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Now... hear us out.
If all you hear when you hear the words “live streaming” are Instagram influencers and Twitch gamers –- you’re not alone.
But that’s not all that live streaming is about.
Once seen as groundbreaking tech, live streaming is now one of the most popular forms of broadcasting and marketing, and can be an invaluable tool for nonprofits of all sizes.
The rise of live streaming started well before the COVID-19 pandemic, but in 2020, live streaming became omnipresent (alongside a myriad of other virtual fundraising events).
If you’re thinking of organizing a virtual event, but you’re not convinced if live streaming is effective, here are some stats:
- By 2018, more than 3.5 million live streams were hosted on Facebook. And by the end of 2019, users all over the world watched more than 1.1 billion hours of live videos. (Source: restream.io)
- 80% of consumers prefer to watch live videos from a brand than read a blog. (Source: socialmediatoday.com)
- Between April 2019 and April 2020, the live streaming market experienced a 99% growth in hours watched. (Source: restream.io)
- The global live streaming market is expected to reach more than $180 billion by 2027. (Source: Grand View Research).
- 30% of people who watch a livestream of an event will attend the same event in person the following year. (Source: noba.co.uk)
- Users watch live video 3x longer and comment 10x more than recorded footage. (Source: Facebook Live)
What is live streaming?
Live streaming is the transmission of video to an audience through an online platform in real time.
Technically, even a Zoom or a Skype call between two friends could be considered as live streaming, but the term is usually used for live transmission to bigger audiences.
Benefits of live streaming for nonprofits
Here’s how your nonprofit can benefit from live streaming:
Live streaming makes your event accessible to a worldwide audience. This is because the number of people that can attend your live stream far surpasses the capacity of an in-person event.
Furthermore, live streaming is often free or very affordable, making virtual events more accessible to those segments of the audience who might not be able to afford an in-person experience.
Finally, live streaming can really help you stand out in the crowd, as many nonprofit organizations don’t sufficiently utilize this tool.
One of the biggest advantages of live streaming is its ability to engage with large, geographically dispersed audiences in real time. Live streaming lets you communicate with your viewers via live chat, making the interaction much more engaging than pre-recorded content.
Furthermore, live streams feel more authentic and offer a more personal experience for your supporters compared to pre-recorded events.
Live streaming can also create a sense of urgency, prompting your audience to act. People are often less likely to engage with pre-recorded content which they can access anytime.
In most cases, you don’t have to pay for your live stream to be shown (or you pay very little to use the platform like, for example, Zoom). Live streams are also less expensive to produce and put together than in-person events.
Not only do you save money on production, but live-streaming can also be used for fundraising, actually bringing in more funds to your nonprofit.
Finally, the barrier to entry is quite low. Most people can, without much tech knowledge, organize simple live streams.
Tips for hosting successful live nonprofit events
1. Set a goal and make a plan
Before you get started with organizing a live streamed event, make sure to get clear on your goal.
Why do you want to live stream?
Do you want to raise $10,000? Engage your younger audience? Promote a new corporate partnership?
Once you’re clear on the goal, this goal then informs the content and the format of your live stream.
For example, if your objective is to promote a new corporate partnership, you might decide for the format of your live stream to be an interview or a Q&A session.
Setting a goal also helps you identify your success metrics.
Pro tip: The numbers don’t lie. Live streaming is indeed a beneficial marketing and fundraising tool. However, every nonprofit is different. So, it’s important to determine if live streaming is right for your nonprofit. Think about your specific audience and whether live streaming is likely to draw them in. Ultimately, you’re trying to deliver value to your audience, so you need to do what works for them.
2. Select your platform
Then, choose a platform to host your live stream: Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, Youtube, Zoom... and more.
The key here again is to know your audience. Choose the platform that your audience will respond best to and that will help you accomplish your unique goals.
For example, YouTube Live is a great option if embedding a video to your website later on matters to you. YouTube videos are easy to share and easy to embed. Facebook Live might be great if you know that’s where your audience spends most time, and Zoom might be best for more complex livestreams (where you might need to use the breakout rooms for example).
Note that while open streams such as Instagram Live can attract a larger audience, it's more difficult to capture donor information with this format, and it doesn't address any additional concerns regarding security and donor privacy. Consider exploring platforms created specifically for live streaming.
Pro tip: You can also explore third-party platforms that will enable you to stream to multiple platforms at once. This can help you get the most out of your efforts. And don’t forget to optimize for mobile! Many viewers will be tuning in from their phones.
3. Choose a theme
Once you've settled on which platform you’ll be using to go live, it’s time to specify a theme. Your goal will inform your theme.
Going back to the golden pillar of good marketing and fundraising: think about what your specific audience would engage with.
Your theme needs to help you accomplish your goal, but also needs to be interesting and engaging enough to capture your audience’s attention.
This is also a good time to decide on how long you want your live stream to be, who will be the speakers, and what resources you need to make your stream happen.
In terms of length, this will very much depend on the type of event you’ll be organizing. However, it’s important to keep the stream as short as possible since attention spans of viewers online aren’t that long.
Pro tip: Often, it’s better to focus your live stream on something very specific rather than dispersing and covering too broad of a theme. Try to avoid information overload and make the information clear.
4. Decide on a format
Think of a format which would work best for your theme of choice. And whatever the format, plan your agenda or your talking points in advance.
Your format can include some live and some pre-recorded content, although for true “live” experience, skip the pre-recorded content. Note that, however, pre-recorded videos can help eliminate the stress of any unforeseen technical issues and ensure a smooth experience.
Virtual auctions and galas can work really well paired with a live stream or fully live.
To run an online auction, use an auction software. Some auction softwares will also offer tools to engage your supporters.
Prompt your fundraisers to use live streaming as parts of their personal fundraising campaigns.
For example, a fundraiser might want to stream their 5k charity run or stream the process of shaving their head as part of a challenge to raise funds for your nonprofit. Fundraisers can bring in donations from their families and friends by speaking about why your nonprofit’s mission matters to them personally.
When you work with peer-to-peer fundraisers, make sure you create a step-by-step guide to help them get started.
Live interviews function pretty much like any other interview. There’s an interviewer and the interviewee, and there’s a conversation. The advantage of this format is that it’s affordable and simple to organize.
The potential here is enormous. Whatever your mission and size, there’s always someone you can interview to add value to your supporters: from your beneficiaries and volunteers to Board members and field experts.
Live from the field
What could be more engaging than being in the middle of the action?
Naturally, for some nonprofits live streaming from the field will be a more obvious choice than for others (for example a wildlife conservation nonprofit might find this a more natural format than a youth counseling nonprofit). Yet, there are ways to explore streaming your projects and activities whatever your mission.
Live streaming from the field provides an in-the-moment glimpse into your organization's work, building engagement and trust with viewers.
Live from an event
One day (hopefully when you’re reading this!), live events will be a thing again. In that case, live streaming an in-person event can be a good choice for some nonprofits. For example, an arts nonprofit might stream an in-person concert they’re organizing.
So, with this format, you’re streaming an event that’s already happening in person. The benefit is that there’s no content you need to plan specifically for the stream, but the disadvantage is that it can be harder to engage the virtual audience during an event geared mostly to an in-person audience.
If your nonprofit is a museum, for example, you can walk your viewers in real time through an exhibition.
Unlike with the previous format, here you’re organizing a performance/exhibition/concert for it to be streamed, there isn’t an in person audience.
Q&As are a wonderful way to increase transparency and engagement. Organize a Q&A and let your audience ask questions live. The Q&As can be about current and planned projects and activities, your impact, important trends in the sector, or about a specific theme relevant to your sector.
This format can be very engaging and usually generates a lot of great questions and comments. It’s also easy to repurpose the content later on.
This format of live-streaming is ideal for advocacy nonprofit organizations. Comment live on current news and trends. This format is most similar to traditional TV broadcasting.
You can go live and comment on news as they come in (for example, during elections).
Live streaming is useful beyond communicating with external stakeholders. You can use it within your nonprofit organization too. For example, you can use it to organize virtual get togethers with your employees to help them get to know each other better. You can also run live virtual training sessions.
Partnering with an influencer
Partner with an influencer or a celebrity with a large social media following and ask them to go live on behalf of your nonprofit.
This way you can leverage their personal brand to reach a wider audience and connect more people to your mission.
If you choose to do this, make sure you brief your partner and provide them with all the necessary information they need to go live.
Pro tip: Whichever format you choose, it’s smart to think about repurposing content later on! For example, does it make sense for you to save the video so others can watch and share your video after the event is over? Maybe you can turn it into a graphic or a blog post?
5. Create a communication plan
Promoting your live stream event is half the work. To make sure you capitalize on the potential of live streaming, create a detailed communication plan for the rollout of your event.
Unlike with an in-person event, your virtual audience is at home and busy with other things, so it's easy for them to skip the event. This is why event reminders and announcements are very important.
Promote your event online through your website and social channels, and even consider direct mailing. Consider creating “events” on social media (such as Facebook) where potential attendees will get reminders about the event.
Make sure you announce in advance when you’ll be going live. Depending on the size of the event, this might be a few days or even a few weeks before. For example, you can post a photo and say “Tune in at 7 pm for a live interview with our founder!”. This can help build momentum! For larger livestreams, such as big conferences, consider having sign up forms so you can email all the signed up participants the link for joining.
Pro tip: If possible, turn your live event into a series. Keeping your live streams consistent is a guaranteed way to increase brand awareness while meaningfully engaging with your audience.
6. Choose a CTA
CTAs (calls to action) always matter, whether you’re sending out a nonprofit newsletter or posting on Instagram. Remember your goal from the start of this process. Why are you going live in the first place? Let that inform your CTA.
You might be seeking to raise funds, build awareness, or influence the public opinion.
Some example CTAs could be to sign a petition, donate, apply to volunteer, share the live, and more.
Just make sure your CTA is clear and actionable. One CTA is ideal, but sometimes you can include two or three.
7. Engage your viewers
Right from the moment you go live, the audience engagement begins. To engage your audience, you need to capture their attention right at the start. For example, you might ask your audience a question and ask them to type their answers in the chat.
Ask your audience to share the live (if it’s an open event), and invite them to keep commenting and asking questions.
As people are commenting, if feasible, mention people by name as they write. Engage with the questions and comments.
With live streaming and all virtual events, you’re trying to recreate the community experience the viewers would have in person.
You can also invite your viewers to get dressed up for the event, share photos on social media, and if your budget allows, you can send them gift cards to grab a dinner or a snack for the event.
Live video is a great way to humanize your nonprofit, as your viewers are able to see who you are and connect to you.
Pro tip: Add subtitles and closed captioning to make sure your videos are accessible to those with disabilities as well.
8. Use live-streaming to fundraise online
There’s great potential in live streaming when it comes to fundraising. The engagement live streams generate can be a powerful motivator for giving.
You can encourage your viewers to give by asking them to give throughout the stream or ask them right at the end.
Add a link to your donation page in the caption and in the comments. Drive traffic toward your donation page for supporters to donate. Leverage GiveForms donation form for your fundraiser to ensure that the donation process is smooth and convenient for your donors.
GiveForms can be used to facilitate fundraising during virtual events, and all places online.
9. Test all that can be tested
The old “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” definitely applies to live streaming. You need to be prepared for a variety of different scenarios when you’re going live. To prepare, identify all that could go wrong and decide what you’re going to do in case one or few of those things happens.
Test everything, but most importantly, your stream. Test your equipment, audio quality, video
quality, internet connection. Confirm your upload speed by testing your connection.
A good benchmark is to have twice as much upload speed available as the bitrate you want to stream at.
Pro tip: Walk through the plan/agenda for the live from the viewer’s perspective, from registration to ambiance, and the interactive elements.
10. Follow up and measure
Just like with in-person events, post-event communication is an important component of good event management. Reach out to your supporters after your event and give them some appreciation. For example, you can write personalized thank you emails addressing them by their names. You can even reiterate your call to action if it feels appropriate.
If you mentioned something during your live (e.g. a resource, a book, or a video), now would be a good time to link to those. You can also briefly update them on what your nonprofit intends to do next. Remind your donors about how they are contributing to a larger good.
Furthermore, take some time to look at your success metrics and analyze how your event did. Consider sending a feedback form to your participants to understand what you did well and what could be improved next time.
Ready to go live?
Live streaming has been redefining how people consume content and interact, and it's making a huge impact on nonprofit fundraising.
Incorporating live streaming can deepen supporter engagement, diversify revenue, and improve overall fundraising.
Overall, live streaming presents one of the biggest opportunities for nonprofits of all sizes, and hopefully these tips will help you get started!
GiveForms can help you raise funds during your virtual events by letting you seamlessly accept donations online. Your supporters can donate using a credit card, PayPal, Google Pay, or bank transfers. With a focus on intuitive, human-centered design, GiveForms goal is to help you increase your online donations.
When you use GiveForms, you gain access to a plethora of nonprofit-specific benefits:
- A customizable donation page optimized for mobile
- Embeddable donation forms directly on your website
- Donor dashboard to help you search, view and export your donations