You can no longer discuss fundraising without talking about virtual fundraising. While it may seem overwhelming to transition your tried-and-true offline strategies into this space, there are some tips to create a more stress-free experience. In fact, there is reason to get excited about virtual fundraising – it’s a DAI (Do Anything Imaginable) kind of world!
1. Virtual Events
The key to a good virtual event is to avoid simply taking an offline event, like a gala, and trying to make it “fit” into the virtual space. Instead, carve out time to create an online event that takes your donors on a journey. It should be a fun and meaningful experience.
Hybrid events are taking a strong second place to virtual events. Imagine a speaker on stage presenting to a ballroom of 100 people, while 2,000 more people around the globe watch via livestream. The challenge for you when hosting hybrid events is to keep both in-person and virtual attendees equally engaged at the same time.
If possible, add a physical gift to your virtual event. I had one nonprofit provide pickup kits for their tequila tasting fundraiser, another had to pivot their annual crab feast to a crab pickup where they supplied the newspaper, old bay, and other items that would have been available to guests who would normally experience the event in person.
If you do host a virtual event, make sure to provide a post-event video. During the replay you can put up a QR code on the screen so that visitors can give a donation.
2. Virtual Platforms
A virtual events management platform is a great way to support your event, regardless of whether it is fully virtual or is in-person with an added virtual element. For example, Network for Good has just launched a platform to support all your events-related needs.
3. Virtual Tours
Tours are often key components of cultivation, briefing, and “ask” conversations. If you’ve got the budget, you can actually take donors into a yet-to-be built space – these are great for capital campaigns, or perhaps you grab the go pro and take donors on an animal rescue. In the case of one of my clients, a homeless services provider, they were missing their food pantry volunteers and that personal engagement they traditionally had with donors. I had them produce smartphone video tours that allowed donors to see behind-the-scenes how they were managing through COVID.
By allowing your stakeholders to experience your organization, you are able to create a deep connection between the donor and your institution.
4. Challenges to overcome:
- Technical difficulties happen. Always have a backup plan and additional platforms to use should you experience any issues. Be sure to run through the slides and practice sharing your screen with internal participants well in advance and adjust as necessary. Avoid sharing video files unless you know they will present well to your external audience on your platform of choice. Try to tape or hold the live tour during less busy hours, and have as a backup option, an audio-only conference call should you need to quickly pivot.
- Reading people through the screen. Make sure to allow time for feedback. Call on participants by name to keep the conversation going and do your best to prevent people from speaking over one another.
- Going over on time. Add less to the agenda than you typically would so that any unforeseen technical difficulties do not detract from the critical content. For time purposes, get the donors up to speed before the meeting begins by preparing a clear agenda and notes in advance, and encourage speakers to keep them handy and open on their screens.
5. Giving Days
Over the years, Giving Days have increased in popularity. One of the most well-known Giving Day movements is #GivingTuesday, celebrated on the first Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber Monday as a day dedicated to philanthropy through charitable giving. If you want to learn more about crowdfunding and Giving Days, check out my recording from AFP Icon here.
6. Get Your House in Order
How your organization presents itself online – through your website or someone else’s platform – is very important when you are doing virtual fundraising. My advice:
- Go to Yelp! and read your reviews. Are people saying good things?
- What about Glassdoor or Great Nonprofits?
- Be sure your GuideStar is at GOLD or Platinum status, and that all of your donation links work on your donor page.
- What about your website blogs or testimonials – are they all within the past three months? Are you still saving quotes from 3 years ago – time to get some new ones!
- What about your social media – do you have a good following and recent posts?
Multi-channel is a combination of off-line and on-line strategies. It will not rain money for you, and it is more than just “doing both” it is about really knowing your donors’ preferences for giving and creating opportunities for them to transition one way or another. It’s also creating a scenario where your message is amplified to produce greater potential for engagement.
Must-have’s for your multi-channel plan:
- Board support
- Secure social media influencers to get involved
- Success stories, pictures, videos and testimonials lined up
- Hashtags registered for free via Twubs
- Offline materials completed (we recommend postcards with QR Code and/or hashtags) or letters to major donors and/or donors who typically respond to appeal letters
- Dedicated donation page
- Matching Gift
- Quick, meaningful gratitude plan
8. Be grateful!
Gratitude goes a long way: Research from Bloomerang states that calling a first-time donor to say thank you one or more times within 90 days increases the retention rate up to 58% and nearly doubles the amount of the next gift. Amplify your gratitude to donors by doing more than just sending a thank you letter: Try videos, having your Executive Director hold up a chalkboard that reads “thank you”, do a Vimeo slidwshow. Run an animal rescue? How about put these letters in front of an animal or two or three: T-H-A-N-K—Y-O-U.
You are smart, and creative. You are the perfect combination of person able to thrive in this DAI climate we are in right now!
-Heidi Webb, CFRE