The UK charity sector is in the grip of a fundraising crisis, but virtual events are offering a solution
This article is sponsored by RD Mobile - an industry-leading business technology provider, specialising in event and engagement solutions.
The UK charity sector is in the grip of a fundraising crisis.
At the onset of COVID-19 in this country, the NCVO forecast losses of £4.3 billion in charity fundraising. With many charities reliant upon in-person fundraising events, there was understandable concern over this shortfall. Indeed, many charities have had to furlough employees and shut down operations. Even more chilling forecasts are on the horizon.
In the middle of this difficult time, digital offers charities a way to make up these losses - even to grow along new lines. Our recent case studies of charities using digital to adapt to the ‘new normal’ have found that charities moving to digital methods of fundraising and service delivery are actually increasing their impact and reaching more people than ever.
Perhaps no area of digital is more relevant to the sector right now than virtual events. Quite simply, virtual events take the fundraisers, conferences and training that are so vital to the charity sector online.
These peer-to-peer events create a digital community around participation that unites people around the world behind a specific cause. Virtual events have a number of advantages over in-person events, with increased accessibility, low entry costs and no location barriers. They can also help charities appeal to a younger supporter base and offer an immersive 360-degree experience.
However, the UK charity and nonprofit sector has not been as quick to make the switch as its US counterpart. The virtual events offered by a number of US charities illustrate a number of emerging best practices for organisations in the UK to learn from.
This on-demand ‘Fast-Track Solutions for Virtual Events’ webinar provides information on getting up and running both quickly and affordably.
Virtual events platforms bring the whole event experience together. They allow you to mobilise your supporters, build a schedule and an agenda, and deliver custom content in the lead-up to the event.
Above all, they help you to build a valuable community of supporters - one that can continue even after the event date has passed. By building this online community and keeping them engaged with content tailored to their interests, you can turn your virtual event platform into a mobile tool with long-term benefits.
The Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association moved their annual alumni weekend online in the wake of COVID-19. This 3-day event is usually attended by alumni and their families from all over the country and helps to raise donations for the university.
With just 3 weeks notice before the May 14th-17th date, the alumni association made the switch to a virtual event. Using a combination of the RD Mobile Eventsential platform, Zoom and Facebook Live, they were able to offer a wide range of virtual activities including live and pre-recorded lectures, cooking demonstrations, Hall of Fame sports moments and commentary, coffee with the Dean, family activities, science experiments, and class reunion gatherings.
1,038 alumni registered for the virtual weekend as participants accessed content and networking sessions via a responsive desktop and mobile app.
Recent events have underlined the fact that physical events will always be faced with the possibility of cancellation. Things won’t always be as dramatic as a global pandemic, but airline or train strikes, problems with the venue, travel disruption and other factors can still disrupt an event.
Virtual events, by their very nature, avoid these possibilities. They allow you to gain more control over the event, and to carefully curate the experience you’re offering to attendees.
For charities with a geographically-limited supporter base, virtual events allow you to bring together a global community, in a way that will allow organisations to build their global brand and work towards a more secure and sustainable future.
A great example of this is the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation (MMCF). A small local charity in Washington DC, MMCF provides support for families dealing with childhood cancer and treatment. The charity hosts an annual Walk & Family Festival to raise funds. This was scheduled to be an in-person event on May 17th but amidst the disruption caused by COVID-19, the event moved online.
With a website, social media and a dedicated group of volunteers and supporters, MMCF hosted a successful virtual event and exceeded its fundraising goal. The charity used social media platforms that were used widely among their supporter base in order to spread their message and increase their impact.
MMCF employed creative fundraising challenges to build awareness and support beyond its usual Washington, DC-area reach, including recruiting supporters from all 50 US states and countries as far away as Japan to participate in a Virtual Walk.
The event was a great success in terms of fundraising, surpassing MMCF’s $100,000 target, as 414 participants and 32 sponsors came together to raise an impressive sum of money for an important cause.
The charity found that taking the event online did not make it less personal - in fact, it helped them to expand their network of supporters. By using social media to reach supporters, they were able to create a connection with attendees that kept the personal nature of their usual event.
Learn more about these organisations that are successfully pivoting to virtual events with Charity Digital’s free ‘Virtual Events That Connect With Supporters’ webinar on 18 June. The webinar will examine emerging best practices from US charities and non-profits and what UK charities can learn from them.
Sign up the upcoming webinar - 'What’s Working Now: Virtual Events & Experiences That Connect With Supporters'