You may be thinking that virtual fundraising events are a temporary measure only happening to combat COVID-19 restrictions. Not only did virtual events exist in a time when social distancing was a personal choice, but they’ve already proven their popularity amongst fundraisers, with an 1103% increase in virtual event participation in 2018 and an 890% increase in JustGiving Fundraising Pages being created in the streaming and gaming category since January 2019. If you’ve only dipped your toe into the virtual event space or tried to avoid it altogether, then use your 2021 planning as an opportunity to learn, embrace and innovate.
Why: what are the long-term opportunities
Virtual events come in all different styles and formats, from webinars and virtual conferences (we recently held our annual conference, bbcon, online), individual physical challenges such as the London marathon’s 40th Race, or even a livestreaming event like a quiz or carol concert. Rather than feeling as though you’re moving away from the in-person events that you’ve spent years cultivating, view it as an exciting opportunity to diversify your events portfolio.
Some of the longer-term benefits of incorporating a virtual offering include:
· Supporters aren’t restricted by the where and when – By creating a challenge that allows people to choose their own pace and location, such as Crohn’s and Colitis UK’s Run the Night, you’re making events more accessible to both those with physical and logistical restrictions.
· Better for the environment – If your charity is all about sustainable options, then virtual events tick this box as there’s no travel carbon footprint, printed signs, or a need for plastic water bottles. It’s a small, but powerful difference.
· Attract new supporters – One charity that we worked with revealed that 83% of their virtual event audience was new to their organisation. This indicates that there’s a strong appetite amongst people for charities to offer new and innovative fundraising activities.
How: resources that can help you create engaging virtual events
Over the past few months, our colleagues at JustGiving have worked hard to make virtual fundraising feel accessible to both small and large charities. They’ve created a range of virtual fundraising resources on their charity blog, plus launched several new features on the platform. One of these features is an integration with fitness app Strava, which allows people to bring virtual challenges to life through tracking activity and then sharing updates directly on their Fundraising Page. Since the integration was launched in April, over 50,000 fundraisers have connected their pages to Strava. This is particularly exciting as fundraisers who track their activity on a fitness app and share the updates have been found to raise up to 40% more!
“Although for some the pivot to virtual events has been a natural transition of their existing digital fundraising programmes, for others we know that it’s been a big leap to make at a time when the stakes have never been higher. But it’s reassuring to know that our research shows that once a charity has tried virtual fundraising – there’s no stopping them.
“Our Status of UK Fundraising report (which Blackbaud creates every year in partnership with the Institute of Fundraising) tells us that 75% of charities have used at least one type of virtual fundraising for the first-time during lockdown. And the majority said they would do it again because it proved to be such a good way to attract new supporters AND engage existing ones.”
– Sally Falvey, Head of Corporate Marketing, Blackbaud Europe
We want to instil confidence in charities of all sizes to try virtual, so in addition to the resources created by JustGiving, we’ve created the Virtual Fundraising 101 e-book. The e-book explains the different types of virtual events, how to get started, and even shares inspiring stories from other charities – it is your complete virtual event handbook. Earlier this year our Status of UK Fundraising report revealed that 83% of organisations are willing to innovate and try new things, we know with the right encouragement that percentage will grow, and we’re already excited to see the creativity that comes out of the sector next year.
To read and download your copy of the Virtual Fundraising 101 e-book visit the Blackbaud Hub.
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