|9 Nov 2020|
Our recent webinar, Socially distanced, COVID-friendly events, with independent schools consultant Rachel Hadley-Leonard gave a fresh perspective on how we view the challenges of this time, focusing on the opportunities that educational institutions and charities have to drive forward innovation in their sectors. The rate of digital adoption for events that we have seen across schools, charities and nonprofits has been extraordinary, from full industry conferences held online to hosting virtual giving days. While there have been a few bumps in the road, and likely more to come as further adjustments take place, we predict that organisations are unlikely to move backwards now and will operate much closer to a hybrid of digital and physical events.
However, it is still prudent to consider that the challenges in adjusting to virtual events can pose a threat to your organisation. Not being able to put the human aspect into donor relationships is a common cause for concern across fundraising sectors, with many feeling that the lack of events and face-to-face contact has negatively impacted their pipeline of donor prospects. This is something that fundraisers and development offices must consider and attempt to mitigate as they begin to plan events for one of their most uncertain years yet.
Despite this, huge benefits have been discovered during the sudden transition to virtual events. Virtual events can be much cheaper to run and, depending on the right platform, don’t require a cap on numbers, meaning they are accessible not only to wider audiences living around the globe, but also to smaller organisations who previously would not have had the budget to run many large events. As technology improves to facilitate bigger and better events, audiences are able to participate and feel involved, and schools and nonprofits can spend more time focusing on dynamic content that will help bring their cause to life from a distance.
Whether you are planning virtual or physical events, it’s important to be specific on the details.
1. Firstly, what is the purpose of your event?
Are you hosting an alumni reunion? Is this a direct fundraising event? Finding the purpose of your event is key to setting yourself up for success, and will ensure that you can report back to your stakeholders clearly and with great results.
2. What is the demographic of your event?
Understanding your audience and segmenting your event can be easier with digital events, and doing this carefully will ensure that your event hits the mark for those that attend. Considering details such as whether the event is tailored for potential or current donors, which types of stakeholders you will invite, and whether you will be mixing different demographics.
3. What are the needs of your attendees?
Virtual events do provide a challenge, not just for older attendees, but for anyone that may have low tech confidence. Often, step-by-step guides are needed to be sent out prior to the event, and live tech support is a must for any large or complex event. And whether you’re hosting a virtual or physical event: safety is key. Whether it’s ensuring social distancing and wearing masks, or checking that your emails aren’t getting caught in spam filters, every aspect of your event should be checked from a safety perspective.
While virtual events are no doubt on the rise, and have huge benefits, physical events still absolutely have their own place for creating and developing alumni and donor relationships. If you are considering face-to-face events, or planning for a range of eventualities in the future, here are some details you need to consider in your planning.
1. What is the necessity of hosting the event face-to-face?
Hopefully soon physical events will be as safe as they ever were, but in the meantime you should be mindful of the necessity of face-to-face events, to minimise risks in your community and keep them safe.
2. What is the audience for your event?
Is this audience suitable to meet face-to-face during this time? Keeping it small where possible is preferable, and avoiding travel is also key.
3. Where will you host it?
Venues will have their own restrictions on events, and you will need to plan for different eventualities including having to reschedule events due to restrictions, so check your contracts and plan accordingly.
4. How will you conduct your follow up?
Will this be a series of events, or a one-off? How and when will you send your follow up to ensure your attendees take action? Will you give resources, gifts or hand outs to attendees? Plan your follow-up ahead of time to make the most of your event.
There is a much greater ease to personalising the event experience when dealing with virtual events, particularly when using on system to collect data and organise event comms. Personalising invitations and follow ups is a great way to encourage invitees to get involved with your organisation, either through attending the event or by supporting the cause afterwards. Another way to encourage attendees to interact is by uploading photos (if face-to-face) or resources from the event, to encourage them to log into your site.
Additionally, you can make sure your event runs smoothly by asking for questions ahead of time. This enables your guests to get involved, and ensures that your speaker will get to answer some insightful and engaging questions.
Though there are threats and opportunities ahead for future events, and for fundraising overall, this challenging period of time has shown camaraderie in communities to protect the most vulnerable in society, from students to those suffering with illness, and we should try not to lose sight of this, instead try to capture this spirit in when planning fundraising strategies.
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