Hosting Live Virtual Events: Lessons Learned

10/06/2020 1:53 PM | Elizabeth Duffrin

By: Allison Wong, ACN member

Six months into the pandemic, it’s clear that meeting in person isn’t an option for fundraising. Planning and executing a virtual fundraising event can seem like a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be. With proper research, planning and partnerships, your virtual event can be wildly successful.

At Forever Ready Productions, we specialize in telling mission-focused stories for nonprofits.   Here are the five most important things we’ve learned from live streaming virtual events since the pandemic began:

1. DECIDE ON A CONTENT THEME. I’ve seen many events that don’t have a clear direction and that usually leads to things feeling out of place and disjointed. If you decide on a theme for the evening, you’ll have a guide for selecting the right content. Pick something that will compliment your message and help you accomplish your goals, all while keeping viewers engaged and entertained. For example, we helped the Center for Enriched Living host a “Virtual Chefs’ Night” which included a live cooking demonstration from a chef.

2. PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE. Once you have a theme, date, and time, let people know it’s happening. It seems obvious, but I think people forget this is important. Mail invitations, send emails to all of your supporters, post on all of your social media platforms and more. When we worked with the Center for Enriched Living to live stream their Virtual Chefs’ Night, the staff did an amazing job of texting reminders to their supporters leading up to and on the day of the event. That resulted in nearly 1,000 viewers across two platforms!

3. KEEP THINGS ACTIVE. I know you have a lot of important information to communicate to your audience, but try to strike a balance between talking and doing. You could have live music, a live interview or a giveaway, and all could be done safely. Even having two hosts can help liven things up!

4. HAVE HEART. This is probably the most important advice I could give. Featuring heartfelt, authentic videos will take your event to the next level. You need to show your audience why they should support your work. Working closely with the Center for Independence, we created four videos that played throughout a virtual event, each featuring a parent sharing their own authentic story. Executive Director Patricia Herbst said it was critical in helping them raise nearly $80,000.

5. DON’T FORGET THE ASK. In a virtual event, make sure you’re explicitly asking people to donate, just like you would during an in-room pledge. Let them know what their money will do. You should also frequently remind people where and how they can donate throughout the broadcast. Showing reminders on screen is even better.

By following these tips and working with a strong team, you’ll be able to plan an entertaining, impactful and memorable event. Happy planning!

Allison Wong is a client manager and video producer for Forever Ready Productions. Allison joined the Forever Ready team in January of this year after working as a broadcast journalist. She’s enjoyed sharing her passion for storytelling with her nonprofit clients and bringing their missions to life through video.

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