The coronavirus is deeply shifting the course of the events industry. Springtime galas, fundraising luncheons, and charity marathons are among the many events being postponed or canceled entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps now more than ever, nonprofit organizations need resources to serve communities during trying times. Rethink your standard benefit by making the move to digital. We’re sharing 7 tips to pivot your fundraising event into a virtual community initiative. We’re in this together—even from afar! 

7 Ways to Host a Virtual Fundraising Event

Decide your next steps 

Are you ready to take your fundraiser virtual? Now is a better time than ever. Organizations count on galas, auctions, annual walkathons, and more to fuel efforts in communities. Whether your event is kicking off virtually with a plan to postpone to a later date or making a full online shift, the decision is yours to make. Our guide, “Navigating Events in the Time of Coronavirus,” can help you determine your next steps, and inform your guests accordingly. 

Take your shopping event or auction online 

One of the core benefits of online fundraising is expanding the reach, longevity, and the potential number of donations. An in-person marketplace, auction, or raffle often lasts the duration of your event while being limited to your attendees. By making your auction or shopping event virtual, you are opening up the opportunity to have your event shared by your network on social media. The ripple effect can be astounding, allowing you to attract a larger audience outside of your normal reach. 

GiveSmart, a mobile bidding software, shared in its latest webinar that making your auction go live weeks before your event date will allow more people to participate and potentially increase the funds raised. Think about putting an offer on an item on eBay—when you check back and see you’re in a bidding war, aren’t you inspired to up the ante a little bit to win your item? The same goes for online fundraisers where guests can be notified when they’ve been outbid. Rather than limiting an auction to a few hours during an event, participants can check back on their favorite items and add a healthy dose of competition for a cause into the mix. 

Similarly, the highly-anticipated Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market will be pivoting to a fully digital shopping event. “We hope the virtual market brings some happiness to our shoppers and helps supplement the sales of our wonderful merchants who work so hard as small business owners,” Patsy Chapman, CEO of the Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market, said in a statement to Paper City magazine. The market is hosted in a Facebook group now through April 30.

Make your walkathon a virtual success

Rather than cancel its event entirely, Easter Seals Greater Houston is making its Walk With Me 2020 walkathon, planned for April 25, a virtual fundraiser. Between now and April 25, the organization is asking supporters to “walk, stroll or roll the block” safely and share the #WWMVirtually. Participants are encouraged to create a team to share with friends and family as well as fundraise for the charity’s $1 million dollar goal. This commitment is to help ensure that Easter Seals can continue its mission of providing services for thousands of Houstonians living with disabilities throughout the year.

Ask speakers and executives to host virtual talks 

Did you have an all-star speaker for your charity event? Was your CEO planning special remarks or honoring a member of the community? Whatever your program may be, don’t let coronavirus get in the way of making your message accessible to donors and their social networks. Consider streaming important talks or keynote speeches on social media through Instagram Live or Facebook Live, or creating a Zoom meetup for participants to log into. Everyone needs hope, and inspirational words are welcome in times of need. 

Put your committee leaders to work fundraising for your cause

Your committee members may have worked tirelessly to ensure your event checklist is met. From social media support to help with membership, these rock stars have been looking forward to the culmination of their efforts. Honor your team’s commitment to your organization by enlisting their help in virtual fundraising with online donation pages. These donation pages can be shared on their social media, email list, and even their group chats! Give your committee members a goal, and watch them enlist the help of their own online communities to make you proud. 

Create an event hashtag 

Build participation by turning your event into an online movement. When you contact your email list and supporters, be sure to include a searchable event hashtag for them to use during your event. They can tweet out their favorite moments from your speaker’s virtual keynote speech, share fundraising links, and promote the cause using the hashtag as a tool to string the influence of all your supports together. 

Create a text-to-give campaign 

An easy, impactful way to gather donations is a text-to-give campaign. Sites like Snowball Fundraising allow you to create text campaigns that make it easy for your supporters to chip in for your cause in seconds. Removing fundraising obstacles and making donations as easy as possible will help to increase possible donations.

Consider a small thank you to your donors 

Support local businesses by sending a small token of appreciation to large donors like baked cookies from Tiny No. 5.