By Christy Noel, Vice President of Digital Fundraising Services at MobileCause


In the new world of social distancing and limited in-person gatherings, nonprofits everywhere are embracing virtual fundraising events and campaigns. Hosting virtual fundraising events is new to many nonprofits and can, therefore, make those in charge feel a bit intimidated, especially if they don’t define themselves as particularly “tech-savvy.” If that’s you, do not fear. With today’s technology it’s pretty easy and straightforward to host an impressive virtual event or campaign. The trick is knowing which tools to use that will make all the pieces come together and create a polished, powerful, and successful virtual fundraising event.

Here to get you going are the essential tech elements you’ll need, plus a few tips and tricks on how to maximize their use, for a successful virtual fundraiser that helps you raise more donations and reach more supporters.

Streaming Platform

You’ll need a livestream platform for your virtual event if you are going to broadcast videos, live presentations, a combination of both, or if you want to pre-record a presentation but still make it appear live.

Livestream platforms include Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Vimeo Live, and Instagram Live. All are free to use for the basic service. “Attendees” can watch your live event on YouTube and Vimeo without being subscribers to the platform. Same with Facebook if you stream from your organization’s Facebook page, rather than an individual’s page. If you use Instagram Live, the viewer will need to be an Instagram subscriber to view your virtual event. YouTube Live and Facebook Live provide the easiest options to save and share the event after the live broadcast and are probably the platforms with which most nonprofits will be comfortable.

Want to control who watches your virtual event and make it available to only certain people? Start by selling tickets or capturing event registrations. YouTube and Vimeo offer the option to provide a passcode to watch live or a video on their platform. Another option is to create a Facebook Group and invite-only registrants into it. The viewer will need to be a Facebook user in order to watch your Facebook Live from a group.

Want to control who watches your virtual event and make it available to only certain people? Start by selling tickets or capturing event registrations. YouTube and Vimeo offer the option to provide a passcode to watch live or a video on their platform. Another option is to create a Facebook Group and invite-only registrants into it. The viewer will need to be a Facebook user in order to watch your Facebook Live from a group.

Streaming on Multiple Platforms 

Looking to stream your virtual event on more than one platform? You can use multiple devices to stream to multiple platforms, but you will need one dedicated device (computer, tablet, or phone) for each different platform. With this option, the presenters will need to look directly at the different devices throughout the presentation to have “eye contact” with the audience. But as they are looking at one device, the other device will not have direct eye contact. If the presenter looks at one device the entire time, the other device(s) will have a different angle. For some situations, this can be a fine solution that allows you to reach more of your audience at the same time.

There are services and software that enable you to easily use one device to stream on multiple social media platforms at the same time. These services also enable you to pre-produce your presentation and then simultaneously broadcast it across multiple platforms so that it appears to be live. These options typically support Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn, but not Instagram. Restream, Be.Live, and StreamYard are three of several providers that offer free and inexpensive options, depending upon your requirements. Vimeo has an elevated plan with the option to livestream on multiple platforms. Using a service to support the restream or multicast of your virtual event streamlines your presentation and reduces the number of devices and platforms you’ll need working all at once.

Believe Big used Restream to stream their virtual event on
YouTube and Facebook Live simultaneously.

Screensharing Service

If you plan to include slides, videos, more than one presenter, and/or multiple screens in your virtual event, you’ll also need screen sharing software. Videoconferencing and webinar services such as Zoom, Demio, and GoToWebinar, support switching between multiple screens so you can support a variety of content and/or presenters. It’s worth noting that there is a cost associated with video conferencing and webinar software that varies by provider, features, number of attendees, and more.

Depending upon the videoconference or webinar platform, you may have the option to share one screen and switch presenters, which means one computer will run the content of your entire event, but the presenter can control the slides. There is also the option to change devices that are running the presentation, where each presenter would have content for their portion on their own device and the presentation would switch from one device to the other. This feature will give you more options for content, but also increases the chances of glitches. Be sure you understand the pros and cons for each option and you run a practice session switching between content before going live.

Text-to-Donate

Since this is a virtual event, you won’t be able to accept checks or swipe cards for your donors during it. Text-to-donate is a convenient mobile fundraising method that allows donors to text a designated keyword to a short phone number (shortcode) and donate any amount to your organization, anytime and anywhere. With MobileCause, nonprofits create a branded keyword that reflects and reinforces their cause or event.

Text-to-donate makes it simple to provide your giving call-to-action throughout your virtual event. Simply remind viewers of your keyword and shortcode throughout the broadcast and include it as an overlay on videos and images. StreamYard is a great service for easily adding overlay banners with custom text-to-donate info to your livestream video.

Event Page

A virtual event can have a lot of moving pieces to manage. Creating an Event Page streamlines your efforts by placing all the important information, including the livestream itself, in a single mobile-responsive web page and URL. It acts as the central hub for both you and your donors by providing all the important information about your virtual event in one place, including call-to-action buttons for giving, sponsoring, supporting, volunteering and more.

Including the link for your livestream or video(s) in an Event Page makes it easy for donors to find and watch after your live event and remains easy to access for days, weeks, months to come without getting lost in the social media algorithm. Additional aspects of an Event Page to help motivate giving and participation from your audience during your virtual event are your impact metrics, a donor wall and/or progress circle to display the total amount raised, number of donors, names of donors, and progress towards your fundraising goal.

These tech elements will help you lay the groundwork for a smooth-running virtual fundraiser that keeps your audience engaged, excited, and motivated to give. They can help you reach more donors, support your beneficiaries and continue the fight to achieve your mission.


Wondering what to say and do during your virtual fundraising event? Check out MobileCause’s 5 Steps to the Perfect Virtual Fundraising Event Program eBook on how to build a dynamic virtual event program that draws viewers in and motivates giving. You’ll even get a handy, printable virtual event program checklist to help you stay organized before, during and after your fundraiser.

The Essential Tech Elements for Virtual Fundraising Events