New directions for virtual events

Howard Lake | 8 February 2021 | Sponsored posts

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The recent cancellation of RideLondon was just the latest fundraising event to be claimed by Covid. Although there are optimistic signs with October’s London Marathon looking set to have its highest ever participant numbers, it seems unlikely that most mass participation events will return in any meaningful way until later in the year. 
The uncertainty around when physical fundraising events will be back to normal is giving charities a lot to consider – not least how to plug the income gap from being unable to run events in the short term.
Virtual events have provided a welcome and critical lifeline for charities since the first lockdown. Over the last 10 months, the public has welcomed the opportunity to run up and down their stairs, do a marathon in their back garden or cycle round their local areas in aid of good causes. But after nearly a year of these sorts of activities, supporters are interested in hearing about new ways of getting involved. For charities this means they need to think about how to keep virtual events feeling new and exciting for their supporters.
 

Mapping new routes

Enthuse’s own quarterly donor research, Donor Pulse, has shown us that around half of the public (47%) would consider getting involved in virtual events to raise funds for charity. Drilling down into that though shows that people want something different, with two thirds of Gen Z (18-24 year olds) and half of millennials (25-39 year olds) stating they are interested in map and milestones based challenges.
This insight was one of the drivers for Enthuse to launch Virtual Journeys. This is a set of map based challenges which have been built to help charities build fun new ways to excite their supporters about virtual events. The product is the first of its kind and provides charities with both ready-to-use and bespoke maps, powered by Google Maps, and helps to combat virtual event fatigue by providing a fresh challenge for supporters. 
The product launches with a range of ready-to-use maps. This includes a mix of famous UK and international courses, such as the Inca Trail, the London to Brighton Challenge, and Lands End to John O’Groats.
 

Charities in control

Charities can define for themselves how participants take part in the challenges – whether it’s a run, walk or cycle. They also have the flexibility to decide how long the challenges last for, whether it’s all supporters competing to complete a challenge in a few hours, or over the course of a few weeks for a longer event.
The charity is also in control of whether this is a team or individual based activity. For example, a charity could have all of its supporters competing against each other to run the marathon’s distance or they could work together as a team to complete it as quickly as possible.  
Charities are also able to work directly with Enthuse to build their own bespoke maps for courses or fundraising events. This may be to replace a previously planned event or to form the basis of an entirely unique one. 
 

Leading the way

From a functionality point of view, the map will be displayed across the charity’s event page, as well as all individual and team fundraising pages. This makes it simple and straightforward for supporters to keep track of their progress visually.
Event leaderboards also help to encourage healthy competition between supporters. They will show all of those who have finished the route, sorted by the fastest finisher. Team pages will also show how much distance has been covered by all participants in the event, as well as how many members have completed the route.  
The maps also display key route milestones, such as Big Ben or the Cutty Sark for a London-based run, to help keep participants motivated as they strive to complete their event. Charities can customise start and finish pins for the route as well. Progress along the event course can be automatically tracked via a linked Strava account or participants can also upload manual activities if they are using a different fitness app. 
 

De-risking face to face events

While Virtual Journeys has primarily been created to help keep virtual events exciting for participants, there are additional important ways the product can help charities when physical fundraising events start to come back.
Virtual Journeys provides flexibility to charities when planning events. Currently, if supporters are concerned about the health risks of travelling to an event, they have little alternative but to cancel and request a ticket refund. Virtual Journeys provides an alternative way for supporters to take part locally and mitigate the risks of cancelled events for charities. This will help to de-risk the return of physical events for charities and supporters alike.
 

Off the starting blocks

Virtual Journeys is just launching, but charity Walk The Walk is already integrating this technology into its event line up. Here’s what Guy Aubertin, Director of Fundraising and Operations for Walk The Walk had to say: “We’re delighted with this new innovation from Enthuse. The development of their virtual event capability is allowing us to launch a new version of our London Moonwalk. We are creating a 52 mile version of the event using the Virtual Journeys product, and are delighted to be able to bring this new challenge to our supporters, under our own brand.” 
Many charities seem set to follow Walk The Walk’s lead on building virtual map based challenges. 79% of charities stated they would use this new capability in the next three months according to Enthuse’s own customer research. 
 

Conclusion

Virtual events look set to be a major part of the fundraising year for 2021, and innovation will be critical in differentiating a charity’s branded event. 
Virtual Journeys offer charities a way to stand out from the virtual crowd, stay relevant and grow supporter participation. You can find out more about Virtual Journeys here and spice up your events strategy.
 

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