NONPROFIT: How Your Nonprofit’s Events Can Endure COVID-19

 In Client Advice, Nonprofits

The everchanging effect that COVID-19 is having on the world will be felt for years to come. Many businesses and organizations have had to abandon their business model and adapt to stay open and not close permanently. Nonprofit organizations have really felt the effects of the coronavirus where in-person events have been forced to be canceled, losing thousands of fundraising dollars and left organizers scrambling to find ways to adapt, pivot or abandon their efforts altogether.

The good news is, there are a number of different ways to change a large, in-person fundraising event into something else. There are ways to have large conferences in a manner that supports social distancing and flattening the curve.

So, what are some of these?

Many of these simply switch from in-person events to a virtual event using Zoom or some other digital conferencing platform. Others are a bit more creative…

Large, In-Person Fundraising Events

One of our customers was having a large, comedy night fundraiser a couple weeks ago that got canceled (or rather postponed) until a later date. The problem is, the organization really relied on the money that the fundraiser brought in to supplement their budget. So, as I said, the event was postponed several months, so, it’ll still happen, just much later. What they did instead was they had us create products that they were going to sell at a silent auction and place them on their website in their “store”. They are driving traffic there to help regain some of the revenue they were losing by postponing their event.

Online Store Replaces Silent Auction - How Nonprofits can endure COVID-19

Another organization I’m involved with puts on a murder mystery dinner theatre each year to help raise money for charity. This year’s event was also a couple weeks ago, at the beginning of the outbreak in NH. With the tables set, the programs printed and the cast ready to perform, we chose to postpone the event to a date further away in June. What food we could freeze, we did, what we could not was donated. The printed programs still had the March date, however, we felt that keeping them as is, without the added expense of reprinting, would be just fine.

Additionally, make sure your website has a donate page ready to go and ready to take online donations. Your attendees are likely to want to still help so it’s a good idea to make sure your donation page is up and in working order.

The point is, some events just need to be straight up postponed or canceled – others, like the comedy night with the silent auction, can be switched to a digital format so that you don’t lose quite as much revenue by postponing or canceling.

Large Conference Events

Another customer of ours was having an annual conference at the beginning of May and smartly opted to change it to a teleconference using Zoom. Zoom is a great option for nonprofits and small businesses to utilize video conferencing without having a huge monthly or annual bill. In fact, you can have a free account with up to 3 people in a meeting lasting thirty minutes.  Is it perfect? No, but is anything?

Zoom Screenshot - How Nonprofits can Endure COVID-19

This organization has since moved the event to October but still kept it as a teleconference.

Meetings, Services & Smaller In-Person Events

I belong to several organizations that have turned to Zoom and other online video conferencing platforms to meet, chat and do business during COVID-19. Churches have turned to Zoom to hold their devotional services with great success. While video conferencing or sitting in front of a television or computer may seem impersonal, it sure beats having everything come to a grinding halt and having no human interaction.

It’s important to mention, though, that some events and meetings can be and potentially should be postponed. This isn’t to say that your local fraternal organizations shouldn’t meet to discuss and pay monthly bills online; things such as funeral services, weddings and meetings like that should be postponed. Why? Well, while these types of events can be done digitally (there’s even been a wedding that’s taken place on the game Animal Crossing), it really should be a more intimate, in-person kind of thing.

Bottom line: Choose how you meet and whether you meet online selectively – some meetings and events can be postponed and should be. Others, can and should continue to happen normally.

Other Ways to Make the Most of Virtual Events

Consistent Branding

There are a slew of other ways to make the most of your online or virtual events in lieu of an in-person event for your nonprofit. The important thing is to maintain your organization’s branding throughout the duration of your event. Maintaining consistent branding helps ensure that the event branding matches the virtual event branding. That way, people know that the event they were going to attend live is the same event they’ll attend online.

Use Video Instead of a Lot of Text

People don’t read. It’s a fact. Using video, you can get your message out faster and more creatively than a bunch of text. Using live video, during your virtual event, can help boost the attention span of your audience and potentially boost donations (or whatever call-to-action you’re trying to achieve). Whether it’s a video conference like Zoom or taking the event to Facebook and doing a live broadcast there, it’s important to consider video to get your event’s message across.

Include an Online Aspect

Make sure you’re using your website to its fullest extent to promote, host and serve your attendees before, during and after your virtual event. For example, if you’re hosting an virtual conference, offer a place to have all the resources mentioned during the conference so that attendees can easily refer back to them. If your event is more of a fundraiser, promote your donation page or offer items for sale to really push an increase in revenue. There are a variety of different ways to get more out of your virtual event using online resources than you might expect.

If push comes to shove, and you absolutely need to cancel or postpone the event (like our dinner theatre) by all means, do it. But, if there’s a way you can still have the event – still fundraise, connect, share, whatever – I encourage you to take a look at your options. Sometimes thinking outside of the box and converting an event that is traditionally a live, in-person event to something different may create a spark of excitement or interest that can reinvigorate your nonprofit.

How is your nonprofit getting around “social distancing” with your meetings and events? What platforms do you use for meeting online and sharing with your members?


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