Like any type of fundraising initiative, virtual events have their strengths and shortcomings. On one hand, they present great opportunities for interfacing with your nonprofit’s supporters and growing your community in a convenient, cost-effective way. But, on the other hand, they can sometimes lack the excitement and connection that in-person events offer.

So, what can your nonprofit do to make sure you’re hosting engaging virtual events? In this short guide, we’ll walk you through a few strategies to help you boost participation at your next virtual event and make it more memorable:

  1. Try an event idea your supporters haven’t seen before.
  2. Invest in the right tools for virtual events.
  3. Promote your virtual event on multiple platforms.
  4. Leverage interactive elements and gamification.

These tips will set your organization up for success with its next virtual event, from planning your event effectively to making the right decisions on the day of. Let’s jump in!

1. Try an event idea your supporters haven’t seen before.

Your nonprofit may find itself wanting to try something new when it comes to virtual events. After all, a fresh event idea can not only be exciting for your internal team to run with, but can also pique your supporters’ interest, and encourage more people to attend.

Here are a few fun ideas to consider:

  • Virtual gala: Your gala can include entertainment, fine dining delivered to your supporters’ doors, and an auction. Whether silent or live, an auction that features high-end items and packages is sure to grab your supporters’ attention. To get them eager to engage beforehand, tease your most exciting items in marketing materials.
  • Performance by a celebrity: Star power can do wonders for boosting the success of nonprofit virtual events. To go the extra mile, book a celebrity to perform at your event in real time, or record the performance beforehand. Working with a well-connected event production company like CharityBids can help you get access to incredible talent.
  • Class or workshop: This type of event can be especially engaging, as attendees can participate, rather than passively observe. You can offer a virtual class or workshop centered on painting, woodworking, the culinary arts, or a plethora of other ideas–the options are endless.
  • Fun run: For a virtual fun run, you can have your participants complete the run on their own time, before enjoying a virtual celebration together. According to 99Pledges’ fun run fundraiser guide, you can raise money at this type of event by having participants collect pledges based on how many miles they walk or run.

As you look to shake up your usual event ideas, remember to take your participants’ needs, interests, and values into consideration. For example, for some nonprofits, it may be appropriate to hold a virtual “Night with the Symphony,” while other nonprofits may find that a family-friendly virtual reality game night is a better option.

2. Invest in the right tools for virtual events.

Without the right tools, it’s impossible to host a high-quality virtual event that your attendees will enjoy. But what will you need in order to make your event happen? Here are a few tools to consider:

  • Marketing toolsTo ensure a great turnout for the event, you should pull out all the stops when it comes to marketing. To help make this process easier, consider investing in tools like email marketing and social media management platforms.
  • Event registration tools: Make it simple for your supporters to sign up by leveraging an easy-to-use online event registration tool.
  • Live streaming or video conferencing software: A tool like Zoom will be essential for gathering your supporters in a virtual space for your event. There are also plenty of other webinar-style platforms to choose from, too.
  • Video equipment and editing software: If you’re creating content for your event ahead of time, you’ll need access to high-quality video tools so that you can shoot and edit performances, speeches, interviews, presentations, and more.
  • Fast and reliable Wi-Fi: A strong internet connection is essential to a successful event. An event that runs smoothly, without any crashing or freezing, will make for a positive experience that motivates participants to return for future fundraisers.
  • Donation tools: Every event will take a different approach to collecting donations. With this in mind, consider the fundraising tools you may want to leverage before or on the day of the event. For example, you may need auction bidding tools, text-to-give software, or a crowdfunding platform.

As you determine your specific event needs and explore the various tools available to choose from, remember to prioritize the options that are feature-rich, budget-friendly, and easy to use.

It’s also a good idea to have the right technical support standing by to help you iron out any tech issues that arise on the day of your event.

3. Promote your virtual event on multiple platforms.

Once you’ve decided on an exciting event idea and equipped your team with everything it needs to carry out its plan, make the most of your efforts by ensuring that as many supporters attend as possible. To accomplish this, consider these effective marketing tips:

  • Create an engaging event page. This is where you’ll direct everyone to learn more about your upcoming virtual event, so take the time to make it as attention-grabbing and informative as possible. Include details such as the time and location, as well as what they can expect during the event. Make it easy for people to register on this page, so they can act immediately on their interest.
  • Encourage supporters to invite their friends and family. Chances are, your supporters have friends and family members who share many of their interests and values. One easy, creative way to boost attendance is by including fundraising event eCards on your registration page. When people sign up, they can invite others with a few simple clicks by sending an eCard. You can even generate more revenue by including an option to donate alongside sending the invitation.
  • Drum up excitement through social media posts. Roughly 4.88 billion people use social media to stay in touch with others, exchange information, and share ideas. Take advantage of social media’s popularity by posting key details about your event, highlighting the speakers that will be present, and providing a countdown leading up to event day.
  • Promote the event in your email newsletter. Your nonprofit’s newsletter subscribers have already demonstrated an interest in your mission. Ensure that they don’t miss out on your upcoming virtual event by crafting several emails that build excitement, communicate important details, and direct readers to your registration page to sign up.

Your supporters have different communication and platform preferences. By promoting your virtual event in multiple ways, you’ll spread the word to them more effectively.

4. Leverage interactive elements and gamification.

According to CharityBids’ guide to virtual charity events, you should find creative, natural ways to engage your attendees during your event. These might include:

  • Using the chat. Get your virtual attendees talking by leveraging your virtual event platform’s chat feature. You might offer attendees the chance to ask a guest questions, or have volunteers or staff members facilitating discussions throughout the event.
  • Creating breakout sessions. Breakout sessions are mini meeting rooms with a limited number of attendees in them. Try putting your attendees into breakout rooms during the event to encourage them to get to know each other, share how they’re connected to your cause, and discuss their experiences at the event.
  • Sending out polls and surveys. Short polls and surveys are easy to fill out and even easier to create. Send a poll or survey to your virtual attendees via a link in the event chat. For example, you might ask attendees to complete a poll asking where they’re from or to guess the answer to a fun trivia question related to your cause.
  • Using fundraising leaderboards or thermometers. If you’re actively fundraising during your event, a leaderboard or dynamic fundraising thermometer can help to motivate attendees to give more by encouraging them to get a little competitive. Clearly display your leaderboard or thermometer, and continuously update it throughout the event.

Using elements like these throughout your event will let your supporters know that you’re being considerate of their experience, and want them to leave the event with a good impression of your nonprofit. Get creative and use the elements that you think your supporters will enjoy the most!

Even when you’re separated by a screen, it is possible to engage your supporters during a virtual event, and pave the way for further involvement and support. Use the strategies in this guide to step up your approach.

To take things to the next level, consider working with a charity event planning company. The right company can take all of the heavy lifting out of running virtual events,  freeing up your team’s headspace to focus on effectively engaging your attendees. Good luck!