We look at how charities can build, enhance, and monetise their webinars
With vaccinations on the horizon, social distancing restrictions should soon start to ease, but the mighty webinar is here to stay. Charities should aim to maximise the opportunity to engage with audiences far and wide, some of whom may have little interest in physical events.
With the right steps in place, the potential to engage supporters and raise essential funds is yours for the taking. Here is our quick guide to building, enhancing, and monetising your webinar.
You’ll need to create some great webinar content, something engaging and useful that’s going to draw people in. Depending on your organisation, content could be readily available or require some creative thought to come up with a winning formula.
If it’s the latter, brainstorm ideas with others in your team, especially those on the front line who are regularly in contact with service users and supporters. They’ll know the real experiences behind your charity and the questions that come up time and again.
Ask yourselves what you can offer that’s unique to your organisation. Who are your in-house experts, and what can they share that’s of educational or entertainment value to your target audience?
When you’re starting out, it’s best to have your content programme planned out well in advance. Once you’ve got a slick process in place, you can begin to experiment with organising webinars at short notice, to tap into hot topics and current affairs.
Think in terms of continuity. Are there topics that complement each other well, or follow on as a sequence? Keep in mind what your audience will want next. What questions will the first webinar inspire, what resources might they need, and what activities can you suggest to help them explore the topic further?
When it comes to the webinar itself, it’s a good idea to have more than one speaker, as a single voice can become monotonous for the audience. Think about who else can contribute, beyond your internal team.
If you can, involve celebrity ambassadors and patrons, or let previous beneficiaries share success stories. And throw out your preconceptions about who you consider a suitable ‘spokesperson’. One person might be brilliant for creating expert content, but not come across so well on the webinar. Someone else might have an infectious enthusiasm for your cause and make a brilliant presenter.
As well as finding your speakers, bear in mind that the slickest webinars have a second person to monitor the chat. They can keep a note of any questions and comments, which allows the main presenter to talk without distractions.
Make sure all your speakers have what they need. It may be worth investing in a few good quality microphones, some basic lighting, or a green-screen backdrop for a more professional touch.
But as long as things are clear and audible don’t worry too much about getting things studio-perfect. We’re all pretty used to things looking home-made by now.
Paul Rubens’ article, ‘The best webinar platforms for charities’, offers some great advice on choosing the right webinar platform. Other platforms we’ve seen used successfully include Blue Jeans and Livestorm.
Draw up a list of must-have functionality – whether that’s a minimum number of participants, or integration with a live transcription service such as otter.ai to ensure maximum accessibility.
Once you know your requirements, do some research and find the best platform for your needs.
If you’re planning to allow live audience interactions, check that you have features like chat and live polling, as well as two-way audio and visuals.
If you want to make your event more social, check whether you’re able to put delegates into small breakout rooms. When used well, this can inject some energy into an otherwise passive audience experience.
And if it’s not included with the platform, you’ll also need to think about how you’ll manage ticketing – and payments – for the event.
We can’t emphasise enough the importance of practising in advance with your hosts and speakers. Make sure everyone knows how to mute and unmute their microphone – and the audience. Practice sharing slides or videos on screen. Put a procedure in place so that everyone understands what will happen if there’s an issue, like a speaker losing their Wi-Fi.
There’s an awful lot to think about here and this only scratches the surface. Check out the recording from a previous Charity Digital webinar, ‘How to run effective webinars’, for a wealth of tips.
But it’s worth preparing thoroughly to ensure a great webinar. The better the quality, the easier it will be to bring in an audience, and bring in some money.
If your webinar content is more brand-building in nature and shows off the great work you do for your cause, you might use it as a springboard for fundraising. People love to hear stories and see the impact a charity can make for its beneficiaries, but might not feel like they should pay upfront for it.
You can use this type of content to bring people in, then include strong calls to action to encourage donations or signpost other products.
That might mean access to further content after they’ve experienced your free session, or could be sales of gift vouchers, memberships, sponsorship, or merchandise.
Charging a fee for access could be the right approach. It helps to reduce last-minute no-shows, which you’ll want to avoid if you have limited places. It’s a tricky balance to decide on a price that will maximise attendance, but also cover your costs and generate funds. You’ll want to be accessible and inclusive to as many people as possible, yet some people will be happy to pay more than you might expect. For this reason, a sliding scale price structure can be effective.
To build an audience for your event, you’ll need some great promotion ahead of time. That means creating a series of promotions to your existing email database, as well as some great content for your social media channels. You’ll need to tease the topics on offer and pique people’s interest enough to get them signing up and sharing the event with others.
Facebook events can be great for promoting webinars, as people can often see that a friend has indicated their interest. Running some paid ads to a targeted audience can also ensure you reach beyond your engaged supporters and followers.
As well as boosting your posts, you could run a small campaign through Google to target people who have looked but not yet signed up. A small budget to seed your promo campaign in this way can help you to build some momentum with your webinar programme at the start.
Once someone has booked onto a session, build the anticipation and minimise no-shows by scheduling some automated emails to remind them of the event and tee-up the experience.
Once the show is over, the journey should be just beginning. Now is the time to double down on all your calls to action for your audience. Make sure all your delegates receive a series of communications over the following days and weeks. You can also promote other webinars and resources that might interest them, perhaps offering a discount on their next purchase.
Most importantly, remind people of the different ways they can engage with your charity and support your cause, through donations, volunteering, campaigning, or whatever else you need.
If you create a comms journey for your virtual delegates, you can keep them engaged with your organisation in the months and years to come. Make sure your webinar is the beginning of the conversation, not the end.