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Our Virtual Reality: Why Is It So Scary To Take Your Fundraising Event Virtual?

Updated: Sep 14


We all remember the thrill, excitement, and stress of event day. The anxious glances at the clock as we donned our fancy outfits, the countless revisions of speeches while double checking the menu, the rushing to the event location a few hours in advance to make sure nothing was falling apart and, of course, the much needed drinks once the event was over! Little did we know that we would reminisce over this as we planned a very different kind of event: virtual ones.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has moved social life from in-person gatherings to mingling with friends through screens and chat bars. Be as it may, this has ultimately transformed the makeup of fundraising events. Such events are intended to establish emotionally strong connections with your donors through an electric, exciting atmosphere, while also being moved by a mission-driven message that deeply resonates with your organization and supporters to its core. Moreover, it is scary to imagine what an online event would look like particularly for nonprofits​ that organize similar events year after year. Questions like ​“Is it still worth investing in decor?”​ or ​“How are we supposed to capture the attention of the audience?”​ are rightfully raised and while the solutions may not seem obvious at first, they are nevertheless, present and achievable.

One of the biggest fears of all fundraising organizers of virtual fundraising events during this trying time is this common concern: “HOW ARE WE GOING TO RAISE THIS MONEY?!”. Rest assured, you are not alone in this. With most in-person events, attendees are asked to pay a ticket price, registration fees, and have the option to participate in other revenue generators such as silent auctions, live auctions, drawings, wine walls, etc. ​“How in the world do we duplicate that through a virtual event?”​ Moreover, even if more people sign up to attend an event online, it may not always guarantee a higher number of donations. With in-person events, the ​Emcee is responsible for interacting with the audience and ensuring that the messaging of the organization is explained and received properly.

A professional emcee will build rapport with attendees through a comforting stage presence, entertainment, ​but more importantly, have a thorough understanding of the organization’s mission so everyone in attendance leaves feeling a deeper connection to the overall cause.​ This might be tricky in the case of a virtual event because there is already a physical barrier. It is important to think of ways in which the audience can still be immersed in the cause and the overall ambience of fundraising.

Perhaps the most important thing to consider about virtual events is that it relies mainly on technology. Both attendees and organizers need to be familiar with applications and processes so that the event can go smoothly on both ends. With particular regards to fundraising, organizers need to be vigilant about providing links to your attendees for online payment and ​easy-to-follow step by step ​instructions through each phase of your event from check-in, cocktail/social time, silent auction, drawings to win, and check-out. You can experience plenty of struggles in managing just these aspects alone, not to mention any last minute technical and production glitches that may arise throughout your event. “WHY DOES THE Wi-Fi HAVE TO GO OUT NOW?!?” For these reasons, ​we highly suggest having technical support on standby and a chat liaison to keep guests engaged and to answer any questions they may have.

While all of this seems to be nothing but doom and gloom, the exciting thing about this uncertainty is that it has provided us with so much potential and endless opportunities to be more creative than ever. As people indulge in serious baking in their homes, event planners are coming up with a slew of ideas regarding decor, hosting and other untapped aspects of virtual events. Just because you are attending an event via Zoom doesn't mean it has to have the feel of another routine board meeting! No question virtual events will have to be approached in a slightly different way, but at the end of the day, you still have a great message and people in, and now even​ ​OUTSIDE OF ​your community that want to support your cause. And because we are all on a road less travelled, the path may be foggy, bumpy, and scary at first, but who knows,​ we might just discover something wonderful and possibly even better than before!

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