You are here:

What to Consider When Taking Your Nonprofit Events Online: A Crash Course

Posted Jan 14, 2021 04:03 PM
If your nonprofit's own event strategies have been slow to catch up with the challenges presented by the pandemic, it's definitely time to become proactive in adjusting your event planning both during COVID and beyond.

The right planning and tools will go a long way to boost your chances for success and help you avoid common tech pitfalls.

This guest article written by OneCause, experts in nonprofit charity auctions, will provide you with the right strategies so you can engage supporters and keep fundraising both during and after the pandemic. When making this strategic shift, the two most immediately important steps to tackle are:

  1. Making the decision to go virtual
  2. Building a toolkit for virtual nonprofit events

Although the changes across our sector have been drastic, any nonprofit can succeed with virtual engagement techniques with the right strategies and technology in place. And even if we do return to some semblance of how things used to be, many people still may not feel comfortable attending events in-person for the foreseeable future. So the considerations discussed below will always be relevant. Let’s get started.

Making the decision to go virtual

If your organization needs to adjust existing event plans, like an upcoming holiday or spring gala, you’ll need to carefully weigh your options. There are a few cases in which going virtual will be the right move. For example:

  • You have a tight timeframe and need to fundraise fast. Virtual events can be launched quickly with the right strategies in place. In some cases, nonprofits are successfully shifting their events to virtual settings in 48 hours.
  • You have a critical and essential fundraising need that can’t wait. Pulling out all the stops might be necessary in these cases.
  • Your team and board are aligned with you on the need to pivot your upcoming event, and they’re ready to help.

Any of these reasons would make pivoting to virtual a smart move. If you’re working on a tight deadline, take an extremely strategic approach and make sure your team is equipped with the right tools to plan and host a virtual event on short notice.

If you’re planning a brand new virtual event and aren’t working on a very tight deadline, aim to create the most comprehensive strategy you can. We recommend starting by clearly defining your audience and your event’s guidelines:

  • Audience: If you’re looking to engage high-impact donors, an online auction or other virtual programming might be the right move. For broader audiences, peer-to-peer campaigns and events can be effective choices. Either way, specifically targeting your event strategy to your audience is a best practice.
  • Objectives: Your timeframe and goals will definitely shape your virtual event. What are your revenue and engagement goals for the event? Do you want to host a one-time virtual event or a longer event over several days or weeks, like an online auction or virtual challenge? Use these insights to pick the perfect virtual event for your audience, goals, and schedule.

If you’re new to online strategies in general, our longer guide to virtual fundraising might be helpful to get your bearings and set your team up for success.

Building a toolkit for virtual nonprofit events

Virtual nonprofit events and campaigns naturally rely more heavily on technology than most traditional, in-person events.

Over the years, your nonprofit’s toolkit has likely grown, so you probably already have a number of useful solutions for your virtual event. However, stay on the lookout for tools specific to the type of virtual event you’re hosting. For instance, if you’re planning an online campaign that culminates in a virtual auction, you’d benefit from using tools like:

  • Mobile bidding software for donors to place bids and make donations on-the-go.
  • Auction software for tracking your auction items and creating an online catalog
  • A dedicated event website to build its online presence and host the catalog.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising software that allows supporters to launch and customize their own DIY-style pages.
  • Digital marketing tools to manage your email and social media efforts, ideally integrated with your CRM or database.
  • A live-streaming platform with plenty of intuitive options if you plan on incorporating live elements during your auction.

If you’re shifting existing event plans to go virtual, an effective strategy might be to walk through each of the logistical aspects that must translate effectively to an online space.

Think about whether each logistical challenge can be handled by a tool that you already have access to, and make a list of the elements that you still need to address. For example, if you’re adapting a silent auction to take place virtually, how you’ll replace classic paper bid sheets will be critical to the success of your event.

Whenever adjusting or expanding your event calendar, take time to carefully consider your options. A clear picture of the type of event you’re hosting, its goals, target audience, and the necessary tools will be invaluable as you begin putting a strategy together. You’ll be planning your next virtual event in no time.

About the Author

Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings more than 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the Director of Content Marketing for OneCause. As a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution.

She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors raise more funds for their cause.