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June 13, 2020

Nonprofit Leaders Share Their Virtual Event Experience

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Expert advice is valuable, yet sometimes the best tips are from your peers. Nonprofit organizations making decisions about their annual fall galas can learn from the experiences of those who faced the same decisions this past spring when COVID-19 impacted all scheduled events.

In a recent webinar hosted by Greater Giving and Swaim Strategies, two nonprofit leaders shared their experiences and advice for hosting virtual events.

Bridges Middle School Virtual Auction

Bridges Middle School’s annual auction was scheduled for mid-April, just three weeks after the stay-at-home order was implemented, giving the school less than a month to convert their fundraiser to a virtual event.

Experience:

  • Guest feedback indicated viewers were able to connect during the event
  • Donor base grew unexpectedly in the $250 – $1,000 range
  • Event resulted in a new, extended pool of donors to cultivate during the next year
  • Came in under budget and over revenue goal

“This is not a one person show . . . Technical expertise, the ability to switch and pivot and have all of those pieces in line, work in tandem, and all of the people that it took to make it happen beforehand, we could not have done it alone . . . Had I not had [partners], I would not have been able to do this without a good team and in three and a half weeks I would not have been able to build a good team.”

— Beven Byrnes, Principal/Executive Director, Bridges Middle School

Advice:

  • Make the event feel like a community through thoughtful planning
  • Really, really consider the communication plan

Click the image below to watch the Bridges Middle School Virtual Auction.

Children’s Book Bank, Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story is an annual night of live storytelling and the most important fundraiser for Children’s Book Bank. With only a couple of weeks to convert to a virtual format, the organization focused on the unique programming components of the event.

Experience:

  • Sponsors were very supportive and encouraging of the pivot to virtual
  • The virtual format created the opportunity to share the event with a wider audience
  • 19% of viewers were from out of market, even out of state
  • The virtual auction raised 96% of last year’s revenue—without ticket sales or supplemental revenue streams

“Because we don’t know what is happening next year, we are going to budget for two events. We are going to budget for an in-person event and we are going to budget in case we have to go virtual again. Right now, we are leaving open the possibility for both of them or even a hybrid type of event.”

– Taylor Gibson, Development Director, Children’s Book Bank

Advice:

  • Stay true to the nature and components of your in-person event
  • Implement a post-event guest survey to aid in planning your next event
  • Plan for all possibilities next year: in-person, virtual, and/or hybrid events

Click the image below to watch Tell Me a Story from the Children’s Book Bank.

Watch the full webinar on the Greater Giving Facebook Page.

Need technical help with your virutal event? Contact us to discuss your livestreaming options.

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