With a global pandemic sweeping through the globe, virtual events have become the new normal. For much of 2020, offices, retail outlets, gymnasiums, and other public centers closed down as every country worldwide put lockdown regulations in place to enforce social distancing and keep their citizens safe. This new reality ushered in a transition from face-to-face interactions to virtual engagements.
As such, several businesses shifted to the digital space to reach and connect with their consumer base. However, while this move was straightforward for some, others found it a bit challenging. For example, not-for-profit organizations, who thrive off in-person events like fundraising dinners and charity art shows, struggled to find ways to interact with donors, sponsors, and volunteers online.
This article will provide some virtual engagement tips to help these philanthropic organizations connect with their members and continue their community-oriented activities despite the restrictions on in-person gatherings. Here are some of our recommendations:
12 Surefire Virtual Engagement Tips for Nonprofits
1. Be Clear and Empathetic In Communication
The last one year has been quite challenging for everyone, as we battled circumstances that we've probably never faced in our lifetimes. As such, it's crucial that as you reach out to your sponsors and donors online, you do so from a place of empathy.
Empathetic communication lets your members know that, beyond their participation in community projects with your organization, you care about their wellbeing and the various challenges they face during the pandemic. You can also use these interactions to ask them about their opinions, concerns, and thoughts about ongoing and future projects and how you can address them together.
2. Analyze Data and Do More of What Works
Several charity organizations have found ways to navigate the pandemic's harsh effects and continue their community engagements. It would help if you carried out due diligence to find out how these institutions have kept going.
Reach out to some of them who are a part of your network and find out what has been working for them and how they've managed to stay in touch with their partners and continue their philanthropic projects. Virtual feedback sessions are one way to get the conversation on ideas going among your colleagues in the industry. You could also experiment with some digital engagement campaigns across your group's social media, blog, and website, analyze the results, and do more of the methods and techniques that were successful.
3. Create Meaningful Opportunities for Connection
It's essential to create opportunities for your sponsors, volunteers, and other group members to connect and interact while they're stuck at home. Regular summits, happy hour sessions, breakout sessions at large meetings, and coffee chats with high-profile staff are the best way to do this.
4. Make It Educational and Add Value
Valuable, educational content should form a core part of your interactive sessions. Live stream cooking classes, fitness lessons, and informative Q&A sessions with your volunteers and sponsors are some of the programs you can incorporate into your virtual meetings. These educational sessions can help your members navigate the stay-at-home regulations that have crippled their everyday social activities.
Furthermore, ensure the educational content you bring into your virtual meetings aligns with your foundation's mission. For example, Food for Life Global focuses on combating child hunger by providing vegan food for hungry children worldwide. As such, incorporating classes on cooking healthy meals makes sense for us.
5. Build a Niche Community
Virtual niche communities are an excellent way to foster interaction and accountability among members of your non-profit. You can separate volunteers and partners into different groups to keep in touch and check-in with one another alongside tracking their progress and milestones during community projects.
6. Keep It Interesting and Engaging
When it comes to online engagement, it's always crucial to add some fun to the mix. Make things exciting by incorporating activities like bumper sticker contests, word story competitions, Instagram photography challenges, and reading lists. These initiatives help create opportunities for active interactions between your supporters and volunteers.
7. Create Experiences
One of the best engagement tips for virtual events is to incorporate content that creates immersive experiences for guests. For example, if you're organizing an online summit or conference to end child hunger for your charity organization, you could include virtual tours, music performances, fitness classes, and workshops as part of the line-up for the program.
These activities are engaging and create a memorable experience for your guests. For example, at Food for Life, we organized the Come Alive Summit, a virtual event that provided an immersive experience for our partners through 12 hours of engaging and interactive content.
8. Highlight People
As we go through these tough times together, appreciating the volunteers and donors who have been at the forefront of community projects for your organization before and during the pandemic is essential. Charities exist to improve lives and make the world a better place. By celebrating your partners, you give them an opportunity to also experience your humanitarian work.
You could hold special shout-outs during online meetings or start a sponsor of the month award across your group's social media accounts. If you have the email address of some of your members, then private mails to show your gratitude can also go a long way. You could even highlight people who are impacted by your work. This provides a humane and empathetic angle in a virtual platform which is often missing.
9. Collaborate With Different Stakeholders
Getting different stakeholders to participate in your online events is another terrific virtual engagement tip. You could invite high-profile musicians, artists, and industry leaders from various fields that support your cause to address your partners during your online events.
10. Take Help from the Volunteer Network
While it may be tempting to do everything yourself, it's usually best you don't try to go it alone. Instead, enlist the help of some of your volunteers and team members to help you brainstorm, plan, and organize your nonprofit's virtual activities.
Ask them for help and allow them to handle sessions where they interact with other partners and group members. This way, you do not overwhelm yourself with too many tasks. You also deepen the connection between volunteers, donors, members, and partners, as they get to interact with each other rather than just you.
11. Create Content
Educating social media content is a great tool to foster engagement and interaction among your organization's partners. While you may not always hold virtual meetings, you can still create enriching content across your group's social media platforms that showcase your mission and past/ongoing projects.
Fortunately, there are several formats to choose from, including images, videos, graphics, and texts. As such, you can be versatile in the type of content you create to encourage interaction among volunteers and sponsors. Analyse the data to figure out the kind of digital content that will drive engagement for your foundation and build around that.
12. Raise Money for Charity Online
For non-profits, raising money for philanthropic projects has always involved in-person events. However, with lockdown restrictions keeping most sponsors and donors at home, it has become imperative to find ways to raise funds for community projects through the virtual space. For your organization, you could organize online fundraising events where guests make donations despite being physically absent.
You could also come up with fundraising ideas that may not involve virtual events. An example is our non-profit Food for Life Global, the largest vegan food relief organization, allowing donors to contribute to its Disaster Relief Programs through its website.
While lockdown regulations have hindered much of the activities of non-profits, there are still opportunities for meaningful engagements, interactions, and philanthropic work using the virtual space. With the tips in this article, your charity organization can stay active while the world navigates its way out of the coronavirus pandemic.