Since the spring we’ve spoken with so many charities that are scrambling to rethink how they can continue with some of the services they provide as well as fundraising events that were planned for 2020. For every charity that is still able to host a live event this summer, there are at least 10 that have been forced to scrap their annual golf event, charity walk or gala. For better or worse, COVID-19 has forced us all to go digital and for those of you that are planning to go digital, we want it to be your biggest success yet. Here are some things we have learned that can help you prepare for your first digital event.
Know what your donors are currently going through – This goes beyond knowing what motivates them to give. Right now, people of all ages are spending a significant amount of time in front of their screens and zoom fatigue is a real thing. Additionally, if they’re a working mom or dad, they are also finding themselves “always on” with their kids as well. People who may not have families nearby could be battling loneliness and depression. It’s important to keep all of these things in mind when thinking about the programming of your digital event. Does your community need something lighthearted and fun? Do they need to feel more connected to a community? Can they only be present for an hour or two compared to the entire evening? Think about all of these things before planning your program.
Test the hosting platform beforehand – In real life events, things go wrong. The same is true for hosting something digitally. What’s different about digital events is that you can test your “digital room” beforehand to help you spot things that you didn’t account for. Try hosting 1 or 2 smaller events before the big night. It could be a webinar or it could be something that only involves your internal team. The event is less important than what you learn in the process. Did everything go well? If not, was it a technology issue, a planning issue, or something else? How was the energy level? Is it what we thought it would be? Whatever the results are, think about how you can make it better for the next big event.
You set the culture – Remember that everyone is trying to figure out what this new normal should look like. The same is true for digital events. This means that you must give additional planning to how you want guests interacting digitally. Do you want people posting digital cocktails? Do you want them cheering each other on and commenting when someone else is presenting? What about encouraging guests to start side conversations during your event? If you want any of this to happen then it starts with you and your team. You need to be the first ones “out on the dance floor” so that people know what’s acceptable and encouraged during you event. Once they see what your team is doing, they will catch on.
Remember that digital does not equal live – Don’t try to make your event exactly like an in-person meeting. You have to respect the difference between real and digital. Remember that at its core you’re looking to gather people into your community and to motivate them to stay connected to your cause. Respect the differences and double down on the things that digital will allow you to do well. For example, perhaps on a good night you’re connecting with 15 or so people to have a meaningful conversation. By going digital you can now talk to twice as many people in the same period of time and establish a personal connection.
Finally, have fun – If you’re not having fun, it will certainly come across during the event. We live in unprecedented times but it’s important that we make the most of it. So enjoy your event and when it’s over let our team know how it went.