4 Virtual Event Ideas to Elevate Your Nonprofit

Meredith Gray • Nov 10, 2022

The nonprofit world has started to settle into a “new normal” after the impact of the pandemic, and a new strategy that has gained traction over the past few years is now here to stay—virtual nonprofit events! From galas to sporting events, we’re here to bring you four virtual event ideas to help you bring in more revenue! 

There are a lot of perks with virtual events. For one, you can engage supporters all over the world in a convenient way. Donors can, for instance, attend your annual gala from the comfort of their own homes or participate in a charity 5K race on the day that’s best for them. 

Another perk of virtual events is that as your organization learns how to connect with donors in this new setting and you’re able to gain support in a variety of ways—whether through an online silent auction or a revamped donation page on your website. 

Despite these benefits, virtual events come with a lot of challenges, too. To help, we’ve compiled a list of four virtual event ideas to empower you to elevate your organization’s next fundraiser: 

  1. Host an event your donors haven’t seen before. 
  2. Give yourself plenty of time to plan. 
  3. Get to know the tech you’ll rely on for your event. 
  4. Engage attendees in creative ways. 

You may also have hybrid events on your radar. According to CharityBids’ guide to virtual charity events, “a hybrid event is a combination of virtual and in-person event channels…a nice middle-of-the-road approach that offers the ultimate flexibility to everyone involved in your event.” If you’re interested in planning this type of event, don’t worry! These four ideas can help you get there, too. 

Let’s begin! 

donor stewardship

Plan for your next big event with this Hybrid Event Planning template!

1. Host an event your donors haven’t seen before.  

While you don’t need to throw out the events that are already working for your nonprofit, you can liven up your event calendar by adding an event your donors haven’t seen before. The combination of the new event with the virtual setting will pique your supporters’ interest and garner more attention for your work! 

Here are a few virtual event ideas for your consideration: 

  • Online Auction: An online auction can generate a lot of excitement in your nonprofit’s community as you promote the exclusive items and packages that your supporters will be able to win. Auction item procurement can take a lot of work, so it may be well worth it to partner with an auction consignment agency that can help you tap into high-end items.. 
  • Virtual Class or Workshop: Give your supporters the chance to learn something new. Invite an expert to teach them a skill in a live-streamed setting. For example, you might invite a chef to teach a gourmet cooking classor an artist to teach them the basics of oil painting. 
  • Webinar: When nonprofits host webinars, they bring together thought leaders to explore a topic related to their cause. Imagine an animal rescue hosts a webinar. They might involve a local veterinarian, the owner of a grooming business, and one of their board members to talk about the importance of adequate preparation before adopting a new pet. Not only would this webinar give their supporters useful information, but it would also encourage them to adopt an animal from the rescue. Additionally, this is a great way to involve your board in fundraising and outreach. 

As you’re thinking about adding new events to your nonprofit’s calendar, remember that you can give just about any in-person event a virtual spin. From trivia nights and watch parties to museum tours and concerts, the possibilities are endless!

2. Give yourself plenty of time to plan.

Successful nonprofit event planning requires your team to manage dozens of moving parts. But virtual events will likely require even more preparation, especially if you’re still new to hosting them. You may need to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of live-stream software, come up with ways to engage attendees virtually, and more.  

Thus, you should start early so you can stay organized, reduce your team’s stress, and set yourself up for success. Here are the planning steps you’ll need to take:

  1. Set goals and objectives for your event. 
  2. Establish an event planning committee. 
  3. Create an event budget
  4. Lock down all the details, such as the technology you’ll be using, who will be your emcee, and more.
  5. Design a marketing plan to promote your event.   

Clearly, there’s a lot that goes into knocking a virtual event out of the park. Your nonprofit may want to hand off the event planning and production process to a nonprofit event planning company. The right company can take care of all these steps for you, bringing your vision to life, while you focus your team’s time and energy on keeping your regular programming and operations running.

Plus, some nonprofit event planning companies have exclusive connections you can leverage to involve A-list celebrities in your event, providing the star power that will get your supporters excited about attending!

Planning a virtual auction? Download this guide for tips to host a successful fundraiser!

3. Get to know the tech you’ll rely on for your event. 

To pull off your virtual event, you’ll need the right technology on your side. You’ll also need an understanding of that technology so you can make it easy for your attendees to participate. 

Here are a few tools you’ll need regardless of the specifics of your virtual event: 

  • Video conferencing or live-streaming tools: To host a live virtual event, you’ll need to use a video conferencing or live-streaming platform. There are nonprofit-specific tools out there, but you can also use a popular platform like Zoom. 
  • Social media platforms: Social media will be helpful for promoting your event, but you can also use it to engage virtual attendees during your event. For example, you might encourage attendees to use Facebook to post a picture of themselves enjoying your virtual TED Talk. Or, you might post live updates about your progress toward your virtual gala’s fundraising goal on Twitter. 
  • Giving tools: Giving tools will empower your supporters to donate to your cause during your event. There are a variety of tools you can use, including an online donation page, text-to-give software, peer-to-peer fundraising pages, and crowdfunding platforms. 

To ensure the technology you’re relying on is ready on event day, have a tech run-through a few days before. This way, you can make sure you come prepared with a Plan B in case something isn’t working.

4. Engage attendees in creative ways.  

We all know how easy it is to tune out when sitting through a virtual meeting, and you might see the same for virtual event attendees. However, you can combat disengagement by getting a little creative in how you involve participants in your event. 

Here are a few of our favorite virtual event ideas to maximize engagement:

  • Allow attendees to introduce themselves, chat about the event, and share their passion for your cause in small breakout rooms. 
  • Use polls and surveys to ask your attendees questions during the event. 
  • Leverage your live-streaming tool’s chat feature to encourage conversation between attendees and your team during the event. 
  • Encourage attendees to post about their experiences at your event on their social media profiles. 

For your virtual event to make an impact on your supporters, they’ll need to feel like they’re a part of it instead of feeling like spectators on the sidelines. You can use these strategies to create natural opportunities to engage your supporters and ensure they’re enjoying themselves, wherever they’re tuning in from!  

Virtual events are great for freshening up your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy and can help you retain your donors’ support, give them convenient ways to engage with your cause, and empower them to give in new ways. 

Use these four virtual event ideas to overcome the challenges of planning a virtual event and set yourself up for success. You can do it!