Whether you're raising money for new uniforms, additions to your music library, or even your next performance tour, every ensemble must be able to throw an effective fundraiser. Unfortunately, the recent coronavirus outbreak has forced many groups to cancel or postpone their scheduled fundraisers. That type of revenue loss can be devastating, but there are other alternatives for ensembles willing to try something a bit more unorthodox — like moving your fundraiser online with a virtual event.
By moving your fundraising event online, your ensemble can avoid missing out on much-needed income while still staying safe and maintaining necessary practices like social distancing. It's easy to feel lonely and isolated right now, but hosting a virtual fundraiser is a great way of staying connected with your group members by working together towards a common goal.
While there are certainly drawbacks to throwing a virtual fundraiser, the biggest benefit is that it doesn't need to conform to standard fundraising practices meaning you have the opportunity to be as creative as you want. You can host on a wide variety of platforms like Zoom, Skype, Facebook Live, and Periscope. You can set up peer-to-peer fundraising pages, which is an effective way to leverage your local network on a limited budget. You can host the event on a single night, or stretch it out over a prolonged period to increase visibility and awareness. There are so many options, but here's what you need to know before getting started.
Virtual fundraisers can be either live-streamed take place over a week or two so donors can engage in their own time. Any virtual event should be paired with a virtual fundraiser, where supporters can donate to your cause. For anybody planning a trip with Encore Tours, this is a great chance to leverage our personal fundraising pages. For everybody else, sites like GoFundMe are valuable resources.
Unlike most fundraisers, online events have less overhead and fewer logistical concerns, which makes them fairly easy to execute. To get started, try hosting a video conference with your ensemble to discuss the duration, themes, and goals for your fundraiser. Once you have settled on a plan, create a branded landing page with information about the event, when it will be taking place, and how supporters can donate. That should be accompanied by a strong social media push across all major platforms to drive traffic to your landing page. By posting across multiple social networks before, during, and after your fundraiser, you can keep supporters engaged throughout the process.
You will want to ensure that you maintain as many elements of a normal fundraiser as possible, however, some of those can be tough to recreate so you will have to be creative. Consider creating a signature cocktail that everybody can easily make at home to build that communal feel. Create a Spotify playlist for a make-shift DJ. Take it one step further by pre-recording video introductions, and posting them onto social media at the appropriate times.
If your virtual fundraiser is replacing a scheduled in-person event, make sure to ask those supporters whether they would be willing to convert their pre-purchased tickets into a donation to your virtual fundraiser. I would suggest offering those donors a special acknowledgment, prize, or raffle entry. You could also consider keeping this event exclusive by limiting access to donors who have purchased a ticket. This will allow your ensemble to keep any funds that have already been raised.
Once you have set up your landing page and the details of your virtual fundraiser are clear, it's time to set fundraising goals. Select your target amount and track your progress throughout the event. Make sure to keep people updated when you hit specific benchmarks along the way in order to maintain excitement and momentum. Acknowledge top donors and make them feel special. Be sure to include any offline donations as well, so all supporters feel included and appreciated.
If your ensemble uses marketing automation software, you could also consider creating an introductory “welcome series” of emails for anybody who registers for your event. The series could include emails detailing your ensemble's story, personal profiles, upcoming events, and any other resource that might be interesting to potential donors.
Looking to incentivize your donors even further? Consider offering different gifts for each donor level, but make sure to be thoughtful about what you're including and look for win-win opportunities. For example, you could partner with local restaurants and purchase gift cards at a discounted rate. Your ensemble would have a great item to give away, and restaurant's facing a dire situation would earn some much-needed income.
Need some inspiration? Here are a few ideas for your next virtual event and fundraiser.
Virtual Event Ideas
It can be difficult to brainstorm online fundraising ideas, and it might feel strange to participate in a fundraising event from the seat of your desk. However, those initial feelings will quickly pass and you will quickly feel the excitement of being reconnected with all of your fellow group members. But what type of event should you throw? Here are a few suggestions.
- Host a Virtual Talent Show: Set up a schedule for all of your group members, and let them perform a song or selection of their choosing. Creating high-quality, full group collaborations online can be extremely difficult, but showcasing individual members of your ensemble is far easier.
- Host a Virtual Open Mic Night: Just like hosting a talent show, this gives members of your ensemble the opportunity to take center stage. However, instead of having a pre-determined schedule for your performers, people would be able to “raise their hands” and volunteer to perform. This makes things a little less predictable, and that's an exciting element to introduce — just make sure that your host fully understands how to use whichever video conferencing software you select since it can be tricky to constantly mute and unmute users.
- Host a Virtual Endurance Contest: This one is fairly unorthodox, but it can also be a lot of fun. Consider creating a challenge that your ensemble members can accomplish within a pre-defined amount of time, and take donations for accomplishing that goal. You can stay safe by setting goals on indoor physical activities, whether you're getting five cents for every push-up, or one dollar for every mile you ride on a stationary bike. As a bonus, these exercises are great for building up endurance and dealing with stress during this difficult time.
- Host a Group Watch Party: Download Metastream or the Netflix Party extension for Chrome and you can have a makeshift movie night. These apps keep the movie synced for all viewers, allow anybody to pause the film at any time, and provides chat functionality. You might not be able to watch in the same room, but you can still re-create the experience of being together.
- Host a “TED Talk” style event: Last week we presented some of our favorite music-related TED Talks, and you could easily duplicate this format for your next fundraiser. Are any of your ensemble members particularly knowledgeable about a certain field? Is there anybody in your network that could present an inspiring speech? Then why not Livestream presentations by different subject-matter experts from the comfort of their own home? They could create a PowerPoint presentation to guide listeners through their story, or simply deliver a speech about their favorite topic. Just make sure to include easily visible donation options somewhere on the page!
- Host a Virtual Auction: There are many different platforms available to run online auctions and raffles which makes this an easy event to take into the virtual world (RallyUp is free and easy to use, but you should also check out Chorus Connection's list of the six best auction platforms). Consider auctioning off live performances, offering naming rights to a new song, or simply selling unneeded household items. This is also an opportunity to partner with a charity or non-profit, and splitting the proceeds from your fundraiser. People will be more receptive to donating if they know that part of the proceeds are going to people that really need it, like a local food bank, the CDP COVID-19 Response Fund, or many other worthy causes.
- Host a Treasure Hunt: In many neighborhoods, children have been hunting for a certain stuffed animal to help make their days a little bit more, excuse the pun, bear-able. To provide kids with an entertaining activity that allows them to maintain social distancing, people have been placing Teddy Bears in their windows as kids embark on a scavenger hunt. Your ensemble could set up a similar scavenger hunt with various musical items located around the neighborhood. Just request a small donation to participate, and offer a small prize to the winner. It's a great way to get some fresh air while staying safe and support a worthy cause.
- Host a Game Night: Whether you want to break into teams or play individually, hosting a game night is a fun and simple option for your virtual event. Games like Charades or Pictionary are easy to play via video conference, but you could just as easily host a trivia night or create a tournament around an online game like Scrabble.
We are living in unprecedented times, and there may not be a perfect solution to the issues facing your ensemble, but that doesn't mean you need to give up entirely. Instead of canceling your fundraiser, try bringing your event online, brainstorming ideas with your group members, and stretching out the event to increase visibility.
Donors don't typically give major gifts online, so think about implementing a strategy that casts a wide net and engages a broader audience. Also, remember that your local community wants to see you succeed, and people will be understanding about your change of direction.
It's important to stay connected, and that's true now more than ever. Using modern technology to host a virtual event and fundraiser isn't just a great way to connect with donors, it's an opportunity to re-connect with your ensemble and share the bond of music. Just remember to have fun, stay active, and always thank your donors.
Do you have any helpful tips or tricks for music directors and educators? If so, we would love to hear them! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.