Funraise's livestream fundraising integrations and the recent COVID-19 pandemic have brought out all kinds of questions from our friends in the nonprofitsphere.
It may (or may not) surprise you to hear the question we're fielding most often: "What platform is the best for virtual fundraising events?" Followed by a description of the really cool way that this org plans to implement their idea for a virtual event.
While we have some legit geniuses here at Funraise, the internet is big. And friends, your friendly writer here is only as versed as the average person when it comes to streaming tech talk. So, in the results of my research, I bring you no fancy terms, just what I can figure out with the help of my friend Google.
Social livestreaming platforms
One thing I've discovered is that the livestreaming household names—YouTube, Facebook Live, and Instagram Live—will work just fine for your nonprofit. Those big three are relatively easy to set up, 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. Don't expect it to be easy to create and manage professional-level content here.
However... these are absolutely dandy platforms if you want to make homegrown, one-on-one, handheld videos!
If you want to maintain ongoing content channels or livestream the occasional event, Twitch.tv and Mixer are still easy to get started but require a little more skill/time to customize. The good news is that they'll grow with you as you invest in better equipment and add to your channel. Big bonuses: they're free and Funraise has an integration with Twitch!
All of the above allow some form of chats 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. That's about it.
For streaming large-scale events, speakers, and entertainment, 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. I can personally attest to how easy it is to use Twitch's mobile app! It's just click, click, click, and I'm streaming.
Getting serious about livestreaming ($paid platforms$)
Next on the list is Vimeo. It's a paid platform, but customizable and ad-free. It also gives you the ability to push your stream to social networks. And taking it even farther, you can monetize your videos on Vimeo.
After Vimeo, things go pro. We're starting to get into paid platforms that offer features for professional videographers and content creators, not specifically for nonprofit fundraisers.
Here are some of the names and quick 'n' dirty explanations to give you the basic (and I 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
- Y'all, there are so. many. more. We feel your pain in sifting through "livestreaming platform" search results.
We'll update this space as we separate and differentiate different streaming platforms and we'll keep you updated as we go. Your experience and expertise is valued, always, so if you want to upvote or downvote a platform, we're all ears! Give us the scoop, friends.
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 either 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, livestreaming and accessibility are gaining a lot of attention, which means there should be a boom of new, cool features and tools in short order.
So, unless you've got professional expertise and equipment, start with a platform that's free, offers lifestreaming and video storage, and grows with you.