News & Insight
12th March 2021
Virtual Events – are they here to stay?
By Louise Parkin – Associate and Lead Consultant Philanthropy Company
As the vaccine roll out in the UK means some aspects of our lives can return to normal, I am now reflecting on what parts of our fundraising profession will be changed forever. We have tragically lost some important organisations, and worse, some of the committed people within them. However, I want to focus today on one of the big positive changes that I believe will endure – virtual events.
In the last 12 months since the pandemic began, the UK has spent approximately 6 months in Level 4 or 5 lockdown restrictions. Even during last summer when we could get together in person, many prospects and donors still felt anxious about mixing with others. Consequently, for that last year I have been organising online cultivation and stewardship events with, most importantly, internationally based attendees.
Much of my work involves raising funds from UK/Europe based expats for charities in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. In the past many of these highly mobile expats have been abroad so have RSVPed No to an event invite. Not anymore! As long as the time difference works and they are engaged in the organisation/topic, people are attending from these events from all over the world.
In one particular case this proved critical. An influential board member with a London-based business happened to be in New Zealand at the time of our planned event. Because our event was online he was able to host the event and generously agreed to pledge £25,000 to campaign as he was wrapping up at the end. A London-based colleague of his matched the gift on the spot and since then another £25,000 in gifts have come in from attendees in New Zealand and the UK.
This is an exciting development. Whatever you feel about working online (and we know it doesn’t work for everyone), the opportunity to meet, cultivate, ask and steward our supporters virtually has opened up our world in a hugely beneficial way. Could you have ever imagined asking someone for a major gift without being with them in person in the past? Now, I suspect it might be a big part of our future and all of my events will have a virtual component for those, for whatever reason, just can’t make it in person.
We are interested to hear what other aspects of our work might continue in the 2020s so please share and comment on social.