3 Tips for a Successful Virtual School Fundraiser

As schools are returning for the Spring 2021 semester, many are remaining in an entirely virtual or hybrid setting. This school year has brought forth many challenges of how to effectively involve the school community, as well as provide support for the students and staff.

Schools that have moved to a virtual setting during COVID must adjust their activities accordingly, including fundraising efforts. Especially in such uncertain circumstances, school fundraising is crucial for providing funding for new accommodations. The catch is, virtual fundraisers require unique or brand new strategies to be pulled off successfully. In addition, it’s crucial to have an effective marketing plan in place. With this information, going virtual can be an easy transition!

At 99Pledges, we’ve helped numerous schools take on all kinds of social-distanced fundraising challenges with effectiveness and ease. We’ve also accounted for issues schools may encounter when transitioning from in-person to virtual events. To help your school plan a successful virtual fundraiser, we’ve put together a list of things to consider when hosting one for your school. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Deciding on an idea for your event
  • Planning out the fundraiser
  • Marketing to your school’s community

Remember, just because it’s crucial to remain distanced for such events, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your goals as a school. These events will ensure safety for your community members while providing a memorable event that involves the entire family. Let’s get started on how to move your fundraiser online.

Deciding on an idea for your fundraiser

With COVID, it can put pressure on your team to keep participants engaged if they can’t physically gather to support your cause. How will your school most effectively host an event for the whole family while in a virtual setting? 

Thankfully, there are many ways to plan a fun, yet fully virtual school fundraising event! The 99Pledges guide to school fundraising ideas offers a range of events to kickstart your team’s brainstorming. Our favorites include: 

  • A walkathon where walkers pick their own course to complete during a designated timeframe
  • A read-a-thon that can be logged online
  • A talent show made of videos to be voted on by your school community
  • A raffle that can be tuned into from home

Each of these events can keep your students and families safe and distanced from others. There are a lot of helpful online resources for specific events. For example, a walkathon can be planned and tracked through a running app (or logged manually through the honor system if needed). Therefore, participants can walk their own course but remain a part of a team effort to raise money.

We recommend taking a pledge approach to your school fundraisers because these campaigns are more engaging for students and will help you reach a wider audience. Pledge fundraisers are campaigns in which your participants gather support on their individual donor pages through pledges from their friends and family. Easy as that!

Remember, this step of the process can be tricky, but it can be a creative exercise to see which fundraising event ideas you can turn into online activities. Online guides such as the ones in this section are great places to start when your team needs extra inspiration!

Planning your event

Now that you’ve chosen which idea you want to go with for your fundraiser, your school must use best practices for smart virtual fundraising

Learning these tips now will serve your organization in the future. That’s because virtual fundraising events will likely remain a trend because of the wide range of benefits they offer, chief among them being cost-effectiveness and the ability to reach larger audiences. Here’s how to set one up.

First, choose your fundraising software. You’ll want to look for a platform that helps keep incoming contributions organized and offers donors a streamlined donation process. For instance, with the 99Pledges fundraising platform, your school can create a campaign page to serve as the main event hub. Then, each participant will be set up with their own fundraising pages that connect to your primary page. Your software should make it easy for donors to pledge money and for your participants to track their progress on their pages. The pledges will turn into fundraising dollars for your school after your event.

Then, strategize your campaign approach based on past event data. This can come from your records on who has contributed to your school in the past, who has participated in events, and how people found out about your fundraiser. Such information can help you ask strategic questions to propel your virtual event forwards such as:

  • What platforms of promotion lead to more first time engagements?
  • What were key motivators to donate in the past?
  • How do your donors prefer to give?
  • When are the best times to post on social media, or send an email?

With those things considered, be sure you’re taking advantage of the data your chosen software can collect. In a completely virtual setting, you can use new data about who donated, how they found your page, and more detailed information to develop a strategy for future events. 

Marketing your virtual school fundraiser

Now that your event has a concrete plan of action, your marketing timeline must attract support before, during, and after the virtual event.

Effective event marketing sets your school up for success in interacting with your supporters as well as your larger community. It’s an excellent opportunity to tell people about your school’s efforts and mission, and it establishes rapport in your community. In promoting your virtual event, consider the following steps:

Have your volunteers help spread the word.

Empower those who are already passionate about your cause to spread the word about your virtual event. Your volunteer base already has multiple networks they can pull support from including social and professional. Their friends and family are likely to donate because they see their loved one caring about your mission and will want to help. If your school is looking for great ambassadors consider the following groups:

  • School board members – These figures in your community are already dedicated supporters of your school and its efforts. Their promotion will reach large professional networks, especially those who are involved in education. 
  • Parent volunteers – These parents have likely participated in multiple school events, and they have a personal connection to your cause—the student. They are accustomed to devoting time and effort to your school, and their social networks involve local families and relatives who also have a personal connection to the student.

Your school’s ambassadors and volunteers can easily direct their networks straight to the relevant fundraising page, which will help your event tremendously. To empower them to do so, consider incentivizing them with special rewards, like a thank-you event or a free t-shirt. Appreciation goes a long way for volunteers.

Use the right platforms to communicate your message.

Once you find the right volunteers to market your virtual fundraiser, provide them with the right messaging tactics. Supply them with the right materials and tips for best practices.  For example, refer them to a Fundraising Letters donation request template to ensure a unified message. You’ll reach a larger audience of potential donors in no time.

Regardless of the platform, make sure your mission’s message is clear. Your call to action should lead donors to the correct webpages for your virtual event. If supplementing your fundraiser with an interactive event, the details of when and where to find it should be included as well. 

Then, consider which channels are most effective for your marketing strategy. Use multiple outlets to spread the word to a wide audience of potential contributors. This can include both digital and print mediums. Just be sure to use the platforms that are most relevant to the segments you’re trying to target. For example, if your previous donors frequently engage with your school’s emails, consider ways to personalize your email marketing most effectively. 

Other marketing channels can include:

  • Social media posts
  • Digital newsletters
  • Text updates
  • Direct mail
  • Handouts to students
  • Community bulletin boards

Just remember, the most effective marketing strategy across multiple platforms will help you reach a broader audience beyond just your students and their parents.

Although fundraising events adjusted to a virtual setting this year, it doesn’t mean your school has to sacrifice its goals. Remaining flexible as an organization is key for planning a virtual event during the COVID era. 

Build your teamwork skills by deciding on a creative virtual event idea. Then, use best practices to plan your event and strategies for fundraising. Finally, empower the members of your school community to help market your efforts. With these tips in mind, you’ll have a memorable and successful virtual school fundraiser!

Promoting Your Virtual Volunteer Opportunities: 4 Pro Tips

With people and organizations moving to the virtual landscape in the COVID era, there are new ways to empower and engage your supporters. Whether you’re looking to increase virtual event attendance or expand your volunteer base, developing a volunteer management strategy tailored to attracting online engagement is crucial.

In the digital age, effectively promoting your virtual fundraising opportunities is essential for mobilizing people to support your organization’s mission. 

Effectively managing your volunteers has a beneficial payoff for your organization. With a well-planned strategy comes increased engagement, meaningful relationships with your volunteers and community, and boosts to revenue over time. Plus, developing a strong plan will save your team time and expand your events’ turnout. 

Surprisingly, many growing organizations neglect developing a concrete promotional strategy for their volunteer programming. This component is often overlooked due to other priorities taking precedence. Some consider it to take too much time to address, or sometimes volunteer management is an issue not yet on their radar. However, remember that your organization can get ahead and grow your impact by making effective volunteer engagement and management a point of focus. 

Because virtual volunteering is at the forefront of an organization’s recruitment strategies and has staying power, it is a worthwhile endeavor. Digital platforms reach a broad audience regardless of location and can exponentially grow your organization’s reach. However, effectively promoting these opportunities is the challenge, as virtual volunteer involvement is still new for many supporters. 

Here’s what to consider when forming your strategy for promoting volunteer opportunities:

  • Using dedicated volunteer management software.
  • Tapping into the power of peer-to-peer recruiting.
  • Taking a targeted approach to marketing.
  • Promoting new ways for volunteers to grow their impact. 

This year, aim to seek out new ways for your organization to stand out online. Promote your organization’s opportunities strategically while forming meaningful connections with those who support you. Here’s how to promote your nonprofit’s virtual volunteering opportunities to your online audience of supporters. 

Use dedicated volunteer management software.

Anchoring your recruitment efforts with dedicated volunteer management software is a crucial aspect of your growth in the digital age. This software simplifies the management of those who volunteer with and support your mission. It will also provide invaluable data by tracking volunteer engagement. 

With this information, it’ll be easier to refine your marketing strategies over time by showing you what does and doesn’t work to attract and engage new volunteers. The long-term value of investing in management software is beneficial as it helps your organization increase volunteer engagement and retention to better support your cause.

For example, tracking engagement data can help you discover:

  • Which marketing outlets most effectively attract volunteers
  • Trends in volunteer feedback
  • Common characteristics of your most engaged volunteers

With these crucial metrics at your fingertips, your organization has untapped growth potential. Reading into trends and understanding behaviors will help you place your promotional efforts in the right place at the right time.

For instance, if you find that social media is your most effective source for volunteers for a particular type of virtual volunteer opportunity, you can anchor your future outreach strategies with social media. Or, if you find that volunteer sign-ups dropped for a recent event or campaign, you can look back to your marketing strategies to see exactly where your promotional efforts underperformed.

Tap into the power of peer-to-peer recruiting.

Your current volunteers are some of your most valuable assets when it comes to recruiting new volunteers. Provide them with the right tools to recruit volunteers to support your cause! Whether it’s on-the-ground or virtual support, every member is a crucial part of your organization and can act as a powerful ambassador when equipped for the job.

An effective way to gain traction with potential volunteers is through digital communication. This can take many forms on a variety of platforms. Encourage your volunteers to actively share their experiences on their social media platforms and by digital word of mouth; texting.

You want to ensure that your volunteers provide valid links to connect potential supporters with your online pages. Volunteer opportunity networks (like Mobilize) also help with this task too. It provides your volunteers with easy social share buttons and copy-and-paste codes to share via text or email. 

Be sure to include your organization’s social media handles as a point of contact, as well. Here, you might offer a range of engaging content:

  • Testimonials and stories from past volunteers
  • Impact reports and photos or videos of previous volunteer events
  • Volunteer shout-outs
  • The general buzz and conversation around your mission and work

Through social media, potential volunteers can get an accurate and immersive look into what it would be like to volunteer for your organization. Be sure to work these into your broader social media strategies to see the best results over time.

Finally, thank your volunteers for spreading the word. People respond well to appreciation and will be compelled to keep recruiting on your behalf. This directory of thank-you templates from Good United is a handy resource to get started. 

Take a targeted approach to marketing.

In the last year, marketing communication has shifted largely online, especially with people working from home. This sudden change forces nonprofits to rethink communication strategies, especially their approaches to marketing their events and efforts to their volunteers. 

Just as your organization has altered its strategy for communicating with employees internally, make sure your external communication to volunteers is also following today’s best practices. To stand out in a crowded online space, targeting your message specifically to them will be your best bet.

Start by refining your email strategies. With email being a cornerstone of digital communication, messages that seem irrelevant or spammy are much more likely to get ignored by your volunteers. Combat this by keeping your end-user in mind. Write your subject lines and openers to acknowledge that they’re people behind the screens, too. Rather than blasting general announcements about new opportunities to all of your supporters, take a more targeted approach when possible. 

There are helpful resources to refer to for tactful audience-centric messaging. This will help make your messages more effective and prevent them from feeling like generic or irrelevant appeals for support. 

These emails can be personalized by direct your users to the most relevant opportunities based on what you already know about them. An example of this could be tracking which types of opportunities a volunteer has engaged with in the past to promote specific future opportunities to them. This will further enhance their relationship with that supporter and encourage them to continue to support your cause.

This messaging practice can further be used to encourage non-volunteers to get involved. When someone donates to a particular campaign, consider how that campaign’s specific messaging and goals motivated them to give. What action words and attention grabbers did they use to reach the end goal of the user donating? Use those insights to determine which types of volunteer opportunities and messaging tactics will be most appealing to them.

Promote new ways for volunteers to grow their impact.

Giving current volunteers ways to grow their impact on your mission is another vital part of effective long-term volunteer management. When you’ve built strategies to retain volunteers over the long haul, also use them to attract new supporters. Beyond expanding your volunteer base, find creative ways to expand their opportunities with your organization. An investment in their engagement is a powerful motivator.

When you expand opportunities for your volunteers, it can look like a variety of methods. For example, you can provide current and potential volunteers with opportunities like:

  • Volunteer grants that can help them boost their impact on your mission through matched donations from their employers.
  • Training programs and additional development opportunities to learn new skills related to your work.
  • Special membership perks for stand-out members, such as long-term volunteers, and those who are proactive in recruiting new volunteers.

By offering ways for volunteers to grow their impact over time, you essentially give them a reason to stick around. In addition to simply offering a range of different volunteering opportunities, Tactics like these are key to engage and retain supporters over the long run, which is itself one of the best ways to market your programming to potential volunteers.

With new and effective methods to promote your organization’s virtual volunteer opportunities, you can grow your reach and impact. Digital platforms have taken precedent with volunteers and organizations alike to recruit, retain, and motivate volunteers. 

It’s crucial to remain at the forefront of effective volunteer management strategies. If strategic volunteer management is a new undertaking for your organization, brush up with Mobilize’s complete guide, which walks through even more marketing and recruiting tips.

Regardless of the exact tactics you roll out, the main idea is to come up with the best ways to effectively inform others of your opportunities, as you want to expand your reach as much as possible. Your organization’s online presence has the potential to reach a broad audience regardless of location. Your impact can grow in exponential ways as you deepen relationships with your supporters. 

Creating your strategy is as simple as using the right volunteer management software to expand your organization’s mission’s reach and impact. Be sure to supplement it with peer-to-peer recruiting and targeted messages. 

With the new year, there is ample opportunity for creative and practical ideas to bolster your digital presence. With this, your organization’s volunteer base will expand and further the impact you have in your community.