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Episode 55: The #1 Thing Your Virtual Event Needs


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Hey there!

Let’s jump right into today’s episode… You know I’m working on creating an online course for you.  I’ve been getting a lot of feedback and researching things to include in the course… One of the things I keep coming across is people need help with virtual events.

We’re all very aware, because of COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines across the country, that it’s hard to plan an in-person fundraiser right now. We’re in the season when lots of nonprofits usually do all the planning for their big fall fundraising events, but this year – it’s a little more complicated. We don’t know if in-person fundraising events are going to be allowed, or in what capacity, or what your state’s public health orders will be in a few months from now, so it’s nearly impossible to plan! 

I’ve always loved the Michael McGriffy, MD saying, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” That is the attitude we have to adopt in these times – “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” When the world zigs, we have to zag! When things aren’t exactly as we hoped or planned, we have to adapt. Things have changed – like it or not – so we have to take a step back, adjust our plans, and overcome. We have to stay flexible and remember – God has us right where He wants us!

So – planning a virtual fundraiser instead of your in-person fundraising event might feel like uncharted territory, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret… 

The #1 thing your nonprofit’s virtual fundraiser needs is something you already know… MARKETING!

Just like with a regular in-person fundraising event, your nonprofit needs to increase awareness with your audience, build up anticipation, and make sure that every single one of your potential and current donors knows exactly what they are supposed to do. 

The #1 thing you need to let your donors know is when they can donate, how they can donate and why they should donate. Your marketing leading up to your virtual fundraising event should repeat those three things over and over and over again until there is no doubt in anyone’s mind of what to do.

Here’s the most important thing you need to remember though...you need to be clear. You need to be so, so laser focused and clear in what you say. You need to have a plan.

If you don’t have a plan, your marketing message will not be clear. If you don’t have a plan, your donors will be overwhelmed and confused about your event, and when that happens, they will not give. 

Here is your plan for marketing your virtual fundraising event:

  1. Start early. Just as with any in-person event, you need to have a long runway to spread the word about your virtual event. I know – it seems silly, it’s not like anyone needs to secure a babysitter to come to your virtual event, but it takes a lot of repetition and a bit of time before people start paying attention to things. If you start laying the groundwork a month or two before your virtual event takes place, people will have time to recognize your advertisements, and start paying attention to what you’re asking. This long runway will also give you time to reach more people.

    Run a Facebook ad about your virtual fundraiser – you can get step by step instructions on how to run an ad on Facebook in Episode 50.  Running an ad makes sure your donors and potential donors see that you’re having a virtual fundraiser. Be sure to put a link in the ad where they can donate right then and there if they’d prefer.

    Donors need time. Substantial donors don’t donate on a whim or donate at the last minute either. You have to warm everyone up to the idea of your virtual fundraiser and giving online.  So constantly share the link where they can donate. Virtual events are relatively new for most people, so make things easy for them and let them know they can donate by clicking a link. Then they don’t have to decide if they are going to attend an event in person or online, they can just simply decide to support your organization without having to figure out if they want to commit to attending a virtual fundraiser.

    By the way, if you want some great tips for talking to your donors and fundraising, especially during COVID-19, check out Episode 46 where I chat with my friend Martin Leifeld – Martin has raised  more than $500 million for organizations – he’s the real deal and shared so many great tips in Episode 46 so check it out if you want some advice from a fundraising pro.

    Episode 46: Fundraising Tips from the Best of the Best with Martin Leifeld

    Virtual Event Marketing Plan Step #1: Start Early
  1. Create an event on Facebook. This is just like you would do if you were going to have an in-person fundraising event. Facebook is REALLY going out of the way to help businesses and organizations create Facebook Events recently. 

    Tip: If you’re not sure how to create a Facebook event, just go to your organization’s Facebook page, and you’ll see under your cover photo it says: CREATE. Then there are buttons that say, LIVE, EVENT, OFFER, etc. Click on the EVENT button and you’ll be on your way to creating an event!

    If you create an event on your organization’s Facebook page, Facebook will let all of your followers know about it, but it will let their friends know about it too. Yes, they’ll all get a little red notification badge on that little bell at the top right corner of their screen on their computer, or a little red badge on their phone that is going to tell them that your organization has created an event they might be interested in!

    And guess what – that doesn’t cost you a dime! Look at all the awareness about your event you are spreading and attention your event will be getting with minimal time and energy spent, and for free.

    Virtual Event Marketing Plan Step #2: Create an Event on Facebook
  1. Use email to reach your people. Research shows, email is the most effective marketing tool available to anyone – and yes, it’s also free. Lots of people use Constant Contact, I like to use Mail Chimp. You can create great looking emails from a template with your logo. Even if you’re just sending them a message directly from your professional work email account and not an email designing tool like Mail Chimp, you can create a very simple invitation or flyer about your event on Canva.com or another program or website you like to use. Don’t overthink it – Who What When Where Why is all you need to worry about. Then, attach that flyer or invitation to the email you send out to your email list. Don’t just send them the invitation to your event by itself though – make sure you write them a short, clear, and concise email message to go along with it.

    Now here is the most critical part of email marketing, especially in this virtual event situation - don’t just send one email.  Send out another email in a week. And guess what? You have to send another email the next week. You have to keep reminding people about your virtual event. Even if they don’t open the email, they will see your name and will be reminded about the event!

    You’re using email to market your virtual event consistently, once a week on your long runway in advance, and you’re also using email to communicate some important details to attendees. You care about their experience at your virtual event, just as you would an in-person event, so use your email to first let them know you’re having an event, and secondly, how to enjoy themselves and what to expect.

    Virtual Event Marketing Plan Step #3: Make Email Your Best Friend!

I hope this has given you the confidence to start thinking about how to market your virtual event. Take the next 5 minutes and think about how you can apply what you learned here today. Just jot down some ideas while you’re inspired! What we talked about here is going to be the key to a successful event. It’s not the prettiest, shiniest car that wins the race – it’s the one that doesn’t stop driving. It’s the one that keeps going. I know there are so many challenges you’re facing right now, but I just want you to remember, you can do this! You can! Don’t quit. Don’t ever quit. If you are overwhelmed, remember, you can email or message me on Facebook or Instagram with your questions or if you need encouragement. I am here to help you walk through this step by step. You can do this! You got this! 

Until next time…

Links mentioned in this episode and other helpful episodes: 

If you have any questions – I’m right here for you! Ask away! Send me a message on Facebook or Instagram or send me an email and I’ll happily write you back with an answer!

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