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Virtual Events in 2020: A Mini Guide

Event PlanningOnline Meetings & Webinars

By: Asaf Darash, Founder and CEO of Regpack

Virtual events have skyrocketed in popularity over the past year. Due to current social distancing guidelines and the postponement of most in-person events, many organizations and businesses across the board have turned to digital alternatives to engage their constituents and ensure that their previous offerings can still take place. Nonprofits too have increased their virtual efforts in order to sustain their fundraising and continue connecting with donors during this time.

If you’re in charge of marketing at your nonprofit, you’re likely swamped with tasks in an attempt to increase your own virtual event’s registrations. After all, while virtual events are a great way to get some face-to-face time with supporters and engage them in a meaningful yet fun way, they won’t do much good if you don’t have enough attendees to donate.

Thanks to the growing advancement of nonprofit software, creating a virtual event does  not need to be expensive or hard. With the right event registration tools, such as Regpack or Sumac, and online video conferencing platforms, imitating the excitement of a live event is very doable. You just need people to come!

You likely already have enough on your plate, which is why we’ve put together this compact guide that event planners can follow to attract attendees and increase their registration rates for their next virtual experience:

  1. Choosing a virtual event idea supporters want
  2. Jumpstarting your registration by reaching out to past attendees
  3. Using a multichannel marketing strategy
  4. Optimizing your event registration process

Your virtual event can catapult your current fundraising efforts and keep supporters entertained while they stay at home. Ready to learn more? Let’s begin.

1. Choosing a virtual event idea supporters want

When it comes down to the basics, in order to attract attendees to your virtual fundraising event, you need to provide them with an experience that they’re excited about. Whether they’re giving their time or their money, your supporters will engage more genuinely with a virtual event that they actually want to attend.

To get started, look at the information compiled in your database. Past data can give you valuable huge indicators as to what type of virtual event to host. With the right tools, it’s even possible to pivot a traditional event idea to the online platform. What kind of events did your supporters engage with the most in the past? Which events raised the most money?

It’s always a good idea to choose a virtual event that your supporters are familiar with. In fact, many organizations also have a regular schedule of events they do seasonally or annually. Figuring out how to translate that experience to this “new normal” will take some brainstorming and depends on the type of event it is.

Additionally, it’s crucial that you consider what your goals are. Depending on your primary goal for this virtual event, different types of experiences would garner the best results. For instance, let’s explore the following examples:

  • If your goal is to raise a large amount of money in a short time period: A social peer-to-peer fundraising event is a great way to quickly engage a large number of donors and collect funds. Recruit some of your most passionate supporters and encourage them to share your fundraiser online.
  • If your goal is to show donor appreciation: Sometimes, going above and beyond a simple email or letter to thank a donor is the best strategy. Host an online gala for some of your most high impact and active supporters. Encourage guests to dress up, stream an online concert, and provide an at-home activity.
  • If your goal is to collaborate with other fundraising leaders: With live streaming or video conferencing tools, curating an online webinar is very achievable. Invite an experienced team member or another thought leader in the field to host it!

Whether you host an online custom face mask fundraiser or a one-day crowdfunding event, your virtual event should get your supporters excited to sign up. Be creative and leverage key fundraising data to your advantage.

2. Jumpstarting your registration by optimizing communications

Sometimes, your virtual event just needs a little push to get the registrations rolling. A good idea is to reach out to some of your past event attendees with an incentive to sign up.

Refer back to your fundraising database for some of your past supporters and note which of them have been active event registrants and participants. Consider reaching out to them, inviting them to your virtual fundraising event with a personalized discount code. This is an effective way to pique their interest— maybe they’ll want to learn more and sign up!

Another idea comes from the fact that many nonprofit organizations recently canceled or indefinitely postponed their regular fundraising events. To make up for that, consider rebranding that experience as a virtual event. This is a great alternative to offer in exchange for attendees’ existing registrations.

Some of the best supporters to personally invite to your virtual fundraising event are your high impact donors. According to DonorSearch’s guide, your major donors often make up around 75% of your total funds. These are likely the supporters you want at your event, so providing any type of incentive can help.

In the end, not every person you invite or reach out to will be able to participate in your upcoming virtual experience. If they cannot register, ask them to post about it online and tell other people about the amazing opportunity to get involved with a meaningful cause.

3. Using a multichannel marketing strategy

To promote an event experienced entirely online, it only makes sense that you make use of your digital marketing efforts. The best way to reach a wide audience and increase registrations is to use a multichannel marketing approach. By using multiple online platforms, you can leverage each unique creative element available to connect with different supporters.

However, this doesn’t mean you should spread yourself too thin over as many websites and platforms as possible. Your multichannel approach should capitalize on a few core channels that you can focus on and manage. Consider where your audience is currently active. Use your existing fundraising data to guide you, or send a survey to your supporters asking them for their preferred communication channels.

While the channels you use will depend on your unique organization, target audience, and virtual fundraising event, here are some common ones to definitely explore:

  • Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. 90.4% of millennials are active social media users, so if you want to engage this audience, social media could be the best way. Get creative with what you put on your feed, making use of cool graphics or videos.
  • Email marketing. Did you know that with every $1 spent on email marketing, there is an average return of $42? Email is a great driver for donor retention and is a consistent platform for organization announcements and virtual event invitations.
  • Text message marketing. With 90% of SMS messages read in the first 3 minutes, text messages are an effective method to quickly reach supporters. Make sure recipients opt-in to your text subscription service before you message them as it might cost money for them to receive your texts. If you do announce your virtual event through a text message, make sure your registration page is also mobile-friendly so that they can stay on the same device.

The above are all popular channels that nonprofits use to market their exciting event, so maximizing promotion is definitely something your own organization should consider. Make sure to take advantage of each of their unique features, as well. For instance, many social media accounts provide live streaming options which provide an engaging way to reach supporters in real-time.

4. Optimizing your event registration process

Sometimes, a supporter can be so excited about your virtual event but end up quitting once they navigate to the registration page. If your form is overly complicated, asks too many questions, or doesn’t fit on the screen it’s displayed on, users might click away.

In order to optimize your virtual event registration process and prioritize your potential registrants’ needs, you need to invest in the right event tools. For instance, your event registration form should definitely provide the following capabilities:

  • Customizable registration forms to ensure you capture the right attendee data and that you don’t ask unnecessary questions.
  • Registration form templates that can provide some guidance if you don’t feel comfortable creating it from scratch.
  • Personalized registration experience with conditional logic tools. This enables your registration form to adapt to the choices and answers the registrant provides in real-time for a fully attendee-centric experience.
  • Group registration capabilities for those who want to sign up multiple people at once.
  • Integrated payment processor to ensure that your donors financial data is protected and any ticket funds or online gifts are safely received. According to Regpack, having an integrated payment solution can result in 30% increased cash flow.
  • Mobile-friendly forms so that users on any device can explore your virtual event and then quickly sign up. This is crucial if you actively make use of text message marketing or social media marketing. In fact, many emails are also read on phones these days, so ensuring mobile compatibility with your registration form is crucial.

Your registration event process could be the catalyst for attendees or turn away prospects. Investing in a dedicated virtual event registration not only ensures the entire process is optimized but also sets up the foundation for 31% more completed registrations.

Hosting a virtual event is an exciting experience and can deeply engage supporters if done correctly. Always refer to your existing fundraising data and create an online event that attendees genuinely want to participate in. Use the tips in this guide and better reach your audience with confidence and watch the registrations pour in. Good luck!

About the Author

Asaf Darash, Founder and CEO of Regpack, has extensive experience as an entrepreneur and investor. Asaf has built 3 successful companies to date, all with an exit plan or that have stayed in profitability and are still functional. Asaf specializes in product development for the web, team building and in bringing a company from concept to an actualized unit that is profitable.