Planning a nonprofit event is no simple task, especially in the era of social distancing and virtual connections. The need to maintain our distance this year has led to the cancellation of plenty of in-person events or pushed these events online, forcing nonprofits to adapt to the virtual sphere in 2021.
When hosting a virtual fundraising event, not only do you have to plan a fun event for supporters, but you also have to inspire them to donate while doing so. And more often than not, you’re hosting it on a limited budget.
Luckily, in 2021 there are technologies explicitly created for streamlining virtual events. There are a plethora of tools available to nonprofit event planners now, and the key to simpler event management is making the most of them. Whether you’re recruiting volunteers to help with the virtual event or simplifying the registration process for attendees, these tools can help you host a successful event, even with the challenges that come along with hosting an event in the year 2021.
DNL OmniMedia specializes in configuring custom tech solutions for nonprofits and helping organizations navigate the nonprofit tech landscape. Partnering with Galaxy Digital, DNL OmniMedia has outlined six nonprofit tech solutions to help organizations host events effectively this year. In this guide, you’ll explore the following nonprofit technology tools:
- Event Microsite
- Mobile Event App
- Auction Software
- Mobile-Optimized Giving Page
- Digital Waivers
- Volunteer Management Software
Each of these digital tools represents a comprehensive solution for addressing digital challenges in nonprofit event management.
While we’ll be discussing how each of these tools applies to planning virtual events, keep in mind these same tools can be used for in-person events as well once the pandemic ends. Your investment in these tools now won’t go to waste post-pandemic because you can plan both virtual and in-person events using the right software.
And remember, if you feel overwhelmed bringing on new tech in your nonprofit event planning but are still eager to do so—nonprofit tech consultants can help in the transition. Strategy consultants can integrate your new plans into your existing operations more smoothly. With that in mind, let’s get started.
To stay relevant during the pandemic, your nonprofit likely made some updates or added new information to your website. Digital communication platforms such as your website are the first place that supporters will go to look for new opportunities and events.
However, the best way to take the marketing of your event to the next level and truly optimize the event’s online presence is to create an event microsite. A microsite is an independent site from your organization’s main website (although your main site should link out to it) that is hyper-focused on providing information solely on your event.
These webpages place your event at the forefront, completely removing any distracting information about your organization. They can be created quickly and easily and serve as a comprehensive breakdown of event information. Further, they provide valuable information on event conversions and successful marketing efforts without tangling that information with your main site.
When creating your event microsite, remember to:
- Brand the microsite to your organization. Because this isn’t your main website, visiting supporters must be crystal clear that it belongs to your organization. Use familiar imaging, fonts, and color schemes to build trust with your second site.
- Include all necessary logistical information about your event. This includes the date, time, instructions to access the event online, and information about getting further involved. For nonprofits, this is where a “Donate Now” button fits in as well.
- Embed your registration forms. If you’re selling tickets to the event, embed those forms directly on your site for easy access. Even if you’re not, ask guests to register so you have accurate attendance data and can collect supporter information for future purposes.
- Make it shareable. Create connections between your organization’s social networks and your microsite. Share a social feed on your site and make the site itself easily shareable for visitors by incorporating options to post about their registration!
Event microsites are often launched during the lead-up and execution of events and deleted soon after the event ends. However, if your event is annual or otherwise recurring, consider keeping the site up and adding to it year after year—just don’t forget to adjust it for in-person versus virtual venues.
Mobile Event App
Also rising in the ranks in event planning conversations of 2021 are mobile event apps for nonprofits, tools that bring all event information into the hands (literally) of your supporters.
Mobile event apps take the idea of mobile-optimized event websites a step further by creating an event-specific application for smartphones. Not only do these apps generate excitement for your virtual event, but they also increase donor engagement and awareness for the duration.
Check out the ways a mobile event app can improve your next event:
- Provide detailed agendas to guests. If your event spans multiple days or involves any time-bound activities, make sure donors are aware of every opportunity to get involved.
- Easily distribute organization, mission, and event information. Within your app, distribute documents (such as your case statement or even mission-related statistics) to supporters to spark interest. Supporters can also easily share info themselves within your app.
- Encourage donor engagement with live polls and other gamification elements. Send out trivia questions and polls to get donors interacting with your event, rather than being inactive observers.
- Accept donations at any point during the event. Allow supporters to make gifts independently at any point during the event.
- Provide maps and other navigational resources. If you’re hosting an outdoor event such as a socially-distanced scavenger hunt or virtual 5K, provide detailed maps and diagrams to help supporters navigate the event.
You can also use your mobile event app to carry out your volunteer appreciation efforts after an event is concluded, sending personalized messages through your app to foster a greater sense of community within your organization.
While a smaller, localized virtual event may not need nearly all of a mobile event app’s functionality, larger nonprofit events can certainly benefit from this technology. Regardless, app providers are catering to a wide variety of event shapes and sizes.
One particularly popular event for nonprofits to host is the charity auction. These events carry huge fundraising potential, bringing in donations from auctioned items, buy-now items, sold tickets, sponsored ads, and of course, gifts made throughout the duration.
However, due to the pandemic, these previously in-person events have been pushed online. While the basic premise of the charity auction remains the same, the tools your nonprofit uses to host these events will look different to help your auction adapt and thrive in the digital space.
One tool to help in this transition to virtual auctions is charity auction software. Charity auction software allows you to:
- Track item procurement.
- Create an auction catalog and otherwise promote your auction.
- Sell tickets, manage registration, and collect donor information leading up to the event.
- Collect bids digitally, allowing donors to give through their smartphones.
- Process payments immediately after an item is won.
- Allow donors to give at any time throughout the event via smartphone.
OneCause offers a list of the top silent/virtual auction tools, and you can choose the auction software that you think best fits your goals and needs.
Because all of these processes are handled under one software, you’re able to compile detailed reporting and analytics post-event. As planning a charity auction is such an involved process, any information you can gather to make planning the next one easier is incredibly valuable.
Mobile-Optimized Giving Page
Most of the tools on this page won’t apply to every nonprofit event. For example, mobile event apps may not be necessary for a smaller organization’s event, and you’re definitely not going to need auction software if you’re not hosting an auction.
However, regardless of the size of your nonprofit or the size or type of event you’re hosting, having a mobile-optimized giving page is necessary.
There are two general reasons nonprofits host events: to fundraise or to thank donors. Regardless, with either type of event, the organization hopes to bring in donations through it or in the future.
Since in-person events are on hold, you likely aren’t collecting any checks or cash donations—these gifts are more likely processed through credit/debit cards in 2021. It’s not necessarily crucial that you invest in a mobile POS system. Instead, you can simply optimize a tool you’re already using: your online donation page.
The process of optimizing your online donation page involves configuring your page structure to ensure everything will be sized appropriately for smartphone users so there’s no confusion when it comes to where and how to make a donation on your page.
Considering American adults will spend an estimated over four hours on their phones per day this year, optimizing your online donation page for mobile access is critical to make it as intuitive as possible for people to donate to your cause using only a small portion of their daily screen time.
Whether you’re an event planner or a nonprofit professional that handles events for your organization, you’re probably familiar with the importance of risk management when planning experiences for donors.
Certain types of nonprofit events, such as walk-a-thons and 5K runs or anything involving children, require the signing of waivers before the experience itself. Even though you’re hosting an online event this year, you still want to use waivers for more physical events like virtual walk-a-thons or 5K runs to ensure you cover your bases.
Waivers present two challenges for event planners:
- Getting donors/participants to sign the waivers.
- Keeping track of the many waivers coming in.
The last thing you want is to deny admission or participation in your virtual event to a supporter simply because one (or both) of these challenges. Not only is it unfortunate to exclude someone from the fun, but that may also mean fewer donations to your organization!
Luckily, there are digital tools made specifically to keep the waiver-signing process as easy as possible. By bringing these forms online, supporters can access, sign, and submit them at any time and from any place. You can even add these waivers to your website and make them part of the digital registration process, ensuring no participant forgets to submit them.
Check out this guide to online waiver software to pick the right product for your organization. Our best piece of advice from this guide is that online waivers are the new norm, so it will be beneficial for your organization to implement this software now to be able to use it even after the pandemic is over.
Volunteer Management Software
If you’re hosting a virtual event this year due to COVID restrictions, you may find yourself needing a few volunteers to help manage your event and ensure everything runs smoothly. You might be running a volunteer ambassador campaign focused on a smaller group of volunteers or just looking for some casual volunteers to help out for a few days.
Either way, investing in quality volunteer management software can be a game-changer to help you organize and manage your volunteers.
Here are some of the components to look for in volunteer management software:
- The ability to create volunteer profiles to track volunteer’s history and preferences
- A communications system to send out mass emails to participants
- Digital event sign-up
A robust volunteer management system can offer plenty of features that include these features and more. Finding the right one for your nonprofit can put you on the path to cataloging your volunteers’ needs and motivations and recruiting more supporters in the future.
Although volunteers might be a little more spread out in the year 2021, you can still stay connected to your supporters through these systems.
A nonprofit virtual (or in-person) event planning doesn’t have to be a headache in 2021. By making the most of available digital tools and resources, much of the process will be streamlined for your planning committee. Happy planning!
Carl Diesing, Managing Director – Carl lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their two children Charlie and Evelyn.