Despite virtual events getting less supporter engagement, they are here to stay!
Last month, The Fundraiser sent out a survey to find out what the outlook is for fundraising events for 2021 and beyond. We received responses from over 120 individuals responsible for fundraising events, sharing some interesting trends and insights.
Virtual fundraising is here to stay
Over 70% of charities surveyed are now running virtual events as a result of the pandemic, with many using this format for the first time. And it looks likes digital events are here to stay with nearly all but one of these charities intending to continue running virtual events post Covid-19.
Event fundraisers commented that there are clear differences between virtual and live events, and charities can benefit from running a mixture of both formats. Virtual events have no geographical restrictions and brought supporters who would never have attended live events. Virtual on-demand events can also add flexibility for people who are juggling work and personal commitments; further benefits include the ability to widen the net and engage people from a much wider circle due to the low cost but keep the excitement of live events as soon as they are able.
Several charities are moving to online-only events in the future; with 13% of respondents not returning to live events due to shorter-term concerns about mixing but also longer-term considerations around lack of appetite for live events especially those charities that are largely focused on attracting older generations. The most popular platforms being used are Zoom, MS Teams, and Facebook live. YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitch, and Crowdcast are also being adopted to a lesser degree.
Legacy fundraising tells a different story; only 9% of charities have carried out virtual legacy events, most likely due to the sensitive nature of asking for legacies at this time. Whereas a small number of charities have chosen this route, a significant amount of time and resource has been spent in planning this approach. With many charities strapped for resources and fundraisers on furlough, virtual legacy fundraising has not have been a priority.
Strong support for live events remains
Despite the success of virtual events, 2/3 of charities have experienced a decrease in their event income over the last year, with most of the remainder staying the same and a very small number increasing their overall event income through virtual events.
Unsurprisingly, there is still strong support for live events as a successful means of bringing communities back together to enjoy activities, and share experiences and information. Fundraisers commented that people are more compelled to support their charity during or after a live event and 41% of participants have seen a decrease in supporter engagement from virtual events in comparison to live events. There is also the opinion that it is important to meet potential supporters face to face to fully understand their motivations and gauge whether it is appropriate to make a direct ask for support. A small number of charities also commented that their events practically require hands-on engagement so they will never be able to move to virtual events.
For the 27% of event fundraisers who have not transitioned to digital, the main reasons were lack of expertise or access to the necessary tech, lack of time and resources. For other charities there is not enough appetite for virtual events in their supporter bases or events are not a key component of their fundraising strategy. There was also the consideration that charities don't want to be making difficult asks through live or virtual events during the pandemic.
How important is event fundraising to charities in the longer term?
For many charities, it’s too early to tell, as they are still defining what the longer-term strategy will be. The long-term efficacy of the vaccine and appetite for attending larger live events are still unknown and these factors are critical to decision making.
The Fundraiser events survey results show that many charities are looking at a continued, accelerated programme for moving to digital for all forms of fundraising, including increasing virtual events which many see becoming a regular income stream. And fundraisers are looking at building their online events for new audiences to grow this revenue stream.
For charities moving away from events altogether, they are looking at replacing this income stream with other sources of income, namely regular digital giving such as direct debits, increased applications to trusts and foundations, and more corporate partnerships. There is also a clear increased focus on building their audiences online and engaging their supporters through regular email communications and social media.
Thank you to all charities participating in The Fundraiser events survey.