The Essential Guide to Livestream Fundraising
When you hear the term “livestreaming” what comes to mind? Chewbacca Mom? The Super Bowl? The “Together at Home” concert?
Livestreaming may be all the rage, but it remains seriously misunderstood (and underutilized) by nonprofits and brands alike. If you are wondering what livestreaming is and how to incorporate it into your overall nonprofit fundraising strategy, let’s get started.
What Is Livestream Fundraising and Who Does It?
Livestreaming is a type of video broadcast where the person broadcasting interacts with their audience and films themself in real time. People who livestream frequently are called creators, and many have large, passionate followings of fans.
“Going live” has changed how people consume and interact with video, especially on social media, and it’s making a huge impact on nonprofit fundraising. Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has been a boon to livestreaming platforms. The livestreaming sector grew a full 45% between March and April. Year-over-year, the entire industry has grown by 99%. Many experts attribute those gains directly to the pandemic and ongoing lockdowns.
The most well-known platform, but also the most misunderstood by fundraisers, is Twitch. What started out as an insider’s club for gamers is now a global mainstream phenomenon — 1.645 billion hours are watched each month on Twitch. And since 2011, Twitch creators have amassed over $150 million for charities around the world. I’m using the term creators and not gamers. This is because the connotation of the word gamer. When you hear “gamer,” a lot of people will have a very dated idea of what that means — a younger guy sitting in his mother’s basement playing World of Warcraft (even though adult women outnumber any other group for gamers).
Creators spend hours outside of their livestream perfecting their craft and analyzing data to make business decisions. It is important to know that playing a game on stream is just a content decision, not their entire identity as a creator.
While gaming is the most prevalent thing streamed on Twitch, it is not the only type of content. You can watch art, music and fitness outside of gaming.
Why Is Livestreaming So Powerful?
Livestreaming is so powerful because of the potential for immediate and active engagement and interaction with an audience. Fundraising via livestreaming can lead to more donations and exposure to a brand new audience.
When used for fundraising, the benefits are abound. Since the livestream happens in real time, it engages your audience and encourages more donations by making viewers part of the action. Supporters can give instantly, without missing a minute of the action. And fundraisers can thank their donors live and in real time.
A Twitch survey found that livestreaming audiences want to see more fundraising and cause-related content from the creators they follow, and 78% want to see more fundraising from their favorite channels.
How Do Nonprofits Leverage Livestreaming?
The American Association for Cancer Research identified the opportunity to make livestream fundraising (also called charity streaming) a key part of its growth strategy. On their website, it included instructions for participating in its recent livestreaming fundraiser, Players vs. Cancer.
The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ Extra Life campaign is one of the most well-known and successful livestreaming fundraising events. Just 10 years old, this video-game-focused campaign vaulted into the top 30 list of peer-to-peer events by PeertoPeer Professional Forum after increasing its revenues by $2.6 million — or 24.2%.
CMN Hospitals started with an innovative idea to center its peer-to-peer campaign around video gaming to tap into the male Millennial audience. CMN Hospitals gives its fundraisers the tools for DIY opportunities to raise funds outside of the event itself. For example, one participant pledged to get an Extra Life tattoo if his friends contributed $2,000 to his fundraising page.
How Can We Get Started Hosting Livestream Fundraising Events?
Here are three simple steps to get started with livestream fundraising:
- Choose your event. Any event, virtual or in-person, can be livestreamed. Figure out how to build your livestream fundraising strategy, or at least explore the tools and read the case studies to get an idea of how it could work for your nonprofit.
- Think of at least two livestream opportunities at your organization. The prevalent myth is that you have to be into online gaming to livestream, but this is not true. For any event, livestreaming is the perfect way to attract a new audience and build engagement with attendees.
- Select your platform. The most popular platforms for livestreaming are Twitch, YouTube and Facebook Gaming. But don’t ignore Twitter, Periscope, Instagram Live and others. Go where your audience is most likely to go and what is easiest for your nonprofit to use.
For example, if you are registered with Facebook’s charitable giving tools, you can encourage people to add a donate button to their livestream to raise money for your nonprofit. Their viewers can donate as they watch the livestream or once the broadcast has concluded.
Equip your supporters to fundraise for you. Give your supporters the tools they need to raise money for you. Create an online toolkit like the AACR did for its Players vs. Cancer livestream fundraising event.
Tips for a Successful Livestream Fundraising Event
- Set goals and objectives. Is your goal to raise awareness? Get in front of a younger audience? Explode community engagement? Promote a campaign? Raise $50,000? Having a set goal will allow you to determine the length of the livestream and the metrics to follow to ensure
- Explore working with outside partners, creators and influencers. Is your nonprofit running the livestream itself? If that’s the case, you are limited to your audience, your email list and your social media fans. Working with an influencer can help you gain access to a brand new audience.
- Test out the tech. Studies have shown that viewers have a very low tolerance for a bad stream. For many, 90 seconds is the most a viewer will tolerate a spotty stream.
- Promote the event on all channels. Just because the livestream is going to happen digitally, that doesn’t mean you can’t leverage all channels to promote it! Send out postcards, include information in your print newsletter, promote it via email and more.
- Wrap up, and keep momentum. Analyze what worked and what you could do more of. Iterate and improve, build on successes, and plan for the next one!
A quick word of warning: If you are simply ignoring livestreaming fundraising as a strategy because it doesn’t fit into your workflow today, you will definitely be leaving money on the table tomorrow.
Editor's Note: This feature was originally published in the September/October 2020 print edition of NonProfit PRO. Click here to subscribe.
Julia is a nonprofit digital marketing, an online fundraising strategist and the author of the book, "Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits."