With the return to in-person events looming, charities face a difficult decision on whether to continue with online or hybrid events. New research shows that live virtual events are key for solving charity challenges including reach, sustainability and inclusion. Virtual engagement and stewardship events will play a key part in ongoing digital innovation.
In partnership with JustGiving, Fundraising Everywhere and Everywhere+ have launched first-of-its kind research into the impact of online events and meetings on fundraising income, acquisition, retention, and stewardship.
This new data reveals where to use virtual events to accelerate fundraising programmes.
How charities have been using virtual events
The use of live virtual events for charities over the past two years has been multifaceted.
Internally, charities reported that live virtual events have helped them work better as a team. Nearly three-quarters of charities (74%) have been using virtual for training, inductions and conferences, with most stating they will continue.
Externally, charities have been using virtual events to engage with their supporters. However, what started with necessity, with fundraisers pivoting to online solutions to replace in-person activities, appears to have become a part of business as usual for many. Just over two-thirds of charities (67%) are keeping virtual events as a part of their fundraising mix.
Beyond an immediate financial return, charities reported additional brand benefits. Nearly three-quarters of charities said that virtual events increased social media engagement as well as reach.
The research also uncovered that charities that hosted virtual events and have high virtual confidence were more likely to reach targets (75%).
Virtual events and stewardship
One of the key findings of the research is the correlation between virtual events and improved stewardship. Three-quarters of charities agreed that virtual events create engagement opportunities and keep them connected to supporters, with 64% seeing a positive impact on stewardship.
Virtual events or livestreaming has been typically considered (and used) as an acquisition tool to bring new supporters in. With changes to the digital fundraising landscape that are already impacting the way charities acquire new supporters and fundraise, including increased privacy across Apple and Google, and challenges with Meta, it’s not difficult to understand why.
Virtual events appear to be a useful tool to help charities wean themselves off an overreliance on burning platforms. They are proving to be good list builders, supporting charities to increase the first-party data they hold so they can fundraise with supporters directly via email.
However, while there is growing evidence that virtual events are an effective way to bring new supporters in, it’s exciting to see through the data that charities are finding that virtual events positively impact stewardship, too. Charities are using virtual to build relationships in a more collective and authentic way, profiting from the benefits that come with this, as well as the shifting away from mass funnels.
Additional benefits uncovered
While fundraising income and stewardship are key measures of success for charities, there are other important considerations for social causes.
It has been widely reported that the move to virtual has been beneficial to many who have been traditionally excluded from in-person activities. It is, therefore, no surprise that charities cited the top benefits of virtual events as providing a wider geographical reach and improved accessibility, alongside stronger internal connection and stewardship.
When we unpick this further, the implications are far-reaching. A wider geographical reach means that charities can recruit individuals from a much larger talent pool. For employees, this means many more opportunities for those living outside big cities. As well as opportunities for individuals often excluded due to disability or caring responsibilities.
And as a sector uniting in the fight against climate breakdown, virtual events can help us lower our impact. Virtual means that taking a flight to attend a conference, or jumping into your car for a training session is no longer a requirement.
Are virtual events here to stay?
Live virtual events and meetings on virtual event and tele-conferencing software have been a necessary tool for connection throughout the pandemic – but what impact have they had on charity fundraising? Access all of the 2022 research insights by downloading your own free copy of the report.