As nonprofits continue to navigate this “new normal” of event fundraising into 2021, a focus on virtual fundraising should be at the top of your priority list.
The sector as a whole is making the shift to virtual, and with good reason. As donor retention and engagement continue to challenge the space, virtual events are a viable tool you can explore to enhance these efforts.
There’s no shortage of creative ideas your organization can try to engage your donors in this new era, whether you try galas, cooking classes, endurance rides, or comedy events. The sky’s the limit. Yet, this new territory also presents new challenges. While there’s no denying the benefits of virtual events, most nonprofits are not using these events to their full potential. The value of virtual extends far beyond the live engagement itself.
What Worked Then Won’t Work Now: How Nonprofits Can Shift Their Approach
Despite heavy adoption of technology across the space, recent data from Forbes found that 1 in 4 nonprofits are still “not sure” how to approach their events in 2021. Many continue to use the same tactics for in-person fundraising and events, neglecting new opportunities to drive more value with the digital assets and data captured in the virtual setting. In fact, data has found that nonprofits who are hosting virtual events are using the same channels and tactics to steward donors as they would in the in-person setting.
In a survey of 200 nonprofit organizations, Freewill found that nonprofits using virtual technology plan to steward major donors as follows:
- Phone conversations (21.6%)
- Emails (19.9%)
- Direct Mail (19.2%)
- Newsletters (15.7%)
- Events (13.9%)
- Thank-You Gifts (9.9%)
Notice that social media didn’t even make the list. When you host an event in a virtual environment, you’re getting access to data and content you can repurpose to steward relationships, grow your social presence, and create new touchpoints to engage, educate, and retain donors. Given the explosion of social media consumption in the wake of COVID-19, there’s a major opportunity to leverage virtual events to maximize your social presence.
Create a unique hashtag for your live event to encourage attendees to get active on social.
When you create a unique hashtag for your event, continue to encourage attendees to use the hashtag to create content, giving you access to user-generated content that you can re-share among your community to build trust and authenticity.
Take some time to send direct messages to these supporters from your Instagram account and encourage them to help grow your following on social media. One nonprofit grew their social media following by 46% in just 24 hours by leveraging this tactic on Instagram.
Post-Event Tactics You Can Try Today
Knowing that your live event is just the tipping point of engagement with your donors, let’s dive into more post-event tactics you can use to maximize the impact of every event you host.
Tactics to Boost Your Donor Retention Strategy
Starting with a focus on retention, below are different tactics you can explore immediately after your virtual event or campaign to support your donor retention strategy.
Send thank you messages immediately
At the most basic level you need to thank all attendees and registrants for signing up for the event as soon as possible. Research has shown that first-time donors who receive a personal thank-you within 48 hours are four times more likely to give again. Given the impact of a simple thank you on retention rates, you shouldn’t stay limited to just one channel. At a minimum, try a mix of three channels (email, social media, phone, etc.). The higher volume of touchpoints, the better.
When sending your follow-up email, you should include the following information:
- A recording to the live event
- A summary of the campaign’s results (e.g. amount raised, number of donors, top donors)
- A thank you for their donation (if they made one during the event)
- A CTA to make another donation or stay engaged with your nonprofit (e.g. follow on social media, attend our next event, etc.)
Show your love across social media
Virtual events give you immediate access to digital content you need to help grow your presence across social media. Each event you host provides you with treasure troves of new content opportunities to build your social content calendar.
Let’s explore some different ideas to get you started:
- Donor spotlights. Give shoutouts to your top donors from the virtual event across your social media accounts, and be sure to tag them as you go. Show some extra gratitude and send them a personal DM as well.
- Fundraiser results. People want to be recognized. Share the results of your campaign and call out the donors who helped you get there. If you missed your goal during the event, this could be an opportunity to re-engage your community and encourage some post-event donations.
- Sponsorship shoutouts. Don’t overlook the relationships you have with your sponsorships even after your event is over. There’s ample opportunity for both parties to continue to benefit post-event and leverage each other’s network strategically. Keep the momentum going and host a surprise giveaway across social media with your sponsor by encouraging your community to engage in photo contests. That way, you’re also gaining valuable user-generated content as you go. If you missed your goal, you could also host a matching campaign with the sponsors to encourage an additional flood of donations post-event.
Tactics to Boost Your Content Strategy
Now that you have some fresh ideas to leverage virtual events as a means to support your retention strategy, let’s explore how your events can support your content strategy.
When you host any event or campaign in a virtual setting, you’re creating endless content opportunities. At a minimum, make sure your platform has the ability to capture a recording of the event and a transcription, as these two items will provide you with a plethora of new content and information that you can repurpose.
Build a post-event landing page
Create a digital hub with all of the key information your new donors need to know about the event. If the event is hosted annually or on a regular basis, keep that landing page up year-round as a tool to encourage sign-ups for the next year. This is an opportunity for you to re-promote the event, share the recording, and highlight your leaderboards and sponsors. You can also include calls to action to encourage visitors to sign up for your next event.
Shareable video shorts across social
Repurpose the key moments from your virtual events into short videos (between 1 to 2 minutes in length). These can range from the moment you hit your fundraising milestone, to a sponsorship session, to celebrating your top donation and tagging the supporter.
Create a highlight reel
Boil down the most compelling moments from the live event into a mini highlight reel. You can use this as a promotional tool to encourage participation in future events and give a behind-the-scenes look for those who might be interested in attending.
Create a blog post with “can’t-miss moments”
It’s important that you’re diversifying your content as much as possible post-event. As you’re reviewing your recording or transcript, take note of compelling moments, talk tracks, or tips. Create a blog about “top five moments” or “top five lessons” from the event. You can use the content to tease the full event and encourage readers to download the recording or sign up for next year.
Review your transcript to create longer form content
Beyond a simple blog, you could also find additional content opportunities hidden in your event transcript. If you host a speaker on a given topic, relay the information they share and create a checklist. Create a guide outlining the event as a whole, showcasing the different sessions, sponsors, and donations throughout.
Create testimonials and pull quotes from your transcripts
Review your transcript for valuable quotes from your speakers, sponsors, and attendees. Create social shareable assets and tag them in the post and tag them to gain even more exposure.
Other Tactics to Try
You’ve sent your thank yous to retain your donors, brainstormed tons of new content to keep them around, and now you’re ready to re-engage. Here are a few ideas to get your wheels turning on where else to start.
Grow recurring giving
Did you know that the lifetime value of recurring donors is 440% greater than one-time donors? If you’re not thinking of new ways to expand this community at your nonprofit, you’re leaving some serious money on the table.
Get strategic and use your post-event follow-up as a natural touchpoint to re-engage your event’s supporters and encourage them to become a recurring donor. Get creative by showing them the impact of their one-time donation to inspire them to give monthly. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. In fact, donors today are seeking these opportunities more than ever before.
Host intimate events to inform and excite
As the data from Freewill supports, only 13% of nonprofits are planning to use events to steward major giving donors. Re-engagement can be tough, and events present a meaningful way to reach lapsed donors and drive more interest in your programs. Use your virtual events as a tool to keep your community up to date.
Below are some examples of more intimate virtual events you can use to re-engage your supporter year-round:
- VIP Donor Events. Host a virtual dinner party for your top supporters. You can make it more engaging by opting to cook together, or you could bring in a professional chef virtually to show you the ropes. Focus on creating a unique and intimate experience for these donors to express your gratitude.
- Monthly Town Halls. Host monthly events with a “town hall” structure. Keep it free form, have your founder available to address the “state of the union,” and get your community involved. Send out polls ahead of time that you can address during the live discussion. Plan polls and Q&A throughout the live event for real-time feedback directly from your donors based on the initiatives shared. Be sure to survey attendees after the event and use the data to help shape your approach to the following month.
- Donation Impact Webinars. Make your donor’s impact shown—host a webinar highlighting the direct impact of their donation on your organization. Give tours of your facility, take them behind the scenes, tell real-world stories specific to your organization and who the dollars have gone to support. This is also a great setting to promote your recurring giving program to these engaged donors.
The Road Ahead: Doubling Down on Virtual to Grow Year-End Giving
As nonprofits continue to navigate the new landscape with major giving peaks like Giving Tuesday, now is the time to think about creative ways you can use virtual events to get your donors excited, and activate them around your cause.
Despite the shaky state of the economy in 2020, Giving Tuesday 2020 hit record highs. Focus the next few months on education and begin to map out your virtual event calendar with Giving Tuesday in mind.
Thinking of new ways to engage your online donors will be critical and now is the time to reassess your approach. When evaluating your virtual platform, does it support real-time donations? Can you incorporate donation leaderboards? Does it support 1:1 networking for your donor base?
Get the features you need to wow your supporters with the new Classy integration for Fondi. Built with engagement at its core—this integration arms nonprofits with fundraising tools they need to drive more donations, boost engagement and enhance retention in a virtual setting.
Erin Chesterton is the Marketing Manager at Fondi, a virtual event platform built to help nonprofits educate, engage and excite their online supporters. Raise more in 2021 and take your next virtual event to new heights by learning about Fondi and Classy’s integration.