Virtual Donor Event Ideas

Engaging with Donors using Virtual Events

Moving forward, virtual events are likely to be the norm. Now that you know best practices when it comes to running virtual events, you can get creative. Curating fun and engaging opportunities for donors can lead to a stronger affinity for your organization during this unique time. When it comes to virtual events, the goal should be keeping your donors and prospects engaged with your organization rather than focus only on fundraising. 

Here are some interesting ideas to engage with your donors: 

  • Virtual Auction

Whether or not your organization has held an in-person auction before, a virtual auction can be a create way to raise money, engage with donors, and have some fun. The benefit of doing an online auction is that it can be over many days and anyone in the world can log on to participate. Local businesses benefit from the promotion and awareness of their goods or services, and their donations are often tax deductible.  

There are many websites that help with managing the entire action process, but it’s best to research and read reviews. How does pricing work? Do they charge a flat fee or a percentage of each sale? Can you customize branding? Do they include bid sheets, receipts and credit card processing?  

Also think ahead to the logistics of operating the auction. Just like silent or live auctions, they require volunteers or staff to solicit donations of items or services. How will these items be collected? How will winners get their items? Will they be delivered or mailed? Will shipping cost extra?  

  • Virtual Speakers

While many articles have focused on virtual events as funding opportunities, the pandemic offers unique chances to use virtual events to connect with your donors and educate them about the mission of your organization. Your donors want to hear from you. They especially want to hear from names they recognize and topics they care about. Nonprofits around the world have found creative ways to engage their donors with virtual events, such as holding a weekly series of focused topics relating to your mission or run a one-off virtual event with your CEO.  

These experiences can be put together in many ways that highlight the work of your organization and educate your donors about issues relating to your organization. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation offered weekly tours of a room in a house designed by the famous architect with an expert curator via Zoom or Facebook Live.  

If your organization doesn’t translate easily to online experiences, offer online talks or discussions about a topic related to your mission. For example, if you work at a food bank or homeless shelter, offer an online Q&A session about chronic homelessness or food insecurity. Your staff likely has expertise in key areas of your organization’s mission, and this is a great opportunity to show off their knowledge and deepen the connections between your organization and donors.  

Market these experiences based on what kind of donor you are trying to reach. Want to create a private experience for you high level donors? This could be an exclusive opportunity to join a round table of high-level donors from around the country. If you want to reach all your donors, it’s better to host shorter sessions on topics that interest all. 

  • Virtual Fun Walk/Run

Everyone is getting more outdoor time around the country. Why not bring your donors together for a good cause? While this may not be a good fit for every nonprofit out there, it does provide an opportunity to raise money, and encourage people to exercise and spend time outside. Virtual fun walks and runs can be easily customized for your organization. It could be as simple as asking your donors to run or walk during a specific week and tag your organization on social media. The event could also follow more traditional runs or walks and include t-shirts or medals awarded to top times. Either way, a fun run or walk is a good way to engage with your donors, especially if your organization has done events like this in the past.  

There are also endless possibilities for getting creative with your virtual event. One animal shelter in Tennessee changed their annual pup crawl (pub crawl) to a virtual event and provided take-home tasting kits of beer from local brewers.  

  • Virtual Classes

Online learning has skyrocketed during the pandemic. From art lessons to personal training sessions and family yoga, businesses have kept their doors open by harnessing platforms like Zoom.  

Many innovative nonprofits have also taken advantage of their networks and resources to offer classes and opportunities for their donors. The New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute, a nonprofit cooking school, started offering weekly cooking classes on Facebook Live, and Meals on Wheels of Central Texas offers a weekly cooking classes with their head chef. Learners Chess, a nonprofit offering after-school chess clubs in New Mexico, moved their classes and games online.  

There are so many creative ways you can engage with your donor virtually. Take what you know about your donor base and curate events that will excite them. This will further cultivate your donors and can lead to future donations.

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