Plan V is for Virtual

March 25th, 2020

How to turn your annual event and/or fundraiser into a digital success.

As we are receiving daily updates from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) on COVID-19, it’s clear that we’re in a constant state of change and uncharted territory. For me personally, this means many of my loved ones are experiencing cancelation or postponement of exciting events like baby showers and weddings. But professionally, I’m seeing an impact on industries across the board and thinking of what the proper next step is. For many, it’s going virtual.

Last weekend was set to be the largest fundraiser of the year for a local Omaha nonprofit, Catholic Charities. It was anticipating more than 500 individuals would attend Irish Fest to show their support, and ultimately determine the operating budget for the remainder of the year. With quick planning, we were able to turn this canceled event into a successful virtual event – via Facebook Live.

So how can you be sure that even though you’re not in the same room, your audience still sees a well-executed event?

  1. Start at the beginning – what should the format be? Luckily, there are plenty of dynamic platforms that are low cost, if not free, as long as you have an account. Knowing your audience will help drive the tactic. For instance, if your organization has a large social following – Facebook/Instagram Live is likely your best route. But Zoom and other like platforms have great sharing capabilities too.
  2. Be flexible and communicative. Your event is turning on its head and that’s okay. Keeping in mind that with this change in scenery you may not be able to use all of your produced or purchased assets, you can still deliver your message and excite those watching. Consider what space you want to be representative of the event. Is it in a conference room? On a stage? Or even more casual in a living room? Regardless, make sure you communicate the change. Your attendees are having to be just as flexible during this time. So, create reminders via Facebook Live, send emails and notify sponsors. Don’t worry about overcommunicating, transparency is best.
  3. Evaluate funds. With the sudden change, there is likely cost implications to the change-up. Consider what, if any, items you may need to consider a wash and what budget you have to work with. This is going to determine if you can solicit help from a partnering organization or if you need to be more nibble in your execution. Patrick Baffuto, VP of client services at Hybrid Healthcare Communications asked, “… does it make more sense to just postpone because we don’t have the time or the money, or can we still keep it on, and do it digitally and still pull in revenue?”
  4. Lastly, have fun with it. Keeping your audience engaged, AdAge recommends splitting up your content into shorter and more digestible sessions. Also, just as you would engage with the audience at your in-person events, build in interactive questions and/or trivia to open up the conversation.

Likely there are things on your shifted to-do list that don’t fall under these categories. So, if you’re looking to change your plan-of-attack and don’t know where to start or have a hundred questions, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance. People will be willing to help.