Most-Asked Nonprofit Virtual Event Questions

March 31, 2020
10 minutes

With COVID-19-related cancellations to many nonprofits' major in-person fundraising events and no end to social distancing in sight, everyone's asking how to take their events virtual to decrease revenue loss during and after COVID-19.

Funraise CEO and Co-founder, Justin Wheeler, jumped to help with resources, answers, and advice in a series of live Q&A brainstorming sessions—even giving out his personal cell phone number for nonprofits that felt they had nowhere to turn.

Here are your most-asked questions along with answers from some of the industry's most-experienced event fundraisers, the distilled result of two live Q&A brainstorming sessions and boundless fundraising-fueled nerves.

Should my nonprofit cancel my event or postpone it?

Postpone it. When you cancel, your donors think your nonprofit is putting aside your mission, when that's the last thing that's happening. Even worse, registrants and sponsors may want a refund!

Considering today's truly pressing needs, is it ethically wrong to fundraise for my nonprofit?

Ethically, your nonprofit needs to be fundraising right now. Your mission isn't less urgent with COVID-19 in the mix, and your responsibility is to keep your mission afloat.

How do I transition my nonprofit's event to a virtual space?

They key is to get your supporters involved. Use a peer-to-peer campaign connected to Facebook and get your registrants to be micromatch donors, getting their network to match the amount your donors would have given at the in-person event.

Where should my nonprofit be streaming? YouTube? Facebook? Twitch?

Stream wherever your audience is. If your biggest audience is on Facebook, put your video there. If they watch YouTube, drop it there. Tools like restream.io allow you to publish your stream on practically any social platform.

If you're interested in stretching into livestream fundraising, head to Twitch. Find a Twitch broadcaster with a built-in audience, and reach out. You'll be opening up your audience while encouraging a deeper connection to your mission.

How can my nonprofit keep our sponsors if there's no event?

Genius idea from Bobby D. Ehlert of Inspire Hearts! Bobby suggests that you ask your sponsor to pay for the streaming technology and equipment. Win/Win!

Software is a great sponsor investment because it's a new way to fundraise (ooooh! ahhhh!), and it's also something that can be used for the foreseeable future, meaning that your sponsor's opportunity for exposure just expanded far and wide.

Should my nonprofit take our event public or make it ticket/invite-only?

The twin goals for your event are probably awareness and fundraising. Take on both by offering a main event to the public with connected fundraising pages and a progress bar and then providing VIP-only access to extra content. Take your VIP-access beyond the event by offering additional content to your monthly donors. Value-add content can be anything: Director's message, impact updates, or footage from the field.

Should my nonprofit hold a live virtual event or pre-record the event?

It depends on your needs! A live event recreates the feel of the in-person event, but prerecording gives you the opportunity to present a sparkling, edited event showcase. What about both? A livestreamed event with highlights polished and pushed afterwards.

What are some tools that we can use to make a virtual event?

Winspire and GiveSmart offer online auctions. Use restream.io to livestream your nonprofit's events on many social platforms. And of course, when you connect Funraise's peer-to-peer campaigns to Facebook or take advantage of Funraise's streaming integrations, you gain full access to the best fundraising and donor management technology in the world.

What are some ideas for virtual events that my nonprofit can plan quickly and with low up-front costs? Are there any examples of successful events?

Think tried-and-true! You don't have to invent the wheel, just plan events like you normally would, but implement a virtual element. Events like a golf tournament, wine or coffee tasting, movie screening, or even a pet adoption all work. Look at DigDeep's 2020 World Water Day campaign for an example of incredible success with last-minute, low-dollar virtual fundraising.

My nonprofit's fundraising event is this summer. Should we hold the event or take it virtual? How do I communicate the plan with my supporters?

Stay honest and transparent, always circling back to your nonprofit's mission and impact. Get your Plan B going for those summer events: even if your event goes on as scheduled, there are gonna be people who don't feel comfortable gathering or who are too far away, so plan a simultaneous virtual event along with your in-person event. You'll be planning two events, but you'll also be virus-proofing your plan and expanding your reach.

If you need further assurance that You Can Do This, or if we haven't yet answered your question, email us at hello@funraise.org. There is a real person watching that inbox like a hawk, so you will receive a response.

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