shapes and sizes to do more with virtual fundraising events. To reach the new world of donors who

increasingly give online, nonprofits must have a virtual event fundraising strategy that encourages

supporters to donate anytime and anywhere.


No matter your size or mission, keep these key features in mind as you’re looking for a virtual

fundraising solution:


  • Ease-of-use for you and your donors

  • Mobile optimized for any device

  • Ability for donors to cover transaction fees

  • Thermometers, giving timelines, and social donor walls

  • Option for free-standing microsites and embedded forms

  • Ability to spur competitive giving, matches, and fundraising challenges

  • Customizable giving levels form questions

  • Secure SSL/PCI compliant payment processing


OneCause is the top fundraising software that allows you to amplify your mission with online

fundraising. They are driven to improve the giving experience. Donors are looking for a connection;

and OneCause’s technology empowers organizations to put their mission at the forefront and make

giving mobile, social, and fun.

  1. Make sure your audience is on board

It should come as no surprise that as you move your fundraising online, you’ll need to bring your

marketing efforts online as well. After choosing your virtual fundraising strategy, setting your

fundraising goals, and ensuring you have the right tools to get the job done, the next step is to get

your audience on board! Digital marketing can help.


Digital marketing has become a reliable marketing technique for businesses of varying size and

industry. It encourages brand awareness, expands your organization’s reach, and allows you to more

effectively track your results. Social media, video, and email marketing are just a few inexpensive

ways to resonate with potential donors.

- Social media: Every follower on your nonprofit’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram

page represents an opportunity to grow your network of potential donors. Be sure to plan out

social posts on a daily basis to grow your community and build excitement around your campaign.

- Video: While video may seem daunting to some nonprofits, never fear. Sure – quality matters.

It reflects your brand! But you can create high quality video by simply using your smartphone. What

matters the most is your story. Stories that will be the most successful are those that emotionally

ignite your donors to act.

- Email Marketing: Email marketing is a cost and time-effective tool. This is an excellent way to

deliver a lot of information, reach a lot of interested people at once, and connect with your supporters

in an engaging way. You can segment your audience into different lists and grow donor retention by

creating campaigns and call-to-actions specific to those audiences.


Once you get the word out about your event, be sure that your audience knows how your upcoming

virtual events will differ from traditional in-person events that you’ve had in the past. You will need to

take steps to ensure your audience is ready to make the jump to virtual engagement – before, during,

and after.

- Before: Be sure to provide explanations of any new tools you’re using or processes you’re

following in all of your event marketing materials.

- During: Have staff on hand for troubleshooting during events, answering any questions, and being a

go-to resource for guests.

- After: Conduct surveys after your virtual event. Most importantly though – keep refining your process!


Don’t underestimate the support of your donors. Even with the impact of COVID-19, they are still looking

for ways to engage with your mission – virtual fundraising events are the perfect tool to help.


Virtual fundraising events will be an important part of nonprofits’ strategies for the foreseeable

future. Whether as full replacements for in-person events or as modern, hybrid engagement

opportunities, virtual tactics give organizations flexibility and a means to keep on fundraising. And they

give donors the ability to join in from anywhere!


With the right technology and strategies on your side, your nonprofit can begin building out an exciting

calendar of virtual events to grow your fundraising in 2021 and beyond. Whether you’re new to virtual

fundraising events or have executed them in the past but are looking for new ideas, we’re here to help.

First, understand the range of virtual fundraising events. Then update your goals, be sure you have the

right tools to support your goals, and get your audience engaged.

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