There are few easy decisions for businesses to make during the COVID-19 crisis. Working from home and avoiding large groups is becoming the new normal. These necessary restrictions are throwing charitable events, auctions, and fundraisers into a holding pattern of delays and cancellations, derailing months of planning and preparation. This is damaging the financial future of funds for important causes, at a time where everyone could use a helping hand.
It’s not just businesses that can go remote. Now is the time for your charitable organization to do the same with your events. Auctions, walks, campaigns and other events can shift to an online environment that allows you to still reward donors who have already given graciously and encourage others to do likewise. Most of your donors care more about your cause than attending the event and the tips below can help make the most of your event in uncertain times.
Peer-to-peer events like walks, runs, or bike rides are off the table at present, but most donations come well in advance of the actual event. Reminders can help increase donations in the final two weeks. Finding ways to drive continuous giving is vital. Best practices within these parameters include:
• Ample communication: Make sure your participants and previous donors are kept in the loop on what is happening, what your plans are, and how they can continue to support the cause. Personalized emails like the ones your participants will receive if you’re using Panorama by FrontStream are great, and personal phone calls from your staff are even better. Post updates on all your social media channels to ensure you’re reaching every participant and donor.
• Saying thanks: Some may be reevaluating their normal charitable contributions given the current financial insecurity, but many understand how vital nonprofits are in the current environment. Make sure you show your appreciation to each and every donor and emphasize the impact of their contributions.
• If you’re uneasy from this idea because you fear the amount of technological know-how that’s likely involved, tap the breaks! This is a great solution for events that are at least 30 days out but facing cancellation or open-ended delays. You’re still employing your staff, using messaging to promote your cause, and planning special events to motivate and celebrate - it’s just being done online instead of in person. Here are a few tips to keep everything on track and everyone on the same page.
• Schedule conference or video calls for your team, including volunteers, to give them all a voice and keep them in the loop on your target dates and specific messaging.
• Keep your original event date as the kick-off point of the fundraising campaign and commemorate it with something special - a Facebook Live event or something similar where you can announce totals, give thanks, and let your staff showcase how they’re celebrating the success.
• Get creative with online contests, giveaways, and incentive items that can be run completely in a virtual environment or delivered via mail delivery with the help of a volunteer partner like Kohl’s or Allstate.
• Get people involved physically through the creation of a virtual walk-a-thon or step contest like those created by MoveSpring.
• When everyone is back to their normal lives, host a pizza party at your office and invite participants to stop by for a slice or two, grab some SWAG as a thank you, and drop off any cash or check donations they could not make earlier.
Online “DIY” Events
A Do-It-Yourself event is a great alternative to an in-person gathering, and with minimal costs, the only limiting factor is your team’s creativity. Utilizing Panorama by FrontStream allows you to create a customized DIY event quickly and send it out to your friends and followers to create their own fundraising pages complete with photos and their personal reasons for supporting your selected mission. That will help your supporters promote on social media to expand your reach. Want to see an online DIY challenge in action? Check out Renewal by Anderson’s “Wear Pink, Save Lines” campaign that blew past its original goal and raised $396,000 for the American Cancer Society in 2019.
Online auctions answer the call as a much-needed source of donations when an event faces cancellation. If you’ve never done this format before, Panorama has a great set of tools to make setup and delivery intuitive and easy. Additionally, you can access our online bidding community - BiddingForGood - that connects you to more than 1 million bidders.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced many organizations to get creative with how they do business. By continuing open lines of communication with your sponsors, staff, and supporters, and using online resources to promote your messaging, the opportunity exists to weather the storm without having to sacrifice the importance of your cause or the spirit of your event. This statement of strength lets your supporters know that the virus might be limiting our physical interaction, but you’re more committed than ever to fulfilling your organization's mission.
If you need additional guidance on how to engage your donors online or navigate a canceled event, please contact us and we can help advise your team.