10 tips from a nonprofit that tamed virtual events

January 23, 2021
5 minutes
A camera shows Hannah Song, CEO of Liberty in North Korea, speaking to a livestream audience. The camera is connected to lots of wires and surrounded by colorful, blurry pixels flying through the air.

Every year, Liberty in North Korea holds two galas that typically raise $1.5M, funds that go directly to rescuing North Korean refugees. Cue 2020: a year that ravaged nonprofits' ability to fundraise as usual, and LiNK was left with a tough choice—go virtual or go home.

So, LiNK went for the big time—and their effort paid off big-time, to the tune of $1.06M.

How'd they do it? After you check out LiNK's tips below, listen in as their CEO, Hannah Song, gives the full scoop to Funraise CEO and Co-founder Justin Wheeler on the Nonstop Nonprofit podcast.

In the planning phase

1. Establish expectations

If you've never planned a virtual event, expect that it will be different than an in-person fundraiser and make allowances for all the ways this is going to be... different.

2. Set lofty goals

While your expectations need to be kept in check, set your goals high. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

3. Work out the logistics

Same as with in-person events! Get contracts, equipment, and personnel in place before you do anything else.

Ahead of the big event

4. Test, test, test!

Technology is science, but it's not foolproof. Get your process down pat. Learn what all the buttons do. Better yet, hire someone who already knows what those buttons do.

5. Get sponsors ahead of time

There are tons of opportunities for exposure online that don't exist in person. Cast the line and see what you catch.

6. Seek out major donor pledges and matching grants

Go to your major donors and ask that they make or match their donations during the excitement of the fundraiser.

Engagement as a challenge

7. Foster a sense of competition

LiNK's dual galas were perfectly set up to act as lightly competitive dueling galas. Can you encourage a spirited rivalry between chapters or fundraisers?

8. Analyze your virtual audience

It's gonna be different than your in-person audience. This is natural... and something to consider as you create engaging event content. Consider focusing some attention on attendees that wouldn't normally be able to join in your events, fostering a type of loyalty that your donors haven't felt for a nonprofit before.

9. Double down on follow-up

Especially for all those new supporters who handed over their email addresses, this is the perfect time to fan the flames of their new-found passion.

10. Look at what you get when you go virtual!

  • Access to a larger and more varied audience
  • An influx of email signups
  • An increase in social likes and follows
  • Compelling, branded, reusable content

Oh! One more tip—and this comes straight from the experts: Have fun and be relatable!

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