Virtual fundraising events have skyrocketed in popularity, especially within this past year. With a global pandemic keeping people indoors and most in-person events on pause, online engagement efforts are now the main way that nonprofits have kept up their fundraising and maintained their revenue.
As a nonprofit leader, you’ve likely dipped your toes into the virtual fundraising world, whether through online campaigns or a full-on virtual event. It doesn’t take long to learn that the best way to approach virtual fundraising is to equip yourself with dependable software and an engaging web presence. And that’s why your website is so important.
Nonprofit websites are where the majority of your online engagements will center around. It’s also the first place that prospective donors might check if they want to learn more about your organization— or a specific event.
From the way you design your website to the processes that work behind it, there are a number of ways you need to prepare your site in order to attract attendees and increase registrations for your virtual event. This guide will walk you through these top three considerations:
- Create a dedicated event website.
- Streamline the event registration process.
- Optimize your online donation form.
Digital fundraising is a convenient solution in place of traditional in-person engagement, but it does come with its challenges. From technical difficulties to the lack of face-to-face interaction, virtual events need all the preparation they can get, especially on your website. Ready to learn more? Let’s begin.
Create a dedicated event website.
With 9 out of 10 Americans using the Internet, it makes sense that online fundraising is an effective way to engage your donors. However, other organizations, businesses, and nonprofits use the internet to reach constituents, too. That’s why it’s important that you optimize your own online presence in order to ensure your nonprofit and mission stand out.
A common way that fundraisers advertise their virtual fundraising event online is to create a dedicated event website/microsite. This way, you have a centralized place to host all relevant details and information regarding your event. If you decide to create an event website, make sure to link to it within your main website through bright buttons and clear links.
Within your dedicated virtual fundraising event website, make sure you have these essential components:
- All of your event information, including date, time, description of the event, event schedule, speakers, agenda, and more.
- Branding to your organization so that supporters can recognize your organization and build their connection to it.
- Mobile-optimized elements so that visitors can access the site and register on the go through their smartphones. The best nonprofit websites take the mobile experience into consideration, check out Cornershop Creative’s favorites for examples.
- Contact information in case supporters have questions or want to give any other type of feedback regarding the event.
- Easy access to the event registration and online donation form.
- Social media connections so that visitors can engage with you further on other platforms.
- Embedded forms where supporters can input their email or phone number for future engagement.
- Real-time fundraising information like a thermometer tracking the progress to your goal live.
- Information on how to attend the virtual event, whether it involves the downloading of other tools or specific instructions on how to access the online platform.
However, it’s worth mentioning that microsites are most ideal for large-scale events, like conferences and major year-end galas.
A dedicated event page on your existing main website is also a viable way to host your event information. Having the above elements will still refine your website, especially in regards to your virtual fundraising event. In fact, in some cases, it can even be better to build it within your existing site so you can leverage SEO benefits and not invest in more resources. Make sure to include calls-to-action throughout your website to the event page to make sure everyone who wants to can easily find it and join in the fun.
Streamline the event registration process.
In order to have a successful virtual event, you need attendees. And to get attendees, supporters need to register through your website.
Sometimes, even when someone is genuinely interested in your event, the registration process can be what throws them off. This can occur for many reasons, but many of them often stem from an unintuitive or frustrating process that takes too long or is overly complicated.
It’s always a good idea to take a look at your current website and event registration tool in order to ensure you’re not glossing over any critical gaps or opportunities. To best attract registrants and make sure they complete registration, consider the following:
- Embed the form within your website, ideally on your dedicated event site or page
- Customize the event registration form in order to record essential data, but don’t slow down the process with irrelevant fields
- Incorporate buttons that can add the event to users’ Google calendars
- Provide group registration options for one account
- Provide multiple ways to pay and ensure a secure payment process
Bloomerang’s article on virtual fundraising states, “be sure that when you launch a virtual fundraising campaign, you save all relevant data in your nonprofit’s donor database in order to continue tracking engagement data about your supporters.” And the best way to start recording that relevant data is with your registration form!
Optimize your online donation form.
While engaging with your supporters is likely the main goal of your virtual event, you can’t forget the fundraising aspect. Even if paying for the event registration is a part of the campaign revenue, it’s crucial that your website also hosts your organization’s online donation page and form.
What are the essential components and features needed for your own online donation page? We recommend ensuring that your donation page includes these fundamentals:
- Embedded online donation form. Make the process as streamlined as possible by including the donation form right within your website and donation page. This way, supporters aren’t sent to a third-party website, interrupting their giving process.
- Capture the necessary donation and donor information. Ensure you can customize your online donation form in order to track essential data on your donors. This includes gift size, donor name, email address, and any other relevant information you want for your records. This not only ensures that you set the foundation for future engagement (like sending a donation appreciation email!) but also helps gather essential data that can inform future fundraising decisions.
- Offer recurring giving options. One of the best ways to encourage future gifts is to offer a recurring giving option. By checking a simple box and indicating the timeframe for the gift, donors can choose to give a more affordable amount while providing more consistent and reliable support.
- Embed a searchable matching gift database. This is a vital opportunity that not all organizations take advantage of. Increase your matching gift revenue by embedding a searchable matching gift database right within your online donation page. Donors can quickly check if their own gift is eligible for the program by searching up their employer.
- Provide suggested gift amounts. An easy way to encourage larger gifts is to provide suggested giving amounts within your online donation form. Make sure to outline impact along with each suggestion so that donors know exactly how this type of gift will benefit your cause. If a suggested amount is slightly higher than their intended gift, they might even give the suggested donation!
- Use an integrated payment processor. When donors submit their online gift, it’s recommended to use an integrated payment processor. This way, supporters don’t have to input sensitive information on a third-party page and the giving process stays uninterrupted.
- Ask feedback questions (that are not required!). Your online donation form can be a good place to ask survey questions and learn more about your supporters. For instance, a great question to ask is how the donor found out about your organization. This can help you gather insights to your current marketing strategy. Since these types of questions can be distracting or time-consuming for donors, make sure to only ask a couple (around 1 or 2) and make sure to mark them as not required.
For a great example of an online donation form that includes many of the qualities above, Cornershop Creative has a great example from the Paw Patrol campaign at the Canine Companions for Independence.
If you want to prepare your own website for your virtual fundraising event, these tips can set you on the right track. Remember, your website is like the virtual store or office front for your organization, so how you display content and attract visitors can be crucial to your event’s success. Make sure to display all relevant and important event information, provide a streamlined and convenient registration process, as well as accurately process online gifts. Good luck!