You’ve opened the evites: virtual galas, tastings, trivia nights, and auctions galore. You’ve attended the webinars: lunch-n-learns, Q&A’s, and the occasional “Ask Me Anything.” And you’ve taken copious notes: what worked, what didn’t, and what you’d do differently.
It’s one thing to have a virtual event; it’s another thing entirely to execute it well. Which brings us to this here article: We’ve gathered four examples of real nonprofit virtual events that raised the roof and rallied the supporters.
So pour yourself a cup of tea, sit back, and prepare to be inspired.
Nonprofit Virtual Event Examples
Liberty in North Korea’s “A Night of Freedom” Galas
In the days of yore (AKA pre-COVID times), Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) relied on their two annual galas to raise funds and spread awareness in support of North Korean refugees. Just as they were ramping up their 2020 planning, however, everything changed. Rather than canceling their plans, LiNK decided to go bold and go digital, transforming their dual galas into virtual dueling galas.
With an east coast and a west coast event, anyone could attend from anywhere. Suddenly, LiNK had their largest audience ever—so they set an aggressive fundraising goal of $800,000. The results? Over 1,100 unique supporters, including 840 first-time donors, raising a grand total of $1.06M. And that’s not all: LiNK took full advantage of their virtual momentum and gathered over 1,000 new email signups at the event, paving the way for an influx of future supporters.
March of Dimes’ “March for Babies Step Up!” Walk
Every year, March of Dimes holds “March for Babies,” a series of fundraising walks across the country in support of maternal and infant health. 2020 was supposed to be the 50th anniversary of this popular fundraising event, so they weren’t about to call it quits when COVID struck. Instead, they launched “March for Babies Step Up!” a virtual fundraising walk open to everyone.
With an emphasis on connection and equity, March of Dimes offered flexible participation options, incentives for raising funds, and opportunities for interaction and celebration. Every participant had access to a peer-to-peer fundraising toolkit, too. But here’s the best part: once they saw that “March for Babies” could be successful online, March of Dimes decided to make it a year-round event. That means anyone can sign up for a virtual walk anytime, increasing community engagement and fundraising power 365 days a year.
Washington Environmental Council’s Virtual Gala
Washington Environmental Council’s (WEC’s) annual gala is a night to cultivate community, celebrate successes, and raise funds in support of a more sustainable future. So while many nonprofits found their work directly impacted by COVID, WEC’s mission remained the same. Accordingly, WEC decided to forge ahead with a virtual bash. And that’s what they emphasized in their event messaging, too: the need to think about the future, even when the present is overwhelming.
For their first virtual event, WEC kept it simple. They didn’t livestream the event but instead shared several short videos and held a virtual auction. Long past the event itself, you can still access clips from the event on their website, along with an enthusiastic post-gala summary from their board chair. Talk about leaving a lasting impression! And here’s the bottom line: WEC significantly exceeded their fundraising goal of $200,000, raising a total of $275,000. In fact, the gala was so successful that they did it again in 2021.
Boy Scouts of America's Virtual Patron Luncheon
Matt Armstrong, Director of Marketing and Communications for the BSA's Heart of America Council was looking for a platform that would streamline his livestream and make this BSA council's traditionally large luncheon easy to take online.
Instead of going completely live, the council rented a professional studio and prerecorded much of the programming, giving them the time and space to present a polished, professional performance to their attendees without stressing over speaker scheduling or unexpected technical issues.
In addition, by tapping into Funraise's Facebook integration and customizing the event's fundraising campaign site, Matt was able to offer a centralized home base for peer-to-peer fundraisers as well as a way to extend the event past the organization's own network.
But did it work? Matt set a stretch goal of $620,000—and ended up raising over $700,000.
Indwell’s “Hope at Home” Gala
Indwell, an affordable housing nonprofit, had big plans for spring 2020, with four (!) in-person events in the works. With four affordable housing sites around the world, Indwell intended to host a different signature event for each city. When it became clear that they’d have to cancel their jet-setting original plans, they decided to roll all four events into one memorable virtual night.
Over the course of the evening, over 1,300 supporters tuned in to hear remarks from local staff members and community leaders as they “traveled” to the four regions. To differentiate their gala from others, Indwell sent every attendee a menu of recipes to cook at home, creating a sense of togetherness despite the distance. All in all, the event far surpassed its $50,000 goal, raising over $100,000 for folks in need.