Special Events with a Virtual Twist
Spring — which, believe it or not, really is coming soon — is an exciting time. People emerge from hibernation, outdoor activities are on the rise, and nonprofits tap into the renewed energy of their staff, donors, and volunteers. And for those organizations that rely on special events for funding, it’s either the final countdown or full-blown planning for fall.
Online components to special events are becoming the norm. From managing an auction online and encouraging personal fundraising pages, to joining the virtual community of Second Life and posting video highlights from your cow patty bingo fundraiser on your organization’s Web site (or even YouTube), organizations are finding ways to increase donations using virtual events.
Does it make sense for your organization to integrate online components into your special event? Absolutely. But, it needs to make sense for your organization and supporters. These six tips will guide you as you expand your event into cyberspace:
1. Understand your attendees and target audience. If you already have a live special event, it’s important to understand why people attend. Is it for recognition, networking, or physical health, in support of a loved one, or simply for good food? Are these same people willing to participate in an online event? Creating a virtual component to your event could broaden your reach, but might not raise the money you hope for if you don’t do your homework. Ask yourself: ”What’s in it for the virtual attendee or donor?”
2. Create a signature event. Special events that are seen as unique to an organization can create a buzz. Making your event one-of–a-kind and relevant to your organization helps distinguish it from just “another gala or golf tournament,” especially when competing for the attention of, and donations from, similar sponsors, donors and attendees. A virtual component can add a unique twist to even the deepest traditions, like the virtual red kettles of the Salvation Army, or the virtual marathon hosted by Nike to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It can also add a whole new dynamic to an event looking to attract attention.