Why Your Nonprofit Should Always Offer a Virtual Fundraising Option
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by Ellie Burke
Across industries, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a necessary shift from in-person operations to online activities. Nonprofits in particular were forced to make an aggressive pivot to online fundraising and virtual fundraising events. Luckily, virtual fundraising events have allowed organizations to break through geographic limitations and engage new and existing donors around the world.
While many organizations included a virtual option in their fundraising events prior to the pandemic, today, the practice is a requirement. As the industry prepares to move forward and plans for a world where in-person events and community engagement opportunities are once again possible, essential questions are rising to the surface. How do we move forward? What has strengthened our organizational strategy in the last year?
Now, more than ever before, the industry has an opportunity to reflect and build a future that not only protects and sustains its vital work, but harnesses what the pandemic has taught us in order to expand social impact and heal the world over—especially as it relates to opportunities with virtual fundraising.
To that end, this post explores why virtual fundraising options will remain key components of a successful annual fundraising strategy.
Expand Your Reach Beyond Borders
Your virtual fundraising events and efforts have likely allowed you to engage supporters and acquire donors you otherwise might not have reached. People from all over the world have proven a willingness to engage with causes near to their hearts, regardless of their physical location.
In our recent Why America Gives 2020 report, 30% of survey respondents said they supported or participated in a virtual charity event since the start of the pandemic. Of those respondents, 60% said they donated and/or raised more in the virtual environment than they have for past in-person events. These results not only underline people's willingness to participate virtually, but the possibility for greater levels of support.
Don't cast willing virtual participants aside as you plan future initiatives. Even when in-person events return, always offer a virtual fundraising option. Your organization should capitalize on the opportunity to continually expand your reach and engage these donors.
You can even strengthen your relationships with this specific cohort by sending targeted communications to virtual supporters and participants, helping them feel specially acknowledged, included, and informed.
Surpass Revenue Goals
Online and virtual components allow your organization to remove an earnings ceiling from your mission. Through online storytelling and engaging virtual events, you can invest more people in your cause, raise more awareness, and raise more revenue than ever before.
"Virtual fundraising can have a tremendous impact on how your organization engages with supporters and broadens its reach. Traditional events typically exclude a (potentially large) portion of your supporter base, including those who can't afford to attend or those who don't live close enough to your organization. Virtual fundraising breaks down those geographical and financial barriers, enabling you to truly empower everyone to support your cause.
Take To Write Love On Her Arms' (TWLOHA) annual virtual 5K event, Run for It. In 2020, TWLOHA rallied participants in all 50 states and in 16 countries around the world. Their event page also clearly outlines the event's impact to date, helping potential supporters to understand the power of their participation, even from afar.
Hosting a virtual event, such as a virtual 5K, is a great way to supplement your event calendar while also reducing costs. When in-person events and their overhead expenses return, a virtual component will allow you to easily boost your revenue without further increasing costs. Given your organization's annual budget, consider how incorporating a virtual fundraising option to your in-person events, or a mix of in-person and virtual events, can help your organization go above and beyond your revenue goals for the year.
In the face of uncertain times ahead, it seems likely that organizations that continue to embrace a varied approach and offer virtual components year-round will best safeguard their earnings and position themselves for future growth.
Offer a Year-Round Virtual Fundraising Option
In addition to one-off events, offer a virtual option to your entire community year-round in order to offer donors something they've grown accustomed to—opportunities to meaningfully connect with your organization virtually, in the ways and at the times that they want.
Take Love146's "Tread on Trafficking" virtual fundraising opportunity. This year-round offering allows Love146's supporters to creatively support an organization they care about on their own terms, be it through a personal physical challenge or an athletic event in their local community. This year-round virtual fundraising option shows the organization's community its level of investment in all of their supporters, no matter where you are in the world.
As you consider your 2021 strategy and beyond, offer a year-round option for supporters to raise money on your behalf whenever they want, wherever they want.
As the industry begins to discuss "life after COVID" and our daily habits change, one thing is clear. The pandemic has proven donors' willingness to engage with your organization virtually. While the degree to which the pendulum swings back toward physical events (and what that looks like) remains uncertain, continuing to offer a virtual fundraising event option should remain a well-established component of your organization's strategy in the years to come.
Whether you plan to add a mix of virtual opportunities to your calendar or supplement your events with virtual components as the world moves ahead, further investing time and resources into this area will not only help you sustain your existing donor base, but grow your support and ability to serve more members of your community.
Learn how to create virtual events that exceed expectations and deliver an authentic, memorable experience with our virtual events toolkit.