For small charities, the planning of a larger scale, offline event could take up half their year, with their limited resources and manpower. Sourcing and booking a venue, inviting guests and pinning down the day’s/night’s itinerary, and arranging enough hands to ensure smooth running are big tasks, and probably the reason why smaller organisations don’t run such offline events very often.
Covid put the spanner in the works for events of this kind, anyway. However, whilst larger organisations will likely pick up their events calendar from where they left off when restrictions eventually lift, this may not be as easy for smaller charities who have spent their energy over the last year simply ensuring their survival.
During this time, online events have proved successful for charities of all sizes, and provided much-needed revenue. Not only have charities found them easier to organise, in comparison to an offline event, they haven’t needed anywhere near as many volunteers/staff members to run them. Virtual events allow organisations to target individual donor groups, and though participators may be few and far between, compared to attendees at a lavish annual dinner, for example, those tuning in tend to be committed to donating/getting involved. And, because they’re easier to organise, virtual events can occur more frequently and cover a host of different formats, e.g. comedy hours, raffles/tombolas, murder-mystery dinners, music gigs, etc.
Now that we are (hopefully) coming through the other side of the tunnel, in terms of the pandemic, and having the flexibility to organise offline charity events once again, is it a case of ‘back to normality’? Will small charities revert to their original plans and techniques for raising funds?
Generally, in the business world, event planners are taking a hybrid approach. Given that, even when restrictions lift, there may still be regulations to follow with regards to attendee numbers at offline events, it may take a while for large events and seminars to go ahead in the same manner as they did before. For this reason alone, most planners are anticipating the inclusion of virtual audiences at offline events. By doing this, the location of the attendee becomes irrelevant, which opens up the event to even more people.
Virtual events are unaffected by the shenanigans of the Covid virus. They’re not just convenient for their organisers, they can fit around donors’/attendees’ schedules and can be accessed from their armchair.
There’s also the consideration of how someone donates when assessing your events calendar. If you were the type of organisation that, pre-pandemic, relied on income from small-scale events—such as supermarket bag-packing, car washes, raffles, tin shaking outside shops and school fetes—you may find these aren’t as lucrative, post-Covid, because of the jumps we’ve made to become a cashless society. The digital gap has narrowed significantly, and even those who always had some spare change on them may not have bothered to fill their pockets for more than a year. If people don’t carry cash, these types of events will almost certainly be affected.
Donating via their debit card is certainly less of a jump for people to consider in 2021 but securing funds this way is still a harder sell than asking for the coppers from their purse. Whilst Covid has brought these new challenges, these changes in our habits are likely to stay with us, which surely means an overhaul by most charities when it comes to their fundraising strategy from this point onwards. Their previous techniques and types of events may not be suited to the donors of today.
Don’t worry if this is completely new to your organisation. I’ve plenty of experience and I can help you assess, address and finesse your events and fundraising strategies.
Given how much planning is involved with offline events, it makes sense to look at your goals now. Don’t leave it to the last minute, even if it may seem premature to book venues and caterers before the world formally emerges from its hibernation. You can always work on a back-up plan, should the virus take another drastic turn that stops your event unfolding as you’d hope.
By waiting, you risk:
a lack of income in the interim
the possibility that everywhere will be booked up when you do decide to put plans in place
your cause being forgotten by your donors
the failure to adapt to new ways of working
your rivals poaching your donors’ goodwill and loyalty
Incorporating a hybrid approach within your events strategy would be a wise move. The world has moved on and become much more digital in the process. Plenty of charities have tried virtual events during the various lockdown periods and their success means no going back. People like them. It doesn’t make sense, practically, financially and logically, for any charity to dismiss them completely. If you haven’t held a virtual event yet, and you want to keep up with the rest of the third sector, it’s certainly time you did.
A new fundraising strategy, adapted to suit the bold, new world we’re living in, is an opportunity to gain new ground. As before, don’t worry if it sounds far from your comfort zone—I can hold your hand and help by whatever means necessary.