8 Tips for a Successful Online Fundraising During COVID-19

successful online fundraising during Covid-19

Written by Tim Grable

May 18, 2020

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The bar for successful online fundraising continues to be moved higher and higher.  Recent years have forced nonprofit organizations to produce fresh fundraisers, and fun, so that prospective donors would want to attend and ultimately donate to their charities.  With COVID-19, your job is more complicated because of the restrictions of large gatherings in many parts of the country. 

What is the solution?  Offer a online fundraiser!  This is a fun and engaging medium that has proven to be successful for fundraising during a pandemic. Countless organizations have offered virtual fundraisers with enormous success.   For some, their result is more significant because they can reach more people in different locations than a local meeting.  Because The Grable Groups has been partnering with nonprofits holding virtual events longer than any other agency, here are our top 7 tips for virtual fundraising during Covid-19.

1. Offer an online silent auction

Silent auctions are great to help draw people into any virtual event.   During periods of downtime, prospects have numerous choices of where to spend their time.  An online auction should include something for everyone’s interest.  No service or produce should be overlooked.  Especially during times like these, people are looking for unique opportunities to buy.  Make your online silent suction special by appealing to all ages, diverse interests, and price ranges. 

Also, schedule your online silent auction to run for a couple of days to create a buzz and build-up to your actual fundraisers.  Advertise in local newspapers, radio, and other media networks.  Online silent auctions are entirely profitable for your charity because they are all donations.  It is an easy way for local services and vendors to support their community without making a cash commitment.

successful online fundraising during Covid-19

2.  Use a virtual host for a successful online fundraising during Covid-19

A virtual host is similar to an emcee but has more skill and experience with virtual events.  During an in-person fundraiser,  it is easier for your audience to remain focused during the program because they are actually in attendance.  Virtual fundraisers have more distractions.  Therefore, the probability for donors to “go somewhere else” online is more likely. 

A online host reduces this risk and increases your fundraising potential.  An experienced virtual host is the conductor that keeps the program on the tracks and holds everything together.  Your online program feels less sporadic and more complete because of the virtual host keeping your donors engaged.

Using a virtual host makes the difference between your donors staying and listening to your message or becoming disinterested and bored.  Virtual events require engagement.  An interactive host is a perfect match to keep your event moving in the right direction for the greatest outcome.

3.  Use a variety of talent

Successful fundraising events need to make a difference, and successful online fundraising during Covid-19 is no different.  Virtual events must be more compelling and entertaining than local events.  Using more than one talent, like a virtual host and another entertainer, ensures your fundraiser is interactive and captivating, just as if your audience was sitting in the same venue. 

Don’t risk the outcome of your virtual fundraiser to hang on the performance of one single talent.  Using more than one person/group keeps the audience engaged.  It is easy for your audience to become overwhelmed and fatigued by watching something on a screen.

Your virtual event should incorporate more than one viewing option to prevent someone from losing interest and start to surf the net in the middle of your program.  By using more than one person or group in your event, the people taking the time to attend are participants rather than viewers because they are engaged rather than watching.

4.  Include a Live Artist

Capture your virtual fundraiser in real-time (or after your event, using the recording of your gathering). Live event painter Heidi Schwartz will paint your event in real-time while you enjoy your online program. Or she can create a studio painting after your event from her studio in Nashville using screenshots, photos, and videos of your Livestream.  After Heidi finishes your painting, you can auction it off to raise money for your non-profit.

5.  Use powerful testimonials

Nothing communicates the influence that your organization has more than someone sharing their personal experience.  Testimonials are one of the main reasons people attend any fundraiser.  We all like a good story and listening to a positive narrative.  Powerful testimonials make donors want to partner with an organization because donors intend to help make a difference in someone else’s life.  Philanthropy drives a donor base.

Choose your testimonials wisely.  Make sure they are current and not repurposed old stores from previous years. Testimonials that capture the heart of what you do without overwhelming the audience is a good balance.

6. Offer virtual VIP experiences

VIP tickets and experiences are an essential part of any fundraiser.  Offering additional ways to have a good time during a fundraiser is inviting to donors that are willing to pay for VIP tickets.  The virtual VIP experience is something that is intended for donors to enjoy at home with a few friends.  They can have friends over and still have a fun social gathering while they interact virtually with your fundraiser. 

Online fundraisers can offer the same VIP participation with a VIP basket that is delivered to their home before the event.  The basket may include special snacks provided by a local company or caterer.  Perhaps a gift card for a local restaurant the delivers can be placed inside.  A bottle of wine is another online fundraising idea.  This is also a place to use your organization’s swag.  If you have unique apparel or glasses, put them in this basket as well.  Finally, add a personalized handwritten note thanking them for partnering with your organization.

7. Thank your sponsors in all online advertising

Businesses sponsor local charities for marketing and to show they care about their local community.  Participating in local fundraising in COVID 19 enables a company to partner with in-kind sponsorships that are meaningful and affordable.  For example, a local web designer may not be able to make a considerable contribution. Still, they can help with developing a website or social media marketing for your virtual fundraising.   Listing your sponsors’ logos on all online advertising and press is an easy way to express your gratitude and help promote their business at the same time.  This small effort goes a long way for future business involvement at your next fundraiser

8. End with a virtual call to action

The “call to action” is when the virtual host will invite your participants to support your nonprofit organization financially.  A virtual call to action is unique because your locality does not limit it.  Instead, your virtual ask can be shared with other people that might not be aware of your organization.  It can also be shared on social media and via email to people that were not able to attend. 

A successful call to action is too overpowering or manipulative.  On the contrary, it incorporates your mission with an invitation to help your audience make a difference. 

Successful online fundraising during COVID-19 lends a voice to your mission in a fun manner that engages your donors regardless of location and circumstances.  As the leading booking agency for virtual events and fundraisers in the world we welcome your call at 615 283 0039.

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