What NOT To Do When Taking Fundraising Events Virtual

Amy Phillips

What NOT To Do When Taking Fundraising Events Virtual

They say necessity is the mother of invention and it certainly rings true with virtual fundraising events. If we weren’t forced to cancel most of our in-person 2020 events, chances are we’d never have attempted ONE Virtual Gala (VG), let alone a hundred of them! During the last year, we’ve learned a ton. We’ve also learned a few painful lessons, which we want to help YOU avoid. 

Read on for the most common pain points our clients report when planning a VG or virtual fundraiser. 

Lack of Preparation

You’ve probably used AND heard the following phrases at some point in your life:

“Let’s just wing it.”

“We’ll play it by ear.” 

“We’ll decide when we get there.”

That’s fine if you’re enjoying a relaxing, agenda-free Sunday afternoon. But it’s not going to cut it for a successful VG. Much of your live stream will be pre-recorded – that is, if you’re following our advice. So take the time to prep for success. You’ll be duly rewarded. 

Too Much Live 

There ARE a few exceptions, but honestly, the only folks you really want having any live presence in your VG are your Dynamic Duo (auctioneer and emcee). It’s best to have on-camera professionals in these roles. They’ll come across as poised, energetic (but not overly so – no one wants to watch that), and perhaps most importantly, they won’t implode when technical glitches or any sort of derailment occurs during your live show. Because they’ve experienced them before, and pros can tap-dance gracefully until you get back on track. Other than your Dynamic Duo, and perhaps an occasional special guest, the rest of your VG should be pre-recorded to limit timing, content, messaging and overall tone. And it will look GREAT, since you’ve put a lot of time and effort into your visuals. If you don’t, you’ll wind up with…

Poor or Nonexistent Visuals

You’re working with a visual medium, after all, so make your visuals amazing! Anchor videos should command the lion’s share of your video production effort and budget, since they’re the vehicles with which you tell your stories and demonstrate your impact. Video vignettes will be shorter, a bit more informal and often entertaining. But don’t stop there – you have so many other opportunities to visually illustrate your mission. A few examples: Graphics, PowerPoint slides, a call to action, giving or recognition “ticker” running across the bottom of the screen – what can YOU come up with that’s eye-catching and fun? If you’re not already thinking visually, it’s definitely time to start!

Weak, Wordy & Long-Winded Scripts

Ditch every scripted word that doesn’t evoke the outcome and/or emotion you’re striving for. A succinct, mission-driven script is an absolute must in the virtual world. If someone starts to digress or ramble, you’ll lose a good chunk of your audience. Those who are still watching will quickly become uncomfortable or bored, then they’ll log off. Think of words as currency. Spend them wisely and very, very carefully.

Lackluster Marketing

There’s something MAJOR that can go wrong before your VG even starts. Can you guess what it is? People not knowing about it. Don’t let that happen to you! Once you decide to go virtual, spread the good news far and wide! Publish it front and center on your website’s landing page and your social media channels. Send email blasts. Tell everyone you know. Tell them to tell everyone THEY know. One of the truly INVALUABLE things about VGs is that the guest list is LITERALLY unlimited! So spread the word and reap the benefits of that expanded reach. Virtual fundraising is relatively new. Your event marketing strategies to support it should be, as well. DO NOT rely on the same old thing “you’ve always done.”

Inadequate Vendor Communication 

Recipe for inefficiency: Having multiple people working on the same thing without knowing it. Not only is it irritating for all parties, it’s a waste of time and money. Avoid! Make sure the right hand knows what the left hand is doing, because some of the roles and duties inherent in planning a VG may overlap a bit. Have you ever worked your rear end off completing a task, only to find out someone has already done it? Super annoying and frustrating, right? As with pretty much everything in business (AND life), communication is KEY. So is trust.

Not Trusting (and Hiring) Tech Pros

Believe us: Trust the pros when it comes to the technical components of your production – live streaming, mobile bidding and run-of-show, event and revenue strategy. Sure, you could probably learn how to run your mobile bidding software. But are you comfortable doing it in a live environment, with your show literally on the line and viewers witnessing every snafu? Could you remember what steps you need to take to troubleshoot, when the seconds are ticking away and the situation calls for an IMMEDIATE fix? Your mobile bidding professionals can take care of any problems without even experiencing a spike in heart rate. 

As for live streaming, unless you’re an engineer and you own your own studio, you’re going to need some professional assistance. Please, we’re begging here – do NOT subject your donors to a Zoom-style fundraiser. Zoom is great for many things at work, but not VGs. It’s too reminiscent of work meetings to be an effective fundraising tool. Do you believe anything worth doing is worth doing RIGHT? Then if you’re planning a fundraiser virtually, invest in a professional AV tech partner. It will be more of an investment, but well worth it in myriad ways. You’re paying for higher production value, professional equipment, a studio built for events, complete with techs to manage it all.  The ROI WILL be beneficial. Your show will LOOK better with high-quality graphics, videos, backgrounds that can be tailored to your desires. And lighting. The right lighting makes a huge, HUGE difference! Your show will SOUND better with a professional sound system and audio equipment. All these tools and more are yours for the taking, if you hire a pro to handle tech needs. And keep in mind – after your live event, if you record it, folks can watch it over and over again. NO ONE will watch a Zoom meeting over and over again. They may not even make it through the first viewing.

Regurgitating Your In-Person Event to a Virtual Environment

It’s a natural conclusion to jump to: If you can’t meet in person, just focus a camera on the stage and people will see what they would’ve seen if they were in the building, right? Wrong. This never translates well. You’re losing more than just one dimension when you’re forced into a 2D format – you lose intimacy, a sense of community, the same amount of time and so many other intangibles. You can recreate some of that in a virtual format – for instance, we LOVE the way the live chat fosters intimacy and engagement – but overall, it’s a whole new ball game. So treat it as such. Actually, it’s a whole new sport! Remember, there’s no “I” in “team.” And do not get us started on fundraising events with little to no strategy or not using best practices. Your donors always know the difference. Delight them!

Attempting to Go It Alone

Many of us have felt a bit isolated this past year. Planning a VG is a great opportunity to shake off those feelings, because this is NOT something you want to do solo. Think of that wonderful African proverb and find YOUR village to help plan your VG. We can’t wait to be a part of it!

Are you ready to take the leap to a virtual fundraising event now that you know what NOT to do? Virtual events and fundraisers are gaining in popularity. And they WORK! Reach out! Let’s change the world together – one virtual event at a time. 

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