Preparing to take your organization’s annual fundraising event online? Follow these best practices for a smooth transition to virtual.
If you are part of an organization that depends on one or more event fundraisers to finance activities, you’re probably faced with quickly moving those events 100% online – possibly for the first time. The good news is a well-done online event can accomplish the same fundraising objectives that an in-person event achieves.
Many of the planning steps for online events are similar to planning an in-person event. Tools and processes for announcing and promoting the event, inviting guests and collecting RSVP’s can usually remain the same. There are a few notable differences to be aware of when shifting to an online event however. Add these important considerations to your planning list for a great online event day!
Gathering Guests Online
Cancel the fancy hotel room. Today’s fundraising events are playing out on Zoom, special event microsites with streaming video, YouTube, and other live streaming platforms such as Facebook Live. One of the first decisions you’ll need to make when moving your fundraiser gala online is where and how guests will tune in to your program content.
Zoom Webinar is an overwhelmingly popular solution for quickly moving an event online right now. It’s low cost and includes video, audio, and moderated guest interaction. Best of all, most potential guests are already familiar with accessing the ubiquitous video conferencing platform.
Guests tuning in to an online event have more distractions and shorter attention spans than guests attending the traditional fundraising dinner in a hotel ballroom. Adjust the event program accordingly.
Keep content segments short and mix up the types of content to keep viewers focused. Multiple short inspirational stories and appeals are an effective way to keep viewer attention. Try to limit long-form presentations to just one important keynote speaker. A musical guest performance works great online if it includes video.
Choosing to Go Live or Pre-Record Speakers
The best rule of thumb when planning your first online fundraiser is to keep it simple and safe with speakers. In most cases this means asking speakers to pre-record their talks simulating a live event delivery. A video editor can then stitch recorded segments together into a smooth final video program.
Pre-recording most or all event speakers gives your team better control over the final program quality and reduces potential for embarrassing event day bloopers and show-stopping technical failures. It also frees up important staff to put their event day focus on audience engagement.
Fundraising Updates and Other Real-time Engagement
One simple and popular option for real-time fundraising updates is to have your emcee go live for the last few minutes of the program to share donations received and make any final appeal needed to reach event goals. This can also be a time for audience polling or answering real time audience Q&A.
Another option for real-time engagement is through Zoom’s chat feature. Designated chat hosts can share donations as they come in and thank donors through the chat feature. They can also give shoutouts to attendees, sponsors and other special guests as they join the event.
Securing the Right Technical Expertise and Equipment
A program agenda including a moderator and a handful of live speakers can be accomplished on Zoom Webinar with one to two in-house technicians who are familiar with optimizing an Internet connection and sharing content over Zoom. Identify early in your planning, the resources you’ll need and who will be responsible in-house for running the event online.
If there is no in-house individual and/or equipment to take your content online, start a search for outside assistance right away. Your need for an outside production company will also depend on the complexity of the planned program. An agenda vision including music, graphics, video, multiple speakers, and slide transitions promises superior audience engagement, but it also requires greater expertise and more equipment to manage than one speaker sharing slides.
Rehearsing – at Least Once
Whether you are managing the event in-house or hiring a professional production company to run it for you, you’ll need to hold at least one rehearsal. Ideally the rehearsal happens about one week prior to event day so there is time to make any needed adjustments to the program or resolve the inevitable technical issues that pop up.
Yes, even when your entire online event is pre-recorded, it is hard to overemphasize the importance of one or more practice runs with all the speakers and content using all the tech and equipment you plan to implement on event day.