Hosting an event is a great way for nonprofit organizations to increase people’s awareness of their mission and bring in necessary funds to contribute to that mission. However, Covid-related restrictions in some areas continue to limit the scope or size of in-person events.
Fortunately, you don’t have to call off events entirely—many nonprofits have seen great success in moving their events online. To help you take your event into the digital realm, we asked the members of Forbes Nonprofit Council for their insights. Their best answers are below.
1. Keep Your Audience In Mind
Keep your audience in mind for both content and tech. For example, I tried many video conferencing platforms and eventually settled on Zoom because it was the most familiar across the board to my diverse community. As for content, keep it engaging by allowing a two-way conversation. Think like a grammar school teacher by trying to find activities that get attendees involved and asking questions. – Arabella DeLucco, WeXL
2. Consider The Participant Experience
In transitioning to an online event, you must always keep the participant experience in mind. What is it about the event that first drew the participants’ attention, and within the virtual space, how can those feelings and experiences be replicated? – Juanita Sheppard, United Way of Greater Atlanta
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3. Leverage Local Community Partners
For virtual events to create measurable impact, your organization must leverage on-the-ground local community partners that can more easily create a community connection with your message to ensure the event and its content are relevant to that audience. This groundswell method ensures maximum engagement from your participants and more meaningful exposure to your organization and brand. – Carolyn Lee, The Manufacturing Institute
4. Have A Plan To Keep People Engaged
Keep elements of attendee engagement, such as structured virtual chats and exhibits. Also, create an “alumni” network for future collaboration and engagement well after the event ends. – Dr. Hudson Garrett, Infection Prevention Institute
5. Encourage Audience Participation
When we encourage audience participation, we can ensure we have a successful online event. Log in early to reduce technical difficulties, and ask guests to have their video on. When we can see each other, the event runs more effectively and visual accountability encourages participation. Hosts can even call on guests by name to add input during a virtual event. – Anisa Palmer, I Will Survive, Inc.
6. Keep The Event Short
Keep it short with no long monologues. Lighten it up in terms of feel and tone, but most importantly, engage with your audience. Six months into a global pandemic, people are tired and we all have Zoom fatigue. However, what we have learned is that people still want to engage and will connect virtually if you have engaging content that doesn’t feel like another Zoom meeting at work. – Carrie Rich, The Global Good Fund
7. Have An Outreach And Promotion Plan
Assuming that the organization has decided on the platform for the online event, the next major step is to work on outreach and promotion. Your audience has to know about the online event via email, social media posts and notifications through text messages and WhatsApp. Also, give your audience the option of taking back their previous registration money or letting it stay as a donation amount. – Patrick Coleman, GiveCentral
8. Ask For Help From Experts
Invest in a group that not only understands the goals of the event, but can also produce a quality event. It is also really important that there is strong collaboration and shared project management. – Charles A. Archer, One Hope United
9. Know What Your Audience Needs
Know your audience and their needs. What do they hope to know or be able to do? Is your audience technically proficient to participate online? At what time are they available to participate? These factors become the basis for clearly articulating the relevance and appeal of the online event. Audience factors determine the event schedule, duration, desired outcomes and overall event design. – Christopher Washington, Franklin University
10. Make It Varied And Fast-Paced
Prepare a program that’s even more tight and engaging than what you would do in person. The virtual engagement experience should be varied, quickly paced and well-rehearsed. Attention spans are shorter online than in person, so the action should move quickly, surprising and delighting along the way! – Kait Peters, The People Concern
11. Buy Into The Enthusiasm For Your Event
If you want to move an event online, then you need to believe it is the best way forward. Your enthusiasm will help others buy into the idea and consider new possibilities and technologies. You can have open conversations about what you see working or not working in the online world so that you can craft a unique event for your organization. – KellyAnn Romanych, Veterans Legal Institute
12. Be Realistic
Be realistic. You can’t bring every element of your live event into the virtual space. However, the power of human connection is irreplaceable and nonprofits must do what they can to retain at least some of that experience. A great example is to segment virtual attendees into groups for more targeted and valuable online discussions. – Caroline Beteta, Visit California
13. Plan Out Elements Of Your Event Goals
Virtual events require planning. It may seem obvious, but virtual events are quite different from onsite events, and the process of “moving events online” calls for more than just shifting from a hotel setting to an online Zoom meeting. Review your primary goal and your intended deliverables, and carefully plan how to best achieve these through a modified event that is held virtually. – Victoria Burkhart, The More Than Giving Company
14. Get Advice From Others Who Have Done It
In the last six months, our institute took our graduate program fully online and has gone on to host 16 online events that have trained nearly 30,000 people. Before you jump to go online for a major event, make sure you do your homework. Reach out to others who have done similar things to learn what they found was helpful and about the challenges you may encounter. – Jamie Aten, Humanitarian Disaster Institute
15. Don’t Plan It Like A Live Event
Don’t plan an online event as if it were a live event. Messaging will need to be clear and concise, utilizing as much emotion as can be captured in a virtual environment. Be creative in using images and videos to stimulate interest and the assimilation of information. Bring sponsors and stakeholders into the event and give them a stage for their brand involvement. – Aaron Alejandro, Texas FFA Foundation