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Boost your online fundraising with a digital event

The practice of social distancing has quickly changed many events and gatherings and brought them online. Learn how to be successful at your next digital fundraising event.

Boost your online fundraising with a digital event

Fundraising is central (and necessary) for nonprofits and campaigns to keep moving. Though it may seem daunting to build fundraising strategies that don’t include in-person events, the changes we all need to make during periods of social distancing don’t have to put a stop to all your hard work. In fact, we’re hoping the strategies we share here stick with you long after we’re through these uncertain times.

Boost your outreach
Not only is an online fundraiser not limited by a physical venue, it’s also not limited by geography⁠—meaning that your attendees can come from anywhere. While in-person fundraising events had you limiting your outreach to who could feasibly attend in your area, a digital event gives you the opportunity to create a larger online community and grow your donor base. Keep this in mind as you promote your event and prepare to send out your invites⁠—in this case, the sky’s really the limit. 

Make sure to also look closely at your existing supporters. Who has been out of touch for a while? Who took a few actions on your site a while back, but never made a donation? 

During this time, some of those supporters might find themselves with extra time on their hands to give back and connect with their digital community⁠—take this as an opportunity to re-engage anyone in your supporter base who has lost interest over time, or possibly had their busy schedule get in the way of their ability to get involved. 

All this means that your pool of potential attendees might be a lot larger than usual. It’s important to extend your outreach while being sensitive to how these individuals might be doing—so, try offering an alternative call to action in addition to donating, like stepping up to volunteer or signing a petition, in case they’re not able to contribute financially at this time.

Get to know your RSVPs
One of the most exciting parts of hosting any event is seeing the RSVPs roll in. But once they do, use it as an opportunity to gather important information on your audience to cater your agenda in part to their needs and what they hope to get out of the event. One of the simplest ways to do this is to send them a survey asking what piqued their interest in your fundraising event. For example, if you’re hosting a fundraiser to build an animal shelter in your local neighborhood, you could ask what previous experience they have with animal welfare.

Make it easy to take action
One of the most important things to keep in mind when engaging potential donors online, whether through a digital fundraising event or via email, is lowering the barrier to donation. This means making it simple, easy, and quick for people to donate⁠—and having them commit to donate before your event has even started. With a moneybomb, you can collect their pledge to donate early on and create an additional touch point with them before your event. What’s more, you can time box the action to a specific period to encourage pledges, as a smaller window will create urgency. 

In addition to this, create a donation page that’s optimized for seamless giving. Don’t let a complicated donation form be the reason someone doesn’t end up following through with your ask. 

And don’t forget the long-term⁠—encourage recurring donations by making them as simple as checking one additional box on your donation page. 

Empower your supporters
Your supporters are going to come in all shapes and sizes⁠—some with more interest in getting involved than others. Make sure you’re keeping a pulse on who’s who, and what the next best step is for each of your attendees. While pushing a social share to their network might be the right move for an early-stage donor, a more active, senior donor might want to step up and have their own personal fundraising page where they can take more ownership of their work and create individual fundraising goals. Both actions are valuable⁠—but you’ll need to know who is ready for which.

And the benefit of a digital event is that your attendees are already online, which means most of these actions are just a click away. Show them you’re excited to have them more involved by jumping straight into giving them the tools they need to do more. You can segment attendees into break-out groups based on how they’d like to help, and have them set up their personal fundraising page or become a social ambassador for your cause right then and there.

Engage your attendees
The switch from in-person to online doesn’t have to keep your event from being as exciting as you’d originally planned. If your fundraiser was originally an event that had a keynote speaker or a fireside chat, reach out to the individuals involved to see if they’d be comfortable adapting their presentation to an online format instead. And, make sure to emphasize what an impact they can make by still showing up.

To keep your attendees pumped about their donations and your cause, create an online donation thermometer and share it throughout the event so your donors can follow along with you and get excited about the progress they’re contributing to.

Avoid passive involvement from attendees⁠—you want them to feel just as much a part of the event as they would have in person. A texting program can help keep them participating and feeling involved, especially if you think you’ll have more than one hundred people in attendance. This way nobody is lost in the crowd or feels like an observer.

With smaller attendee counts, you have a lot more flexibility to try breakout sessions to create a sense of networking. You can plan for this beforehand with the questions you include in your survey to RSVPs, so that you can group people with like-minded attendees. After having breakouts, you can always bring everyone back together again for major takeaways.

And of course, like with in-person events, try and include activities like icebreakers, and remember to give attendees breaks. Attention spans are short⁠—and unfortunately shorter online⁠—so the more breaks you provide the better for overall engagement.

Stay in touch
As with all strategies (digital or not), follow-up is key. In fact, when it comes to an online fundraising event, it’s even more important to stay top of mind after your event is over to keep the momentum going and continue moving your donors up the ladder of engagement. 

Make sure you personalize your follow-up based on the actions email recipients committed to during the event, and always offer them a handful of other ways they can get involved. For example, you can break out your follow up by actions taken, and send each cohort a different kind of email based on which of the following categories they fall into:

    • Made a donation during the event
    • Pledged on the moneybomb but did not donate during the event
    • RSVPed, did not attend, but did donate
    • RSVPed, did not attend, but didn’t donate 

That’s right⁠—make sure to follow up even with non-attendees. Let them know what they missed, and provide them with opportunities to take action even though they couldn’t make it.

There’s a lot for organizations to adapt to in times of social distancing, and luckily, digital tools are available to help. Given time, your online fundraising events may even surpass your expectations, and have you wondering why you didn’t start hosting them sooner.

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