A Nonprofit's Complete Guide to Virtual Event Types

October 22, 2021
12 minutes

Is my mic on? Okay, good. Can everyone see my screen?

Ah, the familiar refrains of life in a pandemic. We’re just guessing, but chances are you’ve attended (and hosted) more than a few virtual events since COVID hit. From livestreamed concerts to remote conferences, everything went online—and we went with it.

Now, what started as a desperate scramble to stay connected in a COVID world has turned into a new way of life. While some IRL events have returned, many haven’t. And there’s a reason for that: virtual events have a lot going for them. Sure, we could all do with fewer 8:00 AM Zoom meetings, but virtual events can save time and money—plus they’re super convenient, crossing time zones and reducing (or at least changing) accessibility concerns.

Just like there are lots of different types of traditional fundraisers—galas, fun runs, concerts—there are a plethora of different types of virtual events your nonprofit may need to host. To get you started, we’ve created this handy guide to walk you through your virtual event options. And once you’ve decided on the type of event, you can check out our Quick Start Guide to Better Virtual Fundraisers for tips and tricks to ensure your virtual fundraiser is virtually flawless.

Virtual Fundraisers

Good news for nonprofit event planners everywhere: a virtual fundraiser can bring in real money. In fact, taking your event online opens up a world of possibilities! There’s no need to rent a pricey venue or schedule a dinner around an important donor’s travel plans. A tropical storm or surprise blizzard won’t lead to your keynote speaker canceling out at the last minute. Even better? Your guest list is basically the entirety of the internet since you’re no longer limited to local attendees.

And once you’re ready to get that (virtual) party started, we’d be remiss not to mention that Funraise makes planning and execution a breeze. Our Virtual Events feature lets you sell tickets, register guests, and livestream everything on your own campaign site for a memorable, glitch-free fundraiser.

Hold up: what’s this about livestreaming?

We’re so glad you asked! There’s something special about the energy of a live event. You can capture some of that spark by livestreaming, AKA sharing an event in real-time via video. Livestreaming might sound intimidating, but all you need is a device that’s connected to the internet. Of course, you’ll want to ensure you have high-quality video and audio for a polished event. Then, choose your streaming option and start broadcasting to the masses—you’ll have your choice of the usual suspects, including Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube.

Livestreaming is great for fundraising events because it builds engagement and creates a sense of excitement. After all, with a live event, anything can happen!

Okay, back to virtual fundraisers.

While you can certainly move your annual gala or auction online and have a successful event, here are a few other virtual fundraiser possibilities.

Virtual tasting

Cheese or wine from the comfort of your couch, all while raising money for a good cause? Yes, please! With a little extra effort (and a lot of extra postage), you can host a virtual tasting to raise funds for your nonprofit.

Livestream concert

Capture the energy of a live event by featuring performers singing the praises of your cause.

Virtual 5k or race

A virtual race can provide an adrenaline rush for participants—and an influx of funds for your nonprofit. Participants can join from wherever they are but still have the sense of community that comes from running with a crowd.

Virtual keynote speaker

A great keynote speaker can inspire your audience to get involved and give big—but they also book up early and cost a lot. If you’re planning a virtual keynote, however, you won’t have any travel or travel costs, making many speakers more available and affordable than ever before.

Virtual trivia fundraiser

Tap into donors’ competitive spirit, and humanity’s love of random facts, with a virtual trivia night. As a bonus, you can tailor the questions to your nonprofit sector, so attendees have fun and learn something new.

Virtual classes

Speaking of learning something new, your supporters all have something in common: your cause! Teach them something that relates to your mission in a virtual class. Dog training, second or third or more languages, or kids' crafts. And bonus, these can be more than just one-time events.

Virtual facilities tour

If you have supporters that have never been to your facilities or seen your programs in action, this may be the perfect time to introduce them to your team—while your team is making their magic happen! Yeah, an office tour may not be the jam, but if you work with animals, sports, or outdoors, it may be just the ticket.

Virtual Conferences

In-person conferences tend to involve large crowds in tight spaces, so it’s no wonder that the virtual conference gained steam in the last year. And while attendees might miss the conference swag, they probably won’t miss the small talk, budget hotels, and continental breakfasts.

For nonprofits seeking to establish themselves as movers and shakers, hosting or presenting at an industry conference can have a far-reaching impact. If you’re super ambitious, consider partnering with other nonprofits (or for-profit sponsors) to host your own virtual conference. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s a great way to distinguish yourself. If that feels like a bit much, you can get involved with a preexisting conference. Speak on a panel or do a live Q&A—or just set up a virtual booth to spread awareness and recruit volunteers (complete with some snazzy informational PDFs).

Additionally, you can extend your reach by live-tweeting any conferences you host, speak at, or attend. It’s a great opportunity to share relevant information, engage with your donors, and attract new ones (be sure to use those hashtags!). Plus, live-tweeting allows your nonprofit’s witty personality to shine through.

Remote Meetings

Sure, you’ve attended dozens, if not hundreds, of virtual meetings this year. In fact, you’re probably still attending way too many, maybe even as you read this article. If so, you’ve seen the looks of exhaustion and distraction on the faces of your fellow attendees. Their eyes glaze over; they cough to hide a yawn.

Happily, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can host video meetings that are engaging for everyone. The key? Choose your platform wisely and up the interaction. One more word of advice: do some tech troubleshooting beforehand, including testing your camera and mic. (Meaning: Practice)

Below, a few meetings you can (and should) take online—while keeping attendees from falling asleep at their screens.

Board meetings

The upside of virtual board meetings includes better attendance and, hopefully, greater member diversity. The rules are the same as in-person board meetings: have an agenda, take detailed minutes, and give each member the opportunity to speak.

Meet-and-greets with donors

It’s never been so easy to grab a cup of coffee with potential and current donors. Just don’t forget the handwritten thank-you note afterward!

All-staff meetings

All-hands meetings are especially important these days, keeping everyone connected even when they’re apart. Hopping on Zoom for a one-on-one check-in is all well and good, but all-staff meetings require a bit more planning. Add polls, use breakout rooms, and celebrate successes to keep everyone engaged.

Volunteer appreciation events

After this year, your volunteers really deserve some extra love! Consider mailing them some swag to make them feel extra special. As for the event itself, consider something really fun, like a virtual escape room or a livestreamed cooking class.

Virtual Trainings and Workshops

Here’s one type of virtual event that’s been popular for a while. Given today’s rapidly changing landscape, your volunteers, board members, and staff members often need new skills to thrive. With online workshops, trainings, and coaching sessions, you can reach a lot of people with minimal effort. Plus, you can hire expert facilitators as needed to ensure a great, cost-effective experience. Finally, trainings can be live or on-demand, so that attendees can access them anytime, anywhere.

Here are a few trainings that can easily be brought online:

Volunteer trainings

Onboard, update, and celebrate your mighty volunteers with online trainings and workshops. Trainings can be as simple as screen-sharing your PowerPoint or as involved as interactive video modules.

Staff lunch-and-learns

Want to teach your staff some new skills quickly and painlessly? Send everyone a meal delivery gift card, get a good speaker, and then hop on any streaming platform. Done and done!

Webinars

When you want to quickly share vital information with a larger group, a webinar is the no-frills way to go. They’re short, informative, and, best of all, easy to produce. Breaking news, policy updates, best practices... just webinar ‘em.

While 2020 forced us to take our events online a bit more quickly than expected, virtual events are here to stay. And now that you know all the possibilities, the sky—or the cloud—is the limit.

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