All about livestreaming for your nonprofit organization
Over the past few years, livestream fundraising has gone from far-off futuristic dream to everyday reality. Today, we live in a world of in-person events, virtual events, and hybrid events, and they're all great in their own way. There's no need to shuffle through pre-recorded videos and edit that perfect clip; instead, you can click a button and stream video right now, right away, without fancy tools or oodles of resources. As an added bonus, the livestream community is one that you can be proud to join and proud to have representing your cause.
Funraise's livestream fundraising integrations and the increased popularity of virtual events have led to many questions from our friends in the nonprofitsphere. One that we field most frequently is "What platform is the best for virtual fundraising events?" The good news is that there are many options out there when it comes to platforms for livestream fundraising events. Let's get into it!
Social livestreaming platforms
One thing we've discovered is that the livestreaming household names—YouTube, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and TikTok—will work just fine for your nonprofit. These big-name social channels make it relatively easy to set up a livestream. But at the end of the day, they're designed to make watching live video content easy and fun for the viewer, not whoever's streaming. So, don't expect to create and manage a virtual gala here.
That being said, these are absolutely dandy platforms if you want to make homegrown, one-on-one, handheld videos to reach larger audiences. They also have the added bonus of meeting potential donors where they already are: scrolling endlessly, posting that funny meme from last week, and liking their second-cousin-once-removed's latest photo of a sandwich.
If you want to maintain ongoing content channels or livestream the occasional charity event, Twitch.tv is easy to get started but requires a little more skill/time to customize. The good news is that it'll grow with you as you invest in better equipment and add to your channel. Big bonuses: Twitch is free, and you can use it with your favorite fundraising platform, Funraise!
All of the social media channels above allow some form of chatting or comments but nothing private on the streams themselves. If you're looking for a way to facilitate sidebar conversations or one-on-one networking, Facebook has threaded comments, while Instagram and TikTok have direct messaging.
If you're streaming an online event, any of the above will work. In this case, the differentiating factor will be the equipment you're using.
If you're considering livestreaming facility tours or field work, use a mobile-friendly platform. With any mobile app, it's click, click, click, and you're streaming. Just don't forget to add a link to your fundraising campaign or a donate button. You want to make the donation process as easy as taking a selfie.
Getting serious about livestreaming ($paid platforms$)
Next on the list is Vimeo. It's a paid platform, but it's customizable and ad-free. It also gives you the ability to push your stream to social networks. And taking it even further, you can monetize your videos on Vimeo.
After Vimeo, things go pro. Here, we're starting to get into paid platforms that offer features for professional videographers and content creators. These go way beyond streaming for nonprofits, and chances are they'll be a bit too rich for most nonprofits' blood.
Here are some of the names along with quick 'n' dirty explanations to give you the basic (and we mean BASIC) rundown.
- Zoom: perfect for business or board meetings, webinars, and small-group chats
- DaCast: offers a lot of (what sounds like) fancy features, which means their 24/7 support will come in reeeeal handy
- Panopto: created specifically for the education industry, with a focus on back-and-forth communication between streamer and audience
- NextLot: specialty platform created just for live online auctions, including silent auctions
Y'all, there are so. many. more. We feel your pain in sifting through "livestreaming platform" search results.
The jist of all this is that any of these streaming choices is going to work for you to some degree. If you have something very, very specific that you're looking for, like private chat rooms off of a livestreamed event, you're going to have to build that yourself or dig to the bottom of the internet looking. (Sorry, we know that's not the answer you wanted.)
The other takeaway is that, as in other areas of life, you get what you pay for. If you want truly professional-quality recordings and content access for your supporters, you'll need to invest in pro equipment and professional tech staff.
Finally, the good news in this arena is that thanks to COVID-19's stellar legacy (the not-so-stellar part being our ongoing therapy bills), livestreaming and accessibility continue to gain attention. That means there's a constant stream (see what we did there?) of new, cool features and tools to keep an eye on.
So, unless you've got professional expertise and equipment, start with a platform that's free, offers livestreaming and video storage, and grows with you.
Case study: A RAD nonprofit fundraising strategy
Maybe your nonprofit's interested in livestreaming but you’re not sure it’s worth the effort. Rise Against the Disorder (RAD) CEO Jason Docton's advice from an experienced, successful organization that relies on livestreaming boils down to this: Real-time engagement is the secret to successful livestream charity streams.
Here, we've distilled Jason's advice, but for a cliché-crushing, perspective-bending view of modern fundraising, listen to the conversation. It'll stick with you, we promise. (Yes, we recognize the irony of watching a recording about livestreaming...)
And once you're ready to try livestreaming yourself, talk to a Funraise fundraising expert to find out more about the galaxy's best nonprofit tools.
**Just a note, we didn't know what a 'broadcaster' was before this convo, but it's pretty simple: A broadcaster is just a person who livestreams.
Jason talks about how RAD began...
We had a goal. We set out to raise $1000... but we had no idea how to fundraise. Gaming was the safety net.
and then looks back at what RAD has accomplished...
Through the gaming community, we've been able to create and sustain a universal mental healthcare program that's helped 30,000 people get free mental health care.
Whoa! Go, RAD! So, what did RAD do to raise $1 million through live streaming?
We did next to nothing.
Here's another quote to blow your mind: RAD's average donation is $4. Imagine raising $1 million, $4 at a time. With no effort on your part.
Jason chats about traditional fundraising—taken to livestream...
That process... of finding a prospect, of finding someone that seems like they would be a good fit because their values align with what you're doing as an organization, and then reaching out and saying, "Hey, we think there could be a great partnership here; we'd love for you to help promote what we're about ... that's very traditional fundraising.
Livestreaming is... just as simple, if not easier. Livestream fundraising really isn't all that different from traditional fundraising, and it's much more intuitive and much further reaching.
Here are Jason's top three 'go live' action items for a nonprofit:
- Get your brand narrative set. Make your story strong and consumable.
- Find people who can carry the narrative. You need people who can communicate it, who relate to it, and who are impassioned by it.
- Provide your fundraisers with the tools they need.
It seems too good to be true. An organization literally has to expend zero effort to get started?
Can you give us a little more, Jason?
Instead of treating the broadcaster like a talent or influencer, treat them like a donor. You reach out to them and let them know, "This is what my mission is. I'd like for you to get involved." They often want to take it away themselves. They want to be involved.
So, what inspires people to give through livestreams?
Interaction is what makes livestreaming successful. When you "go live", you're offering people an opportunity to be a part of what you're doing in realtime, not just after the fact. Experiences are a powerful way to drive interaction.
How does Funraise factor in your fundraising?
It wasn't until we began talking [to Funraise] that we found Funraise is a tool where we can actually pull all of that information and be able to understand and convert a lot of these people from just donating because they found us through a broadcaster they like to being able to give them the critical information they need to stay involved with our org.
On behalf of Funraise, thanks, Jason!
Bonus example: Salal SVSC
Salal Sexual Violence Support Centre's (previously WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre) annual Streaming for Survivors fundraising event is a great example of a way to provide all the information streamers need, treat them with special consideration, and attract streamers whose values align with your organization's.
Livestream fundraising tips from an insider
Convinced livestream fundraising is the way to go? Good. Now that you're in, we'll share the #1 key for nonprofits: use your fundraising expertise to build relationships. That's it.
Alyssa Sweetman, livestream content creator and Director of Social Impact at Twitch, brings you her insider view of streaming for nonprofits.
We've heard that livestream charitable fundraising is on the rise.
You saw the fundraising stats above. What you may not know is that the number of broadcasters (people creating streaming content) on Twitch has risen more than 10x since 2012, from 300,000 unique broadcasters each month in 2012 to 3.84 million unique broadcasters each month in 2020.
Or that the number of concurrent viewers (people watching at the same time) has seen similar growth, from 102,000 concurrent viewers in 2012 to 1.38 million concurrent viewers in 2020.
Yeah, livestreaming is on the rise.
What three things do you need to start livestream fundraising?
(Pssst. These three tips come direct from broadcasters in the know.)
Make your impact statement impactful.
Your broadcaster's going to have to repeat your impact statement out loud off the top of their head while they're streaming, gaming, and interacting with their audience. So make the content you provide impactful and memorable.
“Authenticity is the best tool anyone can have," Alyssa says. Broadcasters put themselves out there for their fan base every time they go live. You can do the same.
Show appreciation for your streamers.
What differentiates successful and unsuccessful nonprofits is whether they “recognize the streaming space... And aren't treating them [broadcasters] like an ATM or number.”
How do you identify creators that might be passionate about your cause?
It may seem so from the outside, but broadcasters aren't mysterious. In fact, their business is allowing themselves to be seen by making a connection with supporters. By narrating their thoughts, actions, and motivations, they build an online presence that's authentic and passionate, just like you, and fundraising through their streams combines things they love. Alyssa says, “I like the idea of being able to bake it into your everyday life... it can be really hard to go out of your way to do something.”
Get your mind out of the trap of the Gamer personal fallacy. Anyone can be a gamer—SAHPs and homemakers are an often-overlooked group of gamers. The games you play on your smartphone—Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, word search puzzles—are all a huge part of the gaming community.
You better believe the "whole mindset is shifting...They're gamers, but they're also business owners.” Look around for content that resonates with you. Take the time to get familiar with a broadcaster's content before you reach out. Then go for it!
You've made contact—now what?
Treat broadcasters as business owners.
Remember, this is their job. Streaming pays their bills. Make sure the broadcaster has a meaningful takeaway regardless of how much they raise on your behalf.
Don't try to control the content they create.
Trust Alyssa when she says, “You're just simply asking them to add a fundraising component to their stream.” A broadcaster's audience has certain expectations. When you request that they change their formatting or content, you're asking them to go against what they've established with their fan base. Broadcasters are hyper-aware of the community and fan base they've built; your need to control their content makes them nervous.
“...can you think of another job that asks you to come into work, do your work, and then give up your income that day?”
Alyssa makes a solid point; this isn't your everyday donation. Be respectful—broadcasters are literally working for free for your cause.
It's all about cultivating relationships... which is something you're already an expert in.
Here's a hot tip: Look at the bigger picture and think about livestream fundraising as influencer marketing. Then you can expand the idea to thinking of it as influencer fundraising.
Do not over-ask your broadcasters. You wouldn't ask your donors to give every week or month; broadcasters can't ask their audience to do that, either.
Speaking of cultivating relationships... Consider having one person on your team handle these relationships, the same way you have major gifts officers.
But who should that be? Rather than looking for someone who has streaming experience, keep an eye out for “someone that's a self-starter, that is creative with coming up with ideas and has a little bit of a marketing background," according to Alyssa.
Your livestream fundraising manager should embody the same qualities that you look for in donor relations managers, plus a willingness to treat this new revenue stream seriously while being able to speak to broadcasters, person-to-person.
If it's that easy, maybe you should get into the business, hmm?
When it comes to livestreaming the impactful work they're doing, nonprofits have ample room to grow. Here's a relevant non-Twitch example: charity: water has livestreamed an on-site well-digging during glittery in-person gala fundraisers to great success. Getting donors to see the impact firsthand makes them feel like part of the solution and encourages them to donate.
If you're thinking of streaming, start with just being consistent. Keep to a schedule that your followers can rely on. Create non-ask content regularly and pace your asks so that you don't overwork your audience.
Ready to get started?
You probably have more of a streaming audience than you know. Isn't it worth checking out?
For help getting started, listen to all of Alyssa's insider tips for livestream fundraising success.
How to find the right streamers to fundraise for your nonprofit
Here are our tried-and-true tactics for finding the right broadcasters* for your nonprofit. The principles are sound, so you should be able to successfully transfer these steps to any streaming platform, be it Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, or Facebook Instawhatever. The key: Respecting broadcasters' time and expertise.
*You can call them broadcasters, streamers, content creators, business owners, fundraisers, or friends. :)
Start small. Find one broadcaster.
Just start with finding one person who makes cool stuff that aligns with your mission.
Look around on your favorite livestreaming platform. Don't be afraid to click all the buttons and get lost—you're not going to break the website, trust us. Join the virtual audience, find some streamers that you like watching, and follow them. Maybe start a chat. It's enough to say, “Hi! Thanks for having me here!”
Don't pin all your hopes on the first broadcaster you like.
Keep an open mind, because there are all kinds of livestreamed content out there. Broadcasters stream games, makeup/hair tutorials, cooking, art and drawing, ham radio, fishing in actual streams, or literally anything you can think of. There's a 24/7 stream of a jar of peanut butter, for goodness' sake.
Read broadcasters' profiles for more info.
When you read what broadcasters have written about themselves, you may be surprised! Many broadcasters are members of larger groups of like-minded content creators—gamers, broadcasters, artists, cooks, and so on. They often advertise these alliances in their profiles, group memberships, or who they're following; looking at the other group members is a great way to see if they're working toward the same things you are.
Decide on one broadcaster that you like the best.
Most broadcasters post a schedule so you know when they're live—pop on every day for a few minutes and greet their chat. Note things they talk about or what they wear or the activities they engage in during their stream. But take it from us, thread that needle carefully because you don't want to sound like a creep.
Once you've chosen a broadcaster, it's time to take the next step.
1. Reach out to the broadcaster
Send an email.
After, we don't know, a week of light engagement and getting to know the broadcaster, send an email! Usually, broadcasters have their email addresses listed in their profiles, and, according to the broadcasters we talked to, they prefer that method of outreach.
If you kept up with the broadcaster for a week, you should have something to talk about, like a recent stream they did or the topics in their chat or something funny they wore. So don't skip the engagement step—we promise it makes things easier as you reach out for the first time.
Use a template like the one below. Keep it casual, but be respectful of the broadcaster as a business owner. One other thing we found worked well was to put a piece of personal information in the postscript... broadcasters put so much of themselves out to the public that it seems polite to tell them something about you to kind of even the score. Just beware of TMI. :/
Email another broadcaster. Be confident in your ask.
Once you hit up your first broadcaster, it's easier to find the second one and begin reaching out. Just go for it!
Every time we thought about reaching out, we died a little inside thinking of how silly it would sound. Keep in mind that broadcasters are as nervous as we are—many of them worry that their fan base won't respond positively or that their contribution won't meet your expectations.
Give them a reason to connect to your cause. (Very Important)
Next, introduce the broadcaster to your nonprofit's mission and make it clear what both their contribution and their impact will be. This is something fundraisers are experts in, so we won't try to guide you pros from over here on the sidelines.
There are lots of broadcasters that want to be of service in the wider world but just don't know how. Showing them how they can help is a good thing.
One other thing... your nonprofit may need to grow or change to fit into this world. Think creatively about what you have—or what you can build—that will light a spark in the broadcaster. Fundraise for a new community garden in your community center or offer them the opportunity to name your new bunny shelter.
2. Build the relationship
Let the broadcaster get to know you a little bit.
Before you ask a broadcaster to fundraise on your behalf, make sure they feel comfortable with you.
This is for you as well as the broadcaster. In these initial stages of your relationship, you're feeling them out—are they responsive? Dependable? Do they understand your mission? Can they relate in a personal way to the problems your organization's facing?
If this broadcaster streams on your behalf, they'll be representing your organization, repeating your impact statement, talking about the people/animals/environments you work to assist. Are they a person you want representing you? Choose wisely.
Be the fundraising expert they need.
You may think you don't know livestreaming, but broadcasters are thinking that they don't know fundraising. Make it easy for them! When something seems easy, people are way more likely to say yes. You know this.
Remember that the broadcaster is a business owner.
This is the #1 most important thing we learned in the streaming world.
Broadcasters aren't lazy or game-addicted; they're community leaders. Small business owners. Hustlers. And when you treat them like a valuable part of your strategic fundraising team, they'll be professional and dependable when they work with you.
Streaming is a broadcaster's job and most likely, they earn money to do it. So if they're dedicating a stream event to you and asking their followers to donate to your cause, that means they are literally giving up their own earnings so that your org can have them. Not to mention that streamers purchase their own supplies and hardware for their streams. If they shave or dye their hair or get a tattoo (all things that we've seen!), that's them giving up autonomy over their own body for your cause.
3. Don't leave the ball in their court
Go back after you reach out.
If you send an email and then never come back to the stream, the chances of the broadcaster getting back to you are much lower than if you head back to their channel the next day. It really solidified our outreach when we went back after emailing and chatted in the broadcasters' streams or posted in their comments the very next day.
If they don't respond to you in a week-ish, even after you've followed up in their stream, let it go. They are not the broadcaster for your nonprofit. There are millions of other broadcasters out there, so just keep on fishing in that stream.
Keep working the system.
At this point, if you continue to find broadcasters, watch their content, reach out, answer questions, and build those relationships, you should end up with some broadcasters that'll fundraise for you on occasion.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that your streaming supporters are experts in what they do. They're business owners and community managers. As you think about them and interact with them, hold onto that mindset.
To make a short story long...
There were a lot more lessons learned and laughs laughed during this process. Don't take yourself too seriously and allow yourself to enjoy the streaming community. As you become part of this movement, welcome other newbies to the world of livestream fundraising.
Our gift 2 u: an email template to introduce yourself to broadcasters
Modify at will!
Hi Ronald, I'm Erin, the Fundraising Coordinator with Cars 4 Clowns. We're a nonprofit that purchases tiny cars for clowns in need. I saw you on Twitch and was drawn to your content because of your intricate face-painting streams. Our office really loved the recent "sad clown"—the blue matches our logo!
I was wondering if you'd consider helping us fundraise through a stream on your channel. We really feel that your work aligns with our mission and that our supporters would enjoy your work—and hopefully, your fan base would appreciate the work we do as well.
If you've got questions, you can reply to this email or you can call/text me at 555-555-5555.
That's it! I hope you have the best day!
P.S. My username is JeepJester... gotta represent my love of Jeeps and clowns, right?
Livestreaming and livestream events: FAQs
What is livestreaming?
Livestreaming is when you record and broadcast media in real time. It's kinda like live TV but over the internet.
What's the best way to livestream?
Didn't read our full guide, huh? Well, TL;DR: It depends on your need! Free social media platforms are all fine and dandy for the viewer, but they aren't great for the broadcaster. Twitch is great if you want your own channel or plan to stream an event or two. Vimeo's a bit easier for customization. After that, you'll be looking at pro platforms.
Why is livestreaming so popular?
People love interacting with other people, and livestreaming gives you that connection. When you livestream an event, be it a virtual auction or general video fundraiser, you can reach out and talk to the audience, no matter where they are — and that's pretty cool!
Is livestream one word or two? Or is it hyphenated?
According to the almighty AP Style, it's one word. That's why we wrote it as “livestreaming” and not "live-streaming" throughout this guide.
How can nonprofits livestream?
For a deeper understanding of what it takes to achieve livestream fundraiser success as well as how you can host a virtual event for the ages, check out this Livestreaming from Beginner to Expert course from Chad Vickers, LiNK's resident filmmaker.
You're gonna be an expert in no time!
- Understand how livestreams work and how to create your own
- Build a simple or advanced livestream using OBS (Open Broadcaster Software)
- Go live to one or multiple audiences simultaneously
- Put together a livestream that is engaging, entertaining, and dynamic