By Lindsay Johnson, Marketing Team Member at MobileCause, an industry leader in virtual fundraising events and online giving, plus fundraising solutions such as peer-to-peer, text-to-donate and mobile messaging.

We can all agree, 2020 was a doozy of a year, bringing indelible changes to the landscape of fundraising. Yet, nonprofit organizations are resilient and have always risen to the occasion of helping those in need during difficult times. Even now in 2021, amidst continuing coronavirus restrictions, nonprofit fundraising is not only surviving, but thriving. That’s due in large part to the ability to pivot fundraising efforts from in-person to virtual. With a solid year of virtual fundraising under our collective belt, let’s take a look at seven key lessons learned in 2020 to help your nonprofit continue reaching those goals and fighting for its mission.

1) Nonprofits Can Attract Supporters from Around the World

Ever think your fundraising event would bring in supporters from different cities, regions or even countries? Well, 2020 proved it can. When shifting to a virtual, online fundraising event, your nonprofit increases your reach far beyond your immediate community. By going virtual and asking your current supporters to share your campaign and cause widely, your 5K, gala or auction can reach people just about anywhere around the world, helping to advance your cause and bring in more new donors.

2) Nonprofits Can Raise as Much (or More!) as In-Person Fundraising

Virtual fundraising events can raise a lot of money, some even surpass their in-person version. And for those events that don’t quite raise as much virtually as in-person, they still net more due to lower overhead costs.

Combine that with the expanded reach of virtual events as explained in lesson #1 and your nonprofit is on its way to crushing your fundraising goals. SOAR! or Supporting Our Aging Religious (a nonprofit dedicated to raising funds for aging members of Catholic congregations) relies on two important in-person galas each year to support their annual fund, and they increased their net profit for both events when they went virtual in 2020.

3) Your Nonprofit Doesn’t Need to Be Tech-Savvy to Be Successful

Some of the most successful online fundraising events and campaigns have been simple, straightforward and from the heart. Most likely, you already have all the equipment you need to hold a virtual fundraising event, whether livestreamed, pre-recorded or a hybrid of both. While you may need a few pointers on which platforms are best for your unique needs and why, it need not be complicated nor require the use of a production company.

If you’re looking to dispel any nervousness about your tech options, check out our Tech Setup Guide for Virtual Fundraising Events, where we break it all down for you into simple, easy-to-use terms and flow charts.

4) Online Registration for Virtual Events Has Many Benefits

Asking guests to register for your virtual fundraising event lets your nonprofit know who’s planning on attending, so you can do additional outreach to sponsors, major donors, board members and key supporters who haven’t yet RSVP’d.

Online registration also enables your nonprofit to provide direct communications for those who are attending. For example, you can send a reminder email an hour before the event and a text message reminder 15 minutes before starting with the link to join. Lastly, it allows your nonprofit to more effectively segment your donors and personalize your follow-up to supporters to watch the replay and/or view it all over again, to help boost giving.

5) Your Nonprofit Can Still Meaningfully Interact with Supporters

Many nonprofits thought at the very beginning of the pandemic that we would completely lose the ability to interact with others in as meaningful of a way as we do in-person. While there’s no replacing face-to-face contact, there are some excellent workarounds to involve your audience in your virtual event and create moments for personal interaction. You can host a live quiz, have registrants add comments and submit questions for a live Q&A, or give shout outs and responses to comments on your livestream in real-time. All of this helps to build community and create the spark we often only attribute to in-person interactions.

6) Sponsors are Supporting Virtual Events

Whatever your fundraising plans are for 2021, the biggest takeaway from last year is that virtual event fundraising is here to stay and so are digital sponsorships. Going virtual with your events offers your nonprofit real opportunities to expand your reach, build community and boost donations in exciting and effective ways. Despite of, and perhaps even because of, the challenges that arose in 2020, your nonprofit can create new connections and raise the funds your beneficiaries need now more than ever.

7) The Future of Event Fundraising is Virtual

Did you know that 73% of nonprofits are planning to hold virtual or virtual/in-person hybrid fundraisers in 2021? That’s because we now know the fundraising power of going virtual, and there’s no going back. Even when in-person fundraising resumes, you can add virtual components to help increase your reach, include those who can’t attend your event and boost giving before, during and after your event takes place. These are all compelling reasons to embrace virtual fundraising events going forward and see how they can make a difference for your nonprofit.

While we’d all like to move on from the challenges 2020 presented us with, there’s still much to learn in looking back at these positive takeaways. The world has changed, we have changed and our fundraising efforts have followed suit. To learn how to host a successful virtual fundraising event in 2021, watch our on-demand webinar and learn more about MobileCause and our virtual event software.


7 Key Lessons Learned from Virtual Fundraising Events in 2020