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How to Plan a Virtual Holiday Fundraiser

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As the holiday season approaches, you might be wondering what your options are in terms of hosting a holiday fundraiser or a physical holiday event. For corporate holiday events, you might have considered hosting a virtual holiday party such as a Santa exchange. You could also host a holiday fundraiser to raise awareness and money for a certain charitable cause or business. However, given the state of physical distancing and shut down requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hosting any kind of physical holiday event may be out the window this year. Business, non-profits, and charities should consider hosting a virtual holiday fundraiser like a virtual gala. While virtual events may not be considered as much fun as in-person charity events, they are still a great way to raise money for a cause and to promote a social issue. If you are an event organizer or project lead for a nonprofit organization or brand, you may need some guidance in planning a virtual holiday fundraiser. There are many virtual fundraising ideas that work, so get creative, choose a virtual event platform, and get to it!

Things to Consider Before Planning Your Virtual Holiday Fundraiser

Before you set out to plan your virtual fundraising event, you need to first sit down and brainstorm a few things. This will allow for the event planning process to go more smoothly. It will also help you and the event coordinators to identify the key features that the holiday fundraiser should highlight. When hosting a virtual holiday fundraiser, you’ll need to first do some research around the best virtual event software and video conferencing software. Often, a good virtual event planning software can do both (and much more), so you want to be sure you nail this down. Additionally, identifying the features of your holiday fundraising event will point you to the features that you need in sophisticated event software. For example, you most likely will want flexibility when it comes to hosting virtual fundraising videos. You may be able to stream some live video, with integrations to social media platforms of course, but you might also want to record content and upload it at a scheduled session time. That way remote audiences from all over can attend the “stimulated” live event and you won’t have to worry about decreased professional quality or decreased audience engagement due to the event looking like it was pre-recorded. You’ll also want to be mindful of the duration of the event as time spent online is getting increasingly out of control! People want to step away from the digital space, desktop, or laptop every so often, so try to keep sessions and segments short and as engaging as possible. Be sure to integrate a smart ticketing strategy if your event is ticket-based and consider taking on a sponsor for the event. And given that the primary focus of your fundraising event will be actual fundraising, you want to ensure you provide ample opportunities for donations. Look for a platform that combines ticketing with donation requests. With Accelevents, you can combine your ticketing page with your silent auction, raffle, or text-to-give campaign. The easier you can make giving, the more generous people will feel!

Technology Features You’ll Want in Your Virtual Holiday Fundraiser

Your virtual fundraiser will need to be fueled by online event software. This software connects audiences to presenters and brands in unprecedented ways. For example, a smart event planning software will be able to live stream or host live event video in addition to providing live chat, lead retrieval, CRM integration, analytics, online and streamlined registration, ticketing, available customer support, and marketing materials. Look for smart, functional, and automated features so that as the event organizer you are not running around, ensuring that technology is functioning or that you need to obtain audience information during the event !Event technology is there to make this process easier, and you might be surprised as to how “stress-free” a virtual fundraising event can be! Be sure to allocate a team dedicated to certain tasks, such as:

  • Overseeing the video production (i.e., videographer, film production, film or video direction)
  • Overseeing social media and marketing
  • Lead retrieval expert
  • Designated people(s) for collecting bid information and financials
  • Customer service coordinator
  • Live chat moderator
  • Overall production manager

While this sounds like a lot, and it can quickly add up, many of the smaller tasks can be handled by one individual. So if you are promoting the event on social media, that one individual should be able to handle everything (even if it is just coordination) in that realm. Be sure to hire someone you can count on. If you can do it yourself, be sure that you set up and test automated processes prior to the event to ease stress.

Things Supporters are Looking for in a Virtual Fundraiser

Online attendees may or may not be familiar with a virtual event, or they may be more familiar with video conferencing. One thing is for sure - educating attendees early on regarding the processes associated with your virtual fundraising event so that there is no reason for remote audiences to feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed. When choosing your event software, you want to make sure that the UI/UX is functional, easy to navigate, and makes sense for the user. If the online attendee has to complete too many boxes or sections or can’t advance the fillable form because of an error, potential donors can quite easily walk away from this frustration and not attend your event at all! You also want to have clear imagery on the screen. Online attendees do not want to stare at pixelated images or horrible quality video. Whatever video format you use, be sure to render the video at the optimal quality for the software and go easy in the editing process. Online audiences are looking for authenticity. Be upfront with them about your goals and work to connect them to your cause in a realistic and natural way. You cannot bully people into giving or be over saccharine in your sentiments. The world is struggling through a pandemic, and we’ve all been impacted by it. It is important to strike a note of understanding while highlighting your needs. Money is more important than ever these days and donors want to know that you value their contributions.

Setting Up the Virtual Environment

Now for the fun part! Once you have made all the necessary decisions around how your virtual fundraiser will function, you can begin setting up your online fundraising environment. A platform like Accelevents will allow event organizers to set up a virtual event space that allows guests to move through a virtual exhibit hall. With this technology, guests can create an avatar and move into different digital spaces. This allows the guests to pick and choose the aspects of the virtual holiday fundraiser that they want to be a part of. Perhaps they want to socialize around the “holiday punch”. Create a space for social interaction, sharing stories, and tidbits. Or, they might want to step into one fundraiser session to view an auction item. That should be up to them. If you are running a virtual silent auction, then you will have to designate a space to showcase and provide detailed information about each item. Virtual event platforms can provide multiple sessions for different fundraising types, such as a silent auction, donation page, raffle, virtual games session, scavenger hunt, charity auction, or live virtual auction. You don’t have to force all the online attendees to attend one specific session. You can have your call-to-action loud and clear on any (or all) of the pages; for example, post a donation form on the main page so that each participant knows that they can easily navigate to that page to provide a charitable donation. With different sessions, you’ll also need to consider what the schedule might look like, especially if guests will be able to pick and choose when they can attend the event. This is a great way to encourage audience engagement and increased attendance since guests won’t feel awkward or obligated if they are only attending one or two sessions (out of a couple). You’ll also want to talk to your attendees about how to navigate the virtual platform space! Make sure that the virtual environment makes sense for the fundraiser. For example, if your nonprofit fundraising campaign is hosting a big virtual concert as its main event, then be sure that the concert is on the public page. Then, allocate donation forms and other auctions in individual sessions.

Marketing the Holiday Fundraiser

Once you have nailed-down the back-end processes, your brand can then begin to market the holiday fundraiser. If this fundraiser is part of a bigger fundraising campaign, then market that! Clearly educate the audience about the overall fundraising goal and the goals of this event in particular. Sophisticated virtual event software, will allow you to create a branded event website. Set the website up early with detailed information on it so that it can be sent out to guests. Provide general information about how the event will run and then update it as the event approaches. Be sure to include a link for registration as soon as it is available. You should also include an email address opt-in, like for a newsletter or to be updated when the event occurs, so that your potential online attendees are notified at important milestones for the event. Be sure to keep all social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, updated with a link to the website, registration pages, and social media profiles. There should also be a designated marketer in charge of these aspects so nothing gets overlooked. Of course, play with the theme! While things may feel weird, there are a few norms that we can count on, such as seasonal changes and holidays. Embrace the holiday spirit to provide a little cheer, while raising money for a charity organization or cause.

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