How to Setup & Host a Live Virtual Fundraising Event

Nonprofit organizations have been dipping their toes in the waters of virtual fundraising, but with the current lockdown situation imposed by governments during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the risk of similar events in the future, charities and fundraising organizations are taking their experimentation seriously.

This article will help answer the question: how do I setup and host a live virtual fundraising event? We’ll explain what a non-profit virtual fundraising event is, give tips on hosting, provide a simple template to work from, and more.

There's an increasing demand of those who are in stay-at-home situations for virtual get-togethers. Virtual fundraisers are a perfect way to meet this need, offering entertainment (ideally) while giving audiences the chance to give something back.

What is a virtual fundraising event?

An online virtual fundraising event will have the same kind of activities for your guests, sponsors, and donors. The event may include entertainment, speakers, appeals, competitions, and similar activities you'd find at an in person live event.

Instead of gathering together physically, your guests will view your event using video and audio through a live-streaming platform or service, and use online giving software such as GiveForms to raise funds and accept donations.

David Guetta uses live performance to raise funds for the World Heath Organization.

Here's a rough outline of steps you should follow to host a virtual fundraiser:

  1. Determine the Fundraiser Format
  2. Setup Online Tools
  3. Promote the Event
  4. a Dry Run
  5. Go Live and Host the Event
  6. Review, Follow-up and Say “Thank You”

1. Determine the Fundraiser Format

The first step in planning your live virtual fundraising event is determining the type of event that you want to host. There are lots of virtual event types, including:

Be creative! Choose a format that has some entertainment value or something that keeps your guests engaged. Conduct a brainstorming session with your team to collect ideas and narrow them down to the best ones.

Once you’ve figured out the format of your virtual event, it’s time to choose your online platform and tools.

2. Setup Online Tools

Compared to a traditional fundraising event (which has provisions for the venue, decorations, signages, food, and drinks), a Virtual Fundraiser uses online tools to get the job done. 

Here some basic tools that Online Fundraisers use:

  1. Streaming Platforms – Facebook Live, YouTube, Zoom, Twitch
  2. Invite Tools – Facebook Invite, Emails, Tweets, Calls, Text Messages
  3. Donation Forms & Pages – GiveForms, Website Donation Pages, PayPal

There are more advanced tools to consider depending on the technical capabilities of your team. Streaming tools like OBS Engine provide a variety of options including screen sharing and screen captioning.

Selecting the right tools is a crucial part of setting up an online fundraiser. You should choose based on your fundraiser’s format, your team’s technical abilities, and your objectives. Another consideration is your donor’s demographic, particularly their familiarity with streaming tools and technology in general.

Here are a few more questions to consider when planning your event:

  1. Is it a public or private event? Are there tickets or registrations?
  2. How many guests do you expect?
  3. What type of audience is participating?
  4. How will you engage your audience?
Cub Scout John using a YouTube Video to promote a virtual fundraising event.

3. Promote Your Event

When you’re ready to promote your event, make sure to:

  1. Create Promotional Materials
  • A letter-type event invite is not enough. You’ll need to create multi-media promotional materials in different formats such as eye-catching digital posters, video invites (example), interactive social media pages, landing pages, and so on. The more formats you use, the better. 
  1. Share your event on social media
  • Take cognizance of all your social media channels and use them to the hilt 
  • Encourage your supporters or advocates to share your events posts. If you’re hosting a public event, this would create a snowball effect to reach those who you wouldn’t have reached otherwise.
  1. Email/Sms/Call your contacts
  • This depends on your resources, database, and volunteer/team. Good sources of contacts are recent donors, social media followers, and newsletter subscribers.
  1. Run an online advertisement campaign
  • Traditional ads typically use TV, printed ads, or radio. Since you’re running an online event, you can let go of those expensive media and focus on online content. 
  • Common advertisement sites that you can tap include Facebook and Youtube. They can both filter user demographics which is very useful in getting a targeted reach.
  1. Link your donation page
  • It’s okay to discreetly post a link of your donation page in your promotional materials. 
  • Some guest might be interested in supporting your cause but is not be available during the live online event. By placing your donation page, you can give guests an option to support early just in case they can’t make it.    
  • If you’re a GiveForms user, you can use create multiple forms. A special donation form that’s tailor-fit for this event would help in encouraging donations.

4. Perform a Dry Run

Before going live, you need to do a Dry Run. During this stage, you need to take note of 2 things – Technical Tests and Program Rehearsals. Let’s get in detail regarding these two.

Technical Tests

This involves testing out your equipment or online tools. Equipment may involve PCs, cameras, microphones, lighting, and so on. Common equipment tests include:

  1. Camera Angle, Resolution and Positioning
  2. Microphone Volume
  3. Lags and Computer’s Processing Power

By doing these tests, you can determine the usability of your setup and if your equipment is working properly with your online tools. Make some adjustments based on the results of your test.

Another important technical aspect is testing the number of users/guests that your setup can accommodate comfortably. You can do this by running a stream and asking to team to access it simultaneously using multiple social media accounts. Don’t forget to take note of lags, disconnections, and steam quality. Problems like these can be fixed either by adjusting your online tools or using a different set up/hardware. 

Program Rehearsals

Practice your scripts and don’t forget to set a timeframe for each segment of your program. The best scripts for an online fundraising event are outline-based, timed, and extemporaneous. An outline-based script will prevent your host from relying too much on reading materials and make him/her lose eye contact with the camera. 

During program rehearsals, you may also want to consider preparing some music or backup content. This is fill up the “dead air” during waiting time, disconnections, lag spikes, and other unforeseen events.

5. Go Live and Host your Event

Now its time to go live and host your event. Since this is a live event, its normal to make small mistakes from time to time. Don’t sweat the small stuff and focus on your fundraising objectives. 

While hosting, you need to remove all your mental burdens and worries and focus on just two things – Engagement and Acknowledgement. Let’s discuss these two in detail.

Engagement

Unlike traditional fundraisers, online events have limited in-person interactions. So, it’s critical to constantly communicate with your guest either through the chatbox or through the stream. The good news is that online participants are eager to communicate online, even the shy ones. Communicating regularly also fills up “dead air” or if you encounter a mental block. 

If your event is public, you can also engage your audience by asking them to share live the event with their friends and family. Who knows? Your guest might entice an online connection to take a peek and participate.

Here’s a very useful tip when hosting --- Engage your audience by subtly reminding guests to donate once in a while. Flashing your “donate URL” on screen or on the chatbox from time to time is a good practice. This will remind current guests and especially those who just entered your stream to donate. 

Acknowledgment

Don’t forget to thank your guest for joining, participating, and donating. Donor recognition is critical for any successful event – whether online or offline. Find a way to remind donors that their contribution helps a lot and how valuable their support is to the cause.

If you’re using a more advanced setup with a tick box, it helps if you can acknowledge donations in real-time by mentioning it in the stream or flashing it on your tick box. If you’re a GiveForms user, you can monitor your donations in real-time by opening your Stripe Account Dashboard. Donations made through GiveForms are instantaneously sent and recorded in Stripe for processing.

Tulsa Boy's Home showed appreciation by composing a "Thank You Video" for their recently concluded Virtual Event.


6. Review, Follow-up and Say “Thank You” (again)

After concluding your online fundraising event, you can revisit your fundraising objectives and do a self-review. You’ll also have an opportunity to do a follow-up and solicit feedback from your guest. You can do this manually through email or through survey platforms. 

The goal to identify your areas for improvement, and recommendation from your donors. Remember that one of the most important insights you can get from a survey is “what makes your audience care about your cause.” So, put that in mind and carefully word some of your questions to elicit that information.

Towards the end of your message, you have the option to make a last appeal to support. This is helpful especially if you haven’t reached your fundraising objective yet. 

Finally, acknowledge and thank those who supported your event. Give them a “shout-out,” send them an email, tag them in social media, compose a video thank you message or post their names on your website. Remember, a simple thank you goes a long way. 😊