Special Events with a Virtual Twist
3. Tap into the power of publicity. Speaking of hype, another goal of a special event is to maximize visibility and publicity for your organization. Online events, or new online components for your signature event, can also drive media interest. They can add a new angle to the coverage, such as fiscal responsibility (i.e. lower fundraising costs) or creative ways that nonprofits are using the Internet to reach new constituents. Make the story interesting from a news perspective, not from an agency perspective, because there are just so many grant awards and galas a news team will cover, and you want yours to be one of them.
4. Rally volunteers. Organizing and managing committees is critical in planning a live successful event. Volunteers don’t just add extra hands for lighter work, but they are critical in introducing their friends and potential donors to the event and organization. They also play an important role in the success of your virtual component. Personal fundraising pages, or even e-mails containing Web links, can make a huge difference in the success or failure of your event.
5. Build in room to experiment. If your event is established, tried and true, take the opportunity to experiment with an online component without risking your fundraising goals. If you decide to develop a new event, pick online components that are sustainable for years to come, even if they eventually take a different form.
As with any fundraising and marketing effort, testing is critical. What is successful in a live setting is not always successful online. Be realistic about the dollars you will raise with your first attempt at the online component, and have a long-term plan for online growth.
6. Document the good, the bad, the ugly, and the extraordinary. No matter the event — live, online, or integrated — documentation is critical. Organizations that document all stages of an event’s lifecycle, listing what worked and what didn’t, create an historical basis for future events. Unfortunately, documentation often is an activity that organizations start out doing but don’t continue as event planning ramps up. Keep in mind that the institutional memory will be an important tool as you build on your event’s success.