Event Smarts

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10 Tips for Livestreamed Virtual Fundraising Events

November 17 2020 / by Karen Mares

Filed under: How to

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Charitable organizations and institutions have faced a particularly unique challenge during the pandemic: How to hold their fundraising events when galas and auctions can't happen in person? There are so many options! We're going to focus on a fun emerging trend: Livestreamed fundraisers.

Who remembers telethons in the 70s and 80s? Think of livestream fundraising events as the 21st-century version of the classic TV telethon. Being a child of the 70s, I remember them well. They were typically a mix of live and recorded entertainment and content, including live appeals, "mission moments" that introduced you to the work the charity was doing for their beneficiaries, and commercial breaks. Why not take that online? A one-hour live virtual fundraiser can bring in the donations you need and deliver a fun event for your donors.

Some benefits of going this route include:
    • Saving on overhead costs, such as venue rental and catering.
    • No venue space limitations.
    • Reach - broadcasting your event via the internet eliminates any geographic limitations for potential donors - they can attend from the comfort of their homes. 
    • It's a great opportunity - and selling point - for sponsors to advertise to your audience before, during, and after your live event.

10 Tips For Live Virtual Fundraiser Success

Start here for a successful fundraiser! Once you've decided on a date/time, take these next steps:

Tip #1: Go to your board members and consistent donors for help by asking them to commit/pledge. Amy Richter, Executive Director of Music Workshop, held a live broadcast virtual fundraiser in September. She says, "Always start with donations/pledges in your goal "thermometer," and add a donation button on your website prior to your event to encourage "pre-commits." A visual representation of an achievable goal is key for live virtual fundraisers, so you don't want to start your event at zero."

Tip #2: Decide on an online fundraising platform with a "text to donate" option, such as Give Lively. This is also the time gather event planning resources and decide how many support personnel you will need, such as event moderators for behind-the-scenes help for payment processing, communication, and technical support. Tapping your board members and volunteer pool is a good place to start.

Tip #3: Choose a livestream service, but keep in mind that while open streams such as Facebook Live are a possibility, it's more difficult to capture donor information with this format, and it doesn't address any additional concerns regarding security and donor privacy. Consider options such as Teams Live Events with EventBuilder registration.

Tip #4: Professionally produced video content to both entertain and inform the audience of your mission and message is a must-have. Think: television-style production. Want to use a broadcast studio? Convention centers are regrouping to provide studio space for virtual events. Look into possibilities near you.

Tip #5: Reach out to past corporate sponsors and resolicit their support. Chris Ellis, EventBuilder Sales Support and independent event planning professional, says, "having a good relationship with the sponsors and supporters is the best place to start. How can you benefit them and create opportunities to mutually support them?" Another strong selling point for sponsors is their end-to-end visibility throughout your virtual event's entire lifecycle and beyond. Recording your event for on-demand viewing later extends their feel-good sponsorship exposure as well. 

Tip #5: Line up inspiring speakers/hosts for the live portions of your event, preferably people who have a connection to your charity's beneficiaries, and consider the executive director or board member as a co-host. One can help keep your audience engaged, and a co-host who is intimately familiar with your mission and donors can help hold your audience's interest. 

Tip #6: Create a communication plan, detailing the rollout of your event announcements, invitations, and timing of your event reminders. With a virtual event, reminders are an important piece of your communication plan. Because your audience is at home, it's easy for them to let the event slip away. When sending your email event invitations, tap your email list of past and potential donors, and take advantage of segmenting your list to personalize the invitation and messaging based on donor level.

Tip #7: Promote your event online through your website and social channels. Also, consider a direct mailer. I know that seems incredibly old-fashioned, but in the world of overwhelmed inboxes, a postcard stands out. Include a QR code with a join link.

Tip #8: Add a virtual paddle raise - take advantage of the “raise hand” feature Teams and EventBuilder have to engage your audience. Solicit a matching donor, if possible, and during your event's broadcast, shout out their generosity live. Another tip from Amy Richter: "The more you can connect your audience with your cause, the more they will feel they are making a difference to your organization. So, give each donation level a purpose. Tell donors what their money will help accomplish." Now, logistically this can be a little tricky, so competent, quick-thinking event moderators and support personnel are an important piece of a successful virtual paddle raise. 

Tip #9: This is not an event that you want to start by winging it. Have time blocks planned and then rehearse them with cues! You will definitely want to do a run-through of your event, checking the tech, the sound, and video content. In case of disaster with your tech, have a backup plan.

Tip #10: Create a post-event follow-up plan that includes donor engagement/thanks, access to a recording of the event, and ongoing opportunities for donations on your website. Engage attendees with these materials within 48 hours after your fundraiser when they're still excited about your cause. 

Leave the Production To Us

You're ready to rock and raise! What’s next? Us! We’ve got your back. With our expertise, you can do more and go further with your fundraising events. Let EventBuilder’s Professional Services do the heavy lifting and give you a hand behind the scenes with event management, technical help, and program support. Contact us for a consultation today!


Topics: How to

Karen Mares

About Karen Mares

Karen is an Event Producer and the Content Creator here at EventBuilder. She's also a wife, mom, singer, and history nerd.

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