8 Virtual Event Ideas for Nonprofits

8 Virtual Event Ideas for Nonprofits

As you adapt your programming to an increasingly digital world, virtual events can help you reach—or even surpass—your fundraising and marketing goals for this year and beyond. They’re also a great way to raise awareness, foster a sense of community, and get people talking about your organization, so if you haven’t experimented with them yet, now is a great time to start. 

In Events and Groups on LinkedIn: A guide for nonprofits, we share tips and best practices to help you get started hosting virtual events using LinkedIn Events and LinkedIn Live. The format and content of these events run the gamut, so there’s no limit to what you can achieve. Here are a few ideas to get those creative juices flowing.

1. Host a fireside chat with a leader or ambassador

After months of zoning out in front of Netflix, your supporters likely crave interesting updates or insights into causes and institutions they care about. Quench this thirst by hosting a virtual fireside chat with a key executive on your team or a recognizable ambassador who can drive traffic. These intimate conversations are the perfect opportunity to share more about your mission and future goals, especially amidst the pandemic, while also helping you connect on a deeper level with your audience.

2. Stream a concert or performance

With in-person performances on pause, some arts organizations have reached fans far and wide with streamed performances of past shows. In doing so, they’re able to share their mission and work with people who may not live nearby or who desperately miss the feeling of sitting in a crowded theatre as the lights dim. In some cases, you may be able to charge for the performance to fuel your fundraising, or you can use it as an opportunity to grow your email subscriber list. Manhattan Theatre Club, San Francisco Opera, and BalletMet are just a few examples of cultural landmarks currently building robust virtual libraries for fans to enjoy from the comfort of home.

3. Announce a new partnership live

An illustration of a woman sitting at a desk and waving while on a video call.

Reaching and engaging supporters live is now easier than ever, especially when using a platform like LinkedIn Live that garners, on average, seven times more reactions than native videos. These streams allow you to share information and answer questions in real time. This makes them the perfect place to announce updates, like new partnerships or innovations, and interact directly with your supporters.

4. Host an auction

If eBay has taught us anything, it’s that online auctions can be just as thrilling as in-person ones. Using digital platforms, you can easily host auctions with donated goods or services, like a virtual cooking class or a hamper of locally sourced foods, to engage supporters and raise vital funds. Enlist local businesses, partners, and supporters to donate something to the auction, and keep an eye out as the bids start rolling in. DC Central Kitchen is one organization that has seen success with this approach, hosting a star-studded online auction featuring autographed sports memorabilia and more.

5. Organize a virtual walk or race

In recent years, virtual walks and races have become more and more popular—particularly during the age of social distancing. Taking these community events online allows people from all over the world to participate at their own pace and along their favorite paths, meaning sign-ups won’t be limited by location. Organizations like Hope for Haiti, Colorectal Cancer Alliance, A Moment of Magic Foundation, PHN Charitable Foundation, and the American Red Cross have all launched virtual walks, hikes, and runs to great success. And thanks to social media, participants can share photos and videos using your designated hashtag—building a sense of togetherness from afar.   

6. Invite guests to a virtual gala

Dust off your coattails and gowns and forget about canceling your annual fundraising gala—host it virtually instead. Online galas allow you to plan the speakers, programming, and entertainment as you normally would, but offer a wider reach—and more comfortable shoes—for those in attendance. In addition to networking and connecting with your organization, galas are an opportunity to share your goals for the next year and raise much-needed funds to help you make it happen. For inspiration, Washington Environmental Council recently hosted their annual gala virtually—raising more than $275,000 in the process. 

7. Offer virtual tours

If you fundraise for a physical location—be it a landmark building, a museum, or another historical site—consider hosting a virtual tour for supporters to see behind the scenes or visit you from home. Great examples of this in practice include The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “primers,” which give insight into current exhibitions, and Lexington Historical Society, which offers tours of several historic homes in Massachusetts. These tours can also be marketed to teachers eager to take students on a field trip, albeit virtually. 

8. Request food donations virtually

Virtual food drives take the heavy boxes of canned goods out of the equation and ask supporters to donate money to food banks directly, which can then be used to buy food—often at a lower price than you would typically get at the grocery store. If your organization normally accepts food donations, digitizing can also free up valuable time for your staff that would be spent collecting and sifting through boxes. 

Of course, these ideas are only a few of the many ways you can take your events virtual. Be creative, keep your mission front and center, and remember to keep your supporters updated about the events you’re hosting. For more tips and insights to help you host a successful virtual event, download Events and Groups on LinkedIn: A guide for nonprofits today.

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