Virtual Fundraising Events Have Gotten Mixed Results

"Just when fundraisers were counting on donors to come together and give big at galas and athletic events, the Covid-19 pandemic forced everyone to stay apart."

So begins an article in Chronicle of Philanthropy magazine describing the shift to online fundraisers. These include webinars, virtual dinners, virtual trips, or even virtual book discussions with a well-known author. Many of the formats include options for participants to socialize with one another before and after the event, such as in online breakout rooms. One variation is to use a virtual event to update supporters on a nonprofit's work. Fundraisers then follow up with attendees after the event, making their appeals during subsequent conversations.

According to the report, the outcome of virtual fundraisers is a mixed bag. The article concludes, "For now, virtual events are pretty much the only game in town—even if they’re not delivering the same results as in-person events."

The upside of the virtual approach is that it reconnects donors with the nonprofit’s vision, key leadership, recent results, and dreams for what’s next.

The downside of online events are that most charities cannot generate the same level of engagement with a live event. In addition, it’s a lot harder to persuade people who are new to a cause to attend a virtual event, as opposed to an in-person event where they could participate in something that interests them, such as a charity race fundraiser.

One charity found that 40 minutes is the ideal length before "Zoom fatigue" begins to set in.

While success with virtual events has been spotty, the charities in the report expect them to continue—at least for the foreseeable future.


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