Livestreaming and livestreamed events have gained substantial momentum as a fundraising tactic in recent years, and have gained even more popularity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as organizations aim to stay connected virtually with their audiences.
Like so many others, Classy customer the HEADstrong Foundation was forced to quickly shift their in-person fundraising event to virtual when the shelter-in-place orders took effect. The nonprofit’s 10th-annual Limelight gala was set to take place just days after the March 2020 lockdown was issued, forcing them to pivot their annual gala to a livestream in hopes of achieving their fundraising goals. Their livestreamed event ended up raising $350,000, the same amount as the previous year but with 60% less of the overhead costs.
We chatted with their team to find out how they were able to successfully transition their in-person event to virtual without sacrificing donor engagement in the process. Below are four steps to take when planning a virtual livestream event, with a few specific examples of how the HEADstrong Foundation hosted such an impactful evening at their 2020 virtual gala.
1. Leverage Pre-Recorded Videos
Finding a flow during a livestream event can be challenging when you’re at the mercy of your internet connection. When they had to go virtual, the HEADstrong Foundation team wanted to avoid any last-minute hiccups during the livestream and make it as convenient as possible for all of the performers to participate.
Since the date changed from the originally scheduled gala, the team decided to accommodate the schedules of their performers by requesting pre-recorded videos of their speeches or live music, complete with a brief introduction explaining their connection to the HEADstrong Foundation. The team then pieced the content together to create a polished two-hour set of streamed performances with speakers and awards incorporated throughout.
Use pre-recorded videos to eliminate the stress of any unforeseen technical issues and ensure a smooth experience. This strategy also gives the host, speakers, and performing artists more flexibility and time to record themselves and send their videos to you, rather than needing to block out the designated time of the event.
2. Deliver a Consistent Experience in Quality
Chances are your supporters have purchased tickets or fundraised on behalf of your previous in-person events due to both a deep sense of connection to your nonprofit and excitement for the different activities and perks. To keep your audience engaged with your next virtual event, re-emphasize your commitment to uphold that brand standard of a quality event experience in a virtual landscape. Extend the invitation to all supporters to participate in another exciting, meaningful event from the comfort of their homes.
To keep their loyal donor base engaged, the HEADstrong Foundation wanted to incorporate a shared experience at their livestream gala to replicate the communal atmosphere at their traditional in-person event. Their team sent a Grubhub gift card to each ticket holder prior to the event to purchase a dinner of their choice and eat with their fellow supporters while watching the show. Consider incorporating a similar element into your own upcoming livestream event, or replace the gift card with something more tailored to your fundraising campaign that guests can enjoy “together” at a designated time.
When strategizing your messaging, focus on community-centric language that resonates with your supporters. Consider highlighting the ways your organization is continuing to foster a sense of community despite the shift to a virtual event, or call out the benefits of bringing your supporters together in innovative ways during challenging times. Encourage your attendees to get dressed up for the event, whether in formal attire or casual garb, and share photos on social media during the livestream event to strengthen that feeling of connection.
3. Share Across Channels
Stream your event on multiple channels to maximize your visibility. Rather than streaming it through just a Facebook Live, stream it through YouTube Live as well. Also consider leveraging Instagram Live to cater to younger audiences. The HEADstrong Foundation even extended their efforts one step further by offering a live “after party” with a 30-minute DJ set on Instagram TV following the gala.
Continue to drive traffic toward your campaign page for supporters to donate. The HEADstrong Foundation leveraged a Classy donation form for their virtual gala, as well as Venmo, to ensure that the donation process was convenient, and raised $349,875 in total revenue as a result.
Another tip for appealing to larger audiences is to incorporate a silent auction component into your event for all community members to participate in. This grants every donor the opportunity to participate and show support, especially if purchasing a ticket to your event was too large of a financial lift.
4. Invest in Quality Production
Dedicate the time and resources to ensure your organization has quality audio and video for your livestream event. Although seemingly small, these production details can make the difference between missing your fundraising goal and hitting it out of the park.
This is part of maintaining the standards of your brand and the experiences you deliver for your supporters, especially when shifting to a virtual landscape. Your supporters know what you’re capable of and expect that same experience whether they’re sitting in the crowd at an event venue or tuning in from their living room.
Seek an external production team, if your budget allows, or simply consider upscaling your audio and video quality in these simple ways:
- Upgrade to a professional microphone
- Invest in a high-quality webcam
- Enhance your lighting
Check out our blog post on video conferencing tips for more ideas on how you can upgrade your setup.
Livestreaming has become a more common tactic for nonprofits across all fundraising spaces, and this tactic is here to stay. Especially as organizations continue to incorporate virtual fundraising into their strategies, livestreaming should remain a part of your annual toolkit even when in-person events return. When done right, livestreaming can help your nonprofit appeal to a larger audience, engage new donors, and explore creative new fundraising strategies.
For more insight into hosting a successful virtual event, check out our Virtual Events Toolkit for creative ideas, examples, and tactics to bring your next virtual fundraising event to life.