Emerging Trends in Fundraising: The Rise of Virtual and DIY Events
The use of technology continues to spread throughout the world of giving as nonprofits increasingly leverage digital transformation tools in order to remain competitive. In fact, according to the BDO Institute for Nonprofit Excellence’s third annual “Nonprofit Standards, A Benchmarking Survey,” 64% of nonprofits worldwide plan to invest in new technology in 2020, and that number is expected to grow dramatically in the new decade.
Driving digital transformation in giving are Millennials and Gen Zers, who rely heavily on technology to manage their daily lives and have come to expect flawless digital experiences and hyper-personalized communication.
With the influx of new technologies and demand to digitally engage donors in a personalized, one-to-one way, many nonprofits are rethinking and restructuring traditional peer-to-peer events to include digital fundraising techniques. By tapping into these innovative channels and incorporating them into flagship or first-time events, nonprofits can extend the reach of their donor programs. In particular, virtual and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) events are emerging as stand-out approaches for charities to target new audiences and personalize fundraising experiences.
Virtual Events Open the Door to More Giving
People want to give back, but with varying schedules and priorities, it can be hard to make it to a Saturday morning 5K. Recognizing this, innovative nonprofits are leveraging wearables and fitness trackers, like Fitbits, and mobile corporate giving apps, like those by MoveSpring, to make it easier to organize active campaigns virtually.
These new technologies allow for a fundraising component to be incorporated into the campaign, granting more opportunities to raise money. Virtual events enable participants to engage with a campaign on their own time, while still supporting the cause they care about and doing so in a way that improves their health. With the amount of customization possible and the pre-existing structure of the event, these campaigns are a hybrid of a DIY and a traditional nonprofit-hosted event.
Additionally, as many mainstream peer-to-peer events often take place in cities, this can alienate a large population of rural givers who may not have the ability to attend an event in-person. Providing the opportunity to participate in a virtual event allows those far from the action to be included in and engaged with the cause they stand for.
Another major benefit of virtual events is that they ensure that those with busy schedules won’t miss out on the philanthropic activities they value. By allowing for on-site as well as virtual participation, nonprofits open the door of their donor programs to all, ideally leading to more funds raised.
Virtual events not only cater to those with demanding schedules or those in hard-to-reach locations, but also serve as a way to reach new audiences — specifically, Millennial and Gen Z donors. These tech-savvy generations might prefer to take part in an event virtually and can even participate via game streaming platforms. For example, online gamers can livestream their game and offer viewers the option to donate to the gamers’ cause of choice. This opens up fundraising to enormous game streaming platforms, such as Twitch, which has similar viewership to ESPN, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.
Without the need for logistical coordination and on-the-ground preparation on a massive scale that an in-person event requires, users can get up and running in less than five minutes and start fundraising immediately. To date, Twitch has already been used to raise over $80 million for nonprofits.
Whether it’s a remote location, hectic schedule or even a desire to participate via a game streaming platform because that is the generational norm, virtual events can extend an invitation to all that wish to participate in a nonprofit’s peer-to-peer fundraising event, promoting inclusivity and ideally leading to more money raised.
The Opportunities are Endless With DIY Events
While many mainstream peer-to-peer events are popular among participants — think Relay for Life or The Pan-Mass Challenge — and garner impressive results in terms of awareness and money raised, DIY events don’t force participants into attending an event that is limited to one specific date or time of the year. Instead, supporters can create their own fundraising programs on their own terms and timeline, opening up a world of possibilities.
DIY event organizers set their own goals, time frame and method of fundraising. As the respective owner of their event, it is on them to create a fundraising page, build momentum for their cause and raise money. Various leading nonprofits are moving away from having one or two annual signature events, and toward a portfolio of campaigns that give their supporters a variety of ways to participate and support the organization.
For example, American Cancer Society launched a new campaign called “Real Men Wear Pink,” which raised $7 million dollars in 2018, 21% more than the previous year, drawing in over 200 communities into this new campaign. Because everything is set up and coordinated online, DIY events are relatively inexpensive and the organizer takes on most of the logistic planning, freeing up staff to fundraise. In the era of customization and personalization, DIY events satisfy many, as there is no cap on creativity.
The shift to independent fundraising, in which self-starters can easily launch their own campaigns and raise money, is growing quickly. Anyone with a desire to raise money for their favorite charity can simply go online, design a campaign and begin fundraising in mere minutes. This model is particularly successful for smaller nonprofits that might not have the staff and resources to host a walk, run or cycling event.
As digital transformation takes full effect, nonprofits unwilling to adapt to these technological times and instead rely on traditional styles of giving will struggle, while nonprofits embracing change with open arms and voluntarily diversifying their fundraising opportunities will win. By reimagining traditional peer-to-peer events to include virtual and DIY options, nonprofits will succeed in their fundraising efforts as well as attract new lifetime donors.
Bryna Dilman is the director of Panorama at FrontStream. A product division of FrontStream, Panorama is a secure, easy-to-use, all-in-one digital fundraising platform for certified nonprofit organizations and socially responsible corporations. An expert in data and analytics with an extensive background in the nonprofit sector, Dilman bridges the gap between FrontStream’s offerings and the unique technology needs of nonprofit organizations, ensuring seamless user experience and maximum ROI.
Dilman spent her entire career in the nonprofit sector and is passionate about helping mission-focused organizations effect positive change. Prior to her role at FrontStream, Dilman spent five years at Cystic Fibrosis Canada, starting as director of national events and working her way up to executive director of data strategy, integration and national events operations. Before that she held senior program manager and fundraising roles at the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Kids Help Phone, CBC and MS Society of Canada.
Dilman earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology with honors from York University as well as a post-graduate degree in corporate communications and public relations from Seneca College. Dilman currently resides in Toronto, Canada.