Ep 110 | Lessons Learned About Online Fundraising Events

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In this episode you'll learn:

→ the power in storytelling.
→ why it's important to really understand the goals of your event.
→ how to leverage video you create for your event.
→ why follow up is so important


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Full Transcript

[INTRO] Hey everybody, Sami here with another episode of the digital marketing therapy podcast. I recently wrapped up an online fundraising virtual summit, it was the second one we've put on this year. And this one was geared towards running a more profitable online fundraising event with less stress. And when we started planning this event, things were very much shut down in a lot of places. And I know it definitely varies depending on where you live in this country or in this world. But things were still in the us very much shut down a lot of places. And nonprofits are still running a lot of virtual events. Well, right, when we got ready to launch and get registrations going, you know, things started opening up more vaccinations were at a higher percentage. And so, you know, we took a lot of the conversation and kind of tried to change it and switch it in, kind of create some conversations around the hybrid model of events versus in person versus online. And there was a lot of really great conversations and great ideas. And it was just a lovely week. And if you didn't attend, that's okay. But I wanted to share some of the key takeaways that I got from our speakers and from the questions that we got from our attendees, in hopes that it might kind of inspire you to think about your events, and how you will put them on how you how you approach them and think about them. So that's what I'm going to talk to you guys about today, I'm going to share some of my key takeaways from our most recent online fundraising virtual summit.

But before we get into it, I want to invite you to join me in our private Facebook community. This community is full of nonprofits that are just trying to figure out the digital marketing, the online space, all the things so we talk about websites and, and email marketing, and we talk about social media and all the things so I would love to have you join me in there facebook.com/groups/thefirstclick is how you can find us. And of course, we'll always link it up. In our show notes at thefirstclick.net/podcast. But for now, let's get into the episode.

[CANNED INTRODUCTION] You're listening to the Digital Marketing Therapy Podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business.You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing, and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business.

[BODY]  So I don't know if you've attended a virtual summit before, they can all vary. Some of them are two days, five days, our particular summit is five days and a combination of pre recorded and live. We had a lot of live time with our speakers, which was great and always more fun. For me, I love engaging and Q and A's and panel discussions with folks because the conversation always goes in a great place, but oftentimes in ways that you didn't expect. And I always come away learning something new and different as well. And this event was no different by any means. And so there was a few things that came up in a lot of the sessions, even though the topics were about different things. And so I wanted to share a few of the highlights that stood out to me in ways that I hope that you'll think about your event

The first one being telling stories, and it's something that I think we all strive to do well, and some of us do better than others. But telling stories that are going to pertain to our audience that's there. And what that means is, you know, engaging with what they're going to resonate with. So it might not, it might be harder, because if you're an online space, you might not necessarily know who who's in the audience. As we discussed, we had lots of conversation around that. But I'm just trying to figure out what parts of your programming and parts of your services are going to be most impactful with the people that are sitting in the room, and ultimately lead to being most impactful for the dollars that you're trying to raise.

Also really understanding what your event is for like, what's its purpose? Is it to just bring new people into your event or into your circle? Is it to raise a lot of money? Is it to bring awareness around the cause that you're, you know, supporting? So really thinking about why you're holding this event? How does it lead to the bigger picture, and then making sure you're crafting your stories around that bigger picture, right? And that goes back to then really being cognizant? A lot of speakers brought this up.

What and I've already said it once but what is the goal of your event? What do you want to accomplish? There's so many ideas and there's so much tech and there's so many ways that you can go about doing it that if you aren't solid in the goal that you're trying to accomplish. It can be easy to get sidetracked and then all of a sudden you have all the His ideas and all these things that you're trying to mash into one event. And it might not, it might just be too much, it might not actually be the right solution or the right fit for what you're trying to accomplish. So I think this is a critical step. Also, when it comes to your board and your volunteers and your leadership team, making sure everybody's on page with what this particular event is going to provide to the organization, what are the metrics that we're going to take a look at to see if this event is a success or not? Because that's going to help everybody and just being able to say, Yeah, that's a great idea. Yes, that's a great silent auction item, there are no, you know, that's not going to be the quote, the right fit this time around. But maybe we can use it in another event. And then when it comes to all of the, you know, reviewing your goals, reviewing your budget, reviewing your stories, you know, what is it that you're going to need to really make that work.

So we had a lot of conversation around video, we had conversation with our ads panel, we had conversation with our engaging panel on how to make your event more engaging, I think it came up in every single discussion that we had, video is not going anywhere. And it is a big leap for a lot of people to make that investment in hiring a production team to either produce your whole event, or to come in and create content and videos for your event. And so a lot of times we think about that as like one singular thing. So I'm going to hire a video production team, they're going to produce the videos for this event. And that's going to be a cost that goes in only with that particular event. Instead, what I want you to think about is how can we do that, but then use and repurpose that content across channels to help fill up the event post event to follow up with our attendees.

I think one of our speakers, Patrick Kirby said, you know, how cool would it be if you could take snippets, let's say you have somebody who couldn't attend or who didn't donate that night. And you take a very specific snippet from that video that you know, is near and dear to that donor. And you send them a personal message and you say, Hey, I, this, this part of the video really spoke to me and I thought of you when I was watching it. And I just thought it might be impactful for you. 30 second clip, right, something super easy. But it shows the donor that you care, it shows the donor that you're thinking of them makes them feel special, and then helps to reinforce the mission that you are putting out into this world. So video can be used and repurposed. I think somebody mentioned repurpose it for your Giving Tuesday campaign, but repurpose it all year long. Because if you've produced 15, or 20 minutes of video for your event, you can chunk that up into 30/60 second bites, which are great for social media, and then really maximise on that dollar that you've invested into creating this video for your, for your attendees. So I encourage you to think about that. And as you take a look at your budgets, really play with what that looks like.

So Kari Anderson talked about how you know, when you put your event budget together, you want to really put all the bells and whistles, everything that you could possibly want in there. And then, you know, go through it with a fine tooth comb and and think about the things that you're not paying for with an with an online or hybrid event that you would be paying for. And, you know, how can you maybe reallocate some of those funds and think about things differently. So hiring a professional auctioneer might have been something that wasn't ever in your budget. But now that you're not paying for as much or the ballroom space, you know, maybe having an online auctioneer help with that is going to be something that you can now afford. So instead of just saying we can't do that, really think about the numbers that are coming at you and play with them in a new way. Because I'm sure it might surprise you. And then tech is obviously something that comes up more in the online space in general. And with events, it's it's critical. But hands down across the board, the feelings of all of our experts was to think about what you need to do first. And think about the features and the benefits that you need before you start going down that rabbit hole of researching tech and have that checklist in front of you and you know, start to evaluate a handful of them. And then you know, check the boxes and see which one matches up the most with what you need. Because again, a lot of these platforms are going to have features that will be great maybe for your next fundraiser, but you don't need to have right now. And so don't get distracted by those benefits. And stay focused to what it is that you're trying to accomplish and what your team can handle and what your experience level is and how you have support in order to make it work.

Now it doesn't have to be perfect. Your event does not have to be flawless. It won't be I mean, in person events aren't flawless either. But it's all about making it engaging and making it about the attendees that are there making them feel special. Some folks shared about how they sent you know, food baskets to their attendees so that they could still participate. They did, you know, tasting experience, or had chefs come on, and they still did wine and cheese tastings. And they sent things out there to them to be able to participate in their own homes. Some people did smaller watch parties, so that small groups could still come together and engage. But they didn't have to have the huge event. So there's all sorts of different ways that you can do things. So definitely go to the drawing board, and dream. But make sure you're paying attention to being really thoughtful about your mission, thoughtful about what you're trying to accomplish, and thoughtful thoughtful about how these events all play into the bigger picture.

The last thing I want to touch on is the follow up and making the follow up part of your whole event plan. So the event doesn't end. When you say goodnight. And you say thank you for coming, or the last person crosses the finish line at the run, walk right? afterwards, having a really key plan for how you're going to follow up with the attendees. How are you going to reach out to the people that couldn't attend to share what what it was about? How are you going to get those last bits of dollars out of those attendees? And then how are you going to retain them and keep them engaged, so they don't just become one time donors that don't ever get touched by you again. That is, I think, critically important, and maybe even the most important thing you can possibly do. And while it's so tempting, Roxanne talked about this rock scene for a while it's so tempting to really just say off the event is done, I'm going to take a couple days off, really push through those last couple days after the event, follow up with all of those folks, make them feel loved on make them feel so thanked and appreciated for showing up to the event. And and keep them coming back for more.

So those were some of the key takeaways that I got from this summit. There's so many more things that we can learn about events, but really, I encourage you to make it your own. Have fun with it. Add some personality and style. You know, have fun with music, have fun with experiences and make it something that people are excited to come to every year and not something that they feel like they have to show up to. Okay, so that is it for this episode. Thank you so much for tuning in. I really, really appreciate it. If this was helpful to you share it with a friend I would really appreciate that. And make sure you leave us a review on Apple podcasts and subscribe wherever you listen so you don't miss out on a single episode. We'll see in the next one.


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