The last five months have provided a crash course in conducting fundraising events
online. In a short amount of time, those of us involved with nonprofit events have
transitioned from feeling like we were making it up as we went along to being grounded
in best practices for producing successful and engaging events in the virtual
environment.As with in-person events, intentional marketing and a well-crafted program
will position you for fundraising success and strong attendance. These ten lessons
provide insight into what the Ann Plans team has put into practice in our virtual work
1. Going live doesn’t have to be scary. There was reluctancy early on
in taking the risk of streaming live. With proper planning, however, there are
advantages and low-risk in going live. Benefits include leveraging fundraising activity
in real time, ability to refine messaging up until the event date, and the energy
viewers experience with a live format.
2. Pre-recorded content is your friend. For some virtual events,
pre-recording all content makes sense. Live virtual events also benefit from a good
amount of pre-recorded content. Client stories and entertainment segments are examples
of content that almost always make sense to pre-record.
3. Audiences appreciate short and sweet. Less is more when programming
in the virtual environment. Maintain a captive audience and maximize generous giving by
producing a 30-40 minute program that is inspiring, fun, and fast-paced. Make every word
4. Rehearsals are not optional. Whether your speakers will be in studio
or participating via a platform such as Zoom, rehearsals are the best insurance for
having a flawless production. This is the time to identify technical issues such as poor
WiFi connections and poor lighting, confirm that the AV team understands all their cues,
and make final scripting refinements.
5. Make messaging on how to donate a through-line. Include information
on the impact of gifts and the mechanics of how to donate in the opening remarks. Share
this messaging multiple times throughout the program. Place the most impactful
fundraising moment within the first half of the program.
6. Community can be created virtually. Sending key supporters a gala
box, facilitating an active chat feature during the event, and encouraging the sharing
of photos on social media are ways of engaging and connecting your donors.
7. Online auctions are performing well. Maximum flexibility in
deadlines for when experiences such as dinners, vacation stays, and sporting events can
be redeemed is key.
8. Have closed captioning on the checklist. Many clients are doing
closed captioning to make the event as accessible as possible. If closed captioning or
ASL interpretation is important for your audience, make sure the coordination of this
element is on your planning checklist.
9. Be intentional about what displays on screen. Without careful
graphics planning, you run the risk of text and images overlapping on screen. Graphics
appearing on screen may include names and titles of speakers, a donation thermometer and
donor names, and closed captioning. Work with your AV and online giving partners to
understand the options and limitations for screen placement.
10. Embrace your event as a several-day online giving campaign.
Well-marketed virtual events are experiencing strong online giving not only during the
program, but also in the days leading up to the event. Continue the invitation to give
in your post-event communications.
Did You Know?
Ann Plans is best known for our work in producing galas and other fundraising events,
but we also offer conference planning services. With conferences going virtual, our
technical expertise and show flow mastery are more valuable than ever. This month we are
hard at work with the Minnesota Humanities Center preparing for
the 2020 Virtual Cultural Resource Showcase. More than
200 Omaha Public Schools educators are registered to attend the August
The pandemic has invited all of us to think outside
the box and approach almost every aspect of life in new and creative ways. We hope the
lessons shared in this month’s blog help you navigate in this new event environment.