Free Virtual Events with Optional Donations and Fundraising
Nonprofits are dealing with canceled fundraising events and a severe decrease in donations. It’s time to go back to basics: engage your communities while saving money and making money for your nonprofit. Free (or low-cost) virtual events with donations and fundraising are a perfect way to engage donors and beneficiaries at no expense to your nonprofit.
VIEW STEPS TO SET UP A FREE VIRTUAL FUNDRAISING EVENT
Here are some of the best ways you can engage your supporters, raise money, and save money with virtual events:
- Offer free events: Lower the barrier to participation with free virtual events so that all of your supporters can take part.
- Get creative: Your virtual event doesn't have to be a race. The Autism Society of Nebraska hosted a virtual FunFest, including a live online auction, virtual art contest, and other activities. They emailed out links to join the video conference to participants and fundraisers. After the event, they converted their website to host video content, continue to sell shirts, and ask for donations.
- Double down: Even if you are converting an annual fundraising run/walk/ride to virtual, create a new free event that supporters can take part in as well. While an in-person run/walk/ride is limited to one or several locations, your virtual challenge has national reach. Semper Fi Fund endurance fundraising focuses on charity bib fundraising for major marathons (many of which have been postponed or cancelled). They quickly added a fun quarantine fitness challenge open to all supporters - not just marathoners. With a $5 registration fee, optional donations and fundraising, and a very active and engaged Facebook group, the challenge successfully brought people together and raise money.
- Create a website: Put time into making a website for your free virtual event. Design a creative landing page that features your branding and images/photos, explains your virtual challenge, and focuses on your event's messaging.
- Keep your messaging about COVID-19: Make sure that you are connecting your fundraising communication to COVID-19 and its effects on your mission or your beneficiaries– your organization's standard messaging may not be received well at this time.
- Grow your email list: Your free event gives you the opportunity to grow your email list to cultivate new donors by making participation open to everyone. Want to collect even more emails? Add an email capture pop-up to your website.
- Ask for donations: Ask frequently but not aggressively. Your website, registration, and emails give you multiple opportunities to make the ask.
- Set a goal, but make it achievable: Be conservative when you add a donation goal. As you get more donations, you can always increase the goal.
- Suggest a minimum donation, but don't enforce it: Add a suggested donation to your event. Wheeler Mission suggests a $30 donation for their free Social DASH-tancing event.
- Donation add-on: On the checkout page, ask participants to add a donation to their registration. You can customize this amount, but we typically find anywhere between $1 and $10 works best.
- Emails: Don't send too many emails, but when you do, make sure to ask for donations. Include a direct link to your donation page.
- Be gracious and of course, thank your donors: Customize the donation confirmation email with your nonprofit's COVID-19 messaging. Consider making phone calls to top donors to give them a personal thank you. Connection and kind words are appreciated now more than ever, and this is an opportunity to strengthen your relationships with donors.
- Make fundraising optional: Give supporters the option to fundraise - but don't require it.
- Make it easy for fundraisers: Take time to customize the settings for individual and team fundraisers. Don't set a required minimum for fundraisers. Suggest a goal, but make it achievable (think $100 or less). Provide default individual and team fundraiser text that keeps your messaging relevant to COVID-19.
- Facebook Fundraising: Raise more money and reach more donors - for free! On RunSignup, the Facebook Fundraiser integration is free and available to every nonprofit. The integration makes it seamless for fundraisers to create a connected Facebook Fundraiser and reach new donors. Since Facebook covers the processing fees for donations made on Facebook, your nonprofit saves money.
- Offer prizes or recognition: If you have prizes available (and a plan on how to deliver them), create competition with awards for top fundraisers. If you don't have prizes, be sure to provide recognition to your top fundraisers - whether that's featuring Top Fundraisers on your website or shoutouts on Facebook.