By Kate Zilke and Sahiba Borisuth
As the world marks the first anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofit organizations are looking back on how they’ve managed to adapt their in-person events to virtual settings. Hosting events is crucial to an organization’s fulfillment of its strategic goals. Organizations have faced the critical challenge of shifting their in-person events to virtual platforms supporting their programming and providing an equally engaging experience for attendees. From hosting virtual galas to virtual summits, nonprofits that adopted new approaches saw incredible success in being able to raise at or above their fundraising goals despite the pandemic’s impact, according to a recent study. However, many nonprofits are still hesitant to make the switch, with a reported 38% having no plans to implement virtual events anytime soon. So how has the pandemic changed the way organizational events look, what are the benefits to making events virtual, and what technologies have assisted the transition to virtual gatherings?
Though the demand for nonprofit services may be higher due to the impact of COVID-19 on communities, organizations are facing a shortage of funding and personnel. With in-person activities paused, nonprofits cannot rely on volunteers and have had to cancel fundraising events. These challenges have put a strain on organizations that are trying to accomplish more with less. Many have struggled to stay afloat and haven’t been set up with the technological capacity to switch to virtual work easily. Those who have expanded their technological capacity to continue events and gatherings virtually have more successfully navigated this tumultuous time.
Increasing technological capacity can offer an organization additional insights and reach that they can’t achieve to the same degree with only in-person events. Some of the benefits of deploying virtual platforms include:
- the ability to lower logistics-related costs
- engage a larger audience
- provide flexibility to donors
- utilize analytical tools to better measure impact
- offer opportunities to stream the event long after it has concluded.
Virtual events have proven to be so effective and efficient that experts say they are here to stay with organizations moving towards a hybrid model consisting of virtual and in-person events. Leaders must invest in technology that will enable virtual events, even on tight budgets, as continuing operations without investing in increased technological capacity can limit their organization’s impact, mission, and fundraising potential.
A good starting place for organizations with limited resources is leveraging accessible, inexpensive platforms they are more familiar with, such as Zoom, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Youtube Live, Twitch, and Vimeo to hold events. These technologies allow organizations to get more creative with their engagement and strategic with their outreach, as organizations can connect with donors faster and farther and increase revenue. Organizations can also use these social platforms to reach partners faster and farther and deepen relationships, to maximize their network’s impact. Once they’ve established familiarity with virtual event planning and execution through these social platforms, organizations can then experiment with the wide variety of digital options available. They include online fundraising toolkits, virtual event platforms, and event management software to determine what is the best fit for their needs.
These more comprehensive platforms provide nonprofit organizations with additional structured support and personalized tools to streamline and track their events. Integrating these new event technologies are beneficial because they can alleviate nonprofit workload by automating event processes to ensure consistency with communications and implementation. These technologies offer a host of advanced features to assist organizations with their unique needs, from achieving fundraising goals through a livestream to better connecting with virtual event attendees. In addition to continuing with more basic platforms, nonprofits should look into complimentary services that support more of their virtual needs through a customizable experience. Though Give Lively requires an application, the platform provides approved nonprofits access to digital fundraising features and assists them with incorporating tracking technology into their events strategy. Accelevents, a dedicated virtual event platform, provides software to support a range of online experiences from conferences to virtual fundraisers. When tailored to an organization’s capacity, event technology such as these can ease the planning process, maximize organizational impact, and provide data driven learnings.
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the necessity of building technological capacity in order to move in-person programming to virtual platforms and enable organizations to deliver services in times of crises. Organizations were pushed to display creativity and resourcefulness, and as a result found themselves accomplishing more than they thought was possible and exploring new ways of connecting with audiences. Moving forward, it is essential that organizations continue innovating and assessing their technological capability to determine where they can improve their virtual services and which platforms can enhance their impact.
Want to learn more? Check out this information session regarding COVID-19 technologies.