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2021 Fundraising Trends: How to Make Virtual Events Work for Your Organization

What are the top 2021 fundraising trends?

I talk a lot about the idea of understanding your ‘core offerings’ to funders. This isn’t about old-school donor-centric models. It’s about creating experiences based on the perspectives and through the ‘lenses’ of everyone involved.

What I mean by your core offering is: 

  • What is at the heart and soul of the invitation you’re making? 
  • Why do people give to your organization or participate in a certain thing?

Now let’s be clear, the core offerings can be something different for individuals, foundations, and corporate partners.

But what’s incredibly important about understanding your core offerings – the core emotions that you elicit when inviting people to participate – is that it allows you to design around those experiences, the emotional experiences, in a variety of different ways.

The reason why so many organizations had a hard time planning virtual events in 2020, is because they focused on planning those virtual events around the logistics of previous in-person fundraising events.

But the logistics of your fundraising events are not what drive Power Partners to join or encourage them to give. The logistics are not the engagement method.

Now, you might say well Mallory when board members bring people to our in-person events they give $50 during the paddle pledge. True. I’m not saying that logistics don’t play ANY role in your fundraising effort, but they aren’t what INSPIRE people to be involved. They aren’t the driver, they are the secondary output. And, most importantly, they don’t lead to sustainability and reliable revenue (everything I preach about in the Power Partners Formula) because 

Let me explain. The actual Power Partners are those Board members, right? Hopefully. So, your Board members invited their friends to be a part of the event because the event made them feel proud of supporting your organization. I think we can all agree that they didn’t invite their friends to the event because there was a paddle pledge!

So the question you want to ask yourself to tap into the core offering is this:

Why does that event (the old in-person event where they invited their friends) make our Board members feel proud?

The answer to THAT question is what you want to design around. So let’s think through some examples of what can make a Board member feel proud at an event:

  • they get to introduce their friends to other amazing board members, use it as a networking opportunity for their circle
  • They get to show off the great work that your organization is doing because the keynote speaker is always really engaging and inspiring
  • They are proud of where the money is going because recipients /program participants sit at all of the tables and they love watching their friends get inspired

I could go on and on.

But I think you get the point.

When you get to the core – the root of why a certain type of funder engages – then you can let go of a million different virtual event ideas and do the things that people are really there for.

  • Find a virtual platform that has great networking capabilities if that’s the core desire
  • Find a platform that allows for authentic engagement with program recipients, maybe breakout rooms used as ‘table groups’
  • Host a watch party for a compelling and engaging keynote

And then, follow up with an ask structure that aligns with the core experience you just created.

  • Great networking events have huge sponsorship potential
  • Text-to-give table competitions can go really well when the event has been built around intimate table community building
  • A keynote can end with a big public virtual paddle pledge because everyone is excited and motivated

Whether you realized it or not, if you were planning an effective in-person fundraiser it’s because you were tapping into these core offerings in the format that you had it in.

Therefore, the reason why you weren’t able to convert it into an effective virtual event is that you re-shaped the event based on your perspective of the logistics, instead of the core experience of your guests and funders.

Checkout my podcast, “What the Fundraising” to get insider scoops on what’s trending in 2021.

Tell me about how you can apply this new framework to your upcoming events and how you’re leaning into some of these top 2021 fundraising trends! And if you want my Corporate Sponsorship and Event Toolkit with all my templates, make sure to come to my FREE webinar about How to Raise More from the Right Funders WITHOUT Obnoxiously Hounding Them because I’m giving it away during the course! 

For more of my favorite fundraising tips and tricks, check out my Resource page! Here, you can find relevant articles, webinars, quizzes, etc. about fundraising in the nonprofit sector. In addition, you can subscribe to What the Fundraising for ongoing conversations about how you can fundamentally change the way you lead and fundraise. And to learn how to raise more from the right funders using the Power Partners Formula, you are always welcome to join one of my free Masterclasses at malloryerickson.com/free.

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